In this eight-part series, Carl Van, author of The 8 Characteristics of the Awesome Adjuster, shares his thoughts on those characteristics. The series is to serve as a sort of road map for those interested, at least at this stage, in knowing what it takes to be among the top in their field, the elite.

Awesome adjusters are the elite, the top 10 percent. Awesome adjusters come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and sexes, all educational and intellectual levels. As different as they are, however, they also have a great deal in common.

“There is very little difference between people, but that little difference can make a big difference,” said W. Clement Stone, founder of Combined Insurance Co. and author of Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. “The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”

Enough has been published on the subject of positive attitude to fill an ocean, so repeating it here would serve no purpose. It must be said, however, that the very best adjusters are people who look for the positive in all situations. Overwork is an opportunity to demonstrate work ethic. Making mistakes is an opportunity to learn something new. Being asked to do more than anyone else is an outward expression that someone thinks more of you than anyone else.

Managers just love to deal with awesome adjusters because of their attitudes. They do not get bent out of shape when asked to help out. They question the status quo without waging war against policy or procedure. They always have suggestions for improvement when they express concerns. They look for ways to make something work, rather than building cases for why it won’t.

Plenty of solid technicians are bad adjusters because their focus is on discouraging others instead of encouraging themselves. My advice to those who wants success in claims is to start by working on their claim attitude. To do that, you must stop looking at all of the work, and start looking for the opportunities. I suggest by beginning with deciding what you want, what is important to you, and making sure that it is something you can reasonably achieve. Then, give yourself a taste.

To be sure, giving yourself a taste is the hard part. To be really motivated to do anything, you have to stay away from the “imagine this” technique, and give yourself a taste. Many self-help authors suggest acting as if you already have achieved what you want. If you want to be a person whom others respect because of your positive attitude, pretend that you already are that person. The more you can pretend that you have what you want, the more your attitude (and your actions) will be tailored to fit with it.

Accentuate the Positive

Another great technique is to practice rephrasing the things you say and hear in order to find the positive. Here are some standard comments that I have heard claim people make. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • I have too much work.
  • My manager gives me all the difficult files.
  • Customers are always complaining.
  • If this job were easier, I would like it better.
  • No one helps me unless I ask for it.
  • My job is nerve-racking. One little mistake could cost the company thousands.
  • The only time I see my supervisor is when I make a mistake.
  • I always have to go to conferences and review them for everyone else in office meetings.
  • The insureds are so needy. I wish they’d leave me alone.
  • I am the only one in my office with any experience.

See if you can reword the comments to point out the positive. Keep in mind that all of the comments are valid, but see if you can change them around just a little so that they seem positive instead of negative. If you can, you are ahead of the game.

While you are thinking about rephrasing those comments, let me plead guilty to falling into the “I got it so bad” trap myself. Once, in my claim manager days, I was in my boss’ office, and I was whining and complaining like you would not believe. I was saying things like, “The other managers wanted me to do this, and HR asked me to do that, and I worked on a project all day Saturday, and now I have to do this traveling, blah blah blah.”

I was complaining, whining, and crying for five, six, maybe seven minutes or so. I whined and complained and whined some more. (I figured I was bound to get a company car out of this or something.) The whole time I was complaining, my boss was just staring at me, waiting for me to finish.

I finally ran myself down and stopped. He looked at me for a few seconds and said, “Carl, are you finished?” I said, “Yeah, I’m finished.” “Good,” he said, “because I want to remind you of something.” And I said, “Yeah, what?”

“Carl,” he said, “you asked for this job, remember? You sat here, in this office, and went into detail about how tough this job was going to be and why you were the only person I should select. You practically begged me for this job. Twenty-two people applied for this job, Carl, and you got it. I saw something in you I didn’t see in anybody else. Maybe I was right, and maybe I was wrong, but here’s your chance to prove it either way.”

Slumping down in my chair, I listened as he continued, “If you want an easy job, go to McDonalds. A little buzzer goes off when the fries have to come out. If that’s what you want, no hard feelings. Go. But before you leave my office, Carl, let me remind you of something. You got something 21 other people didn’t get; you got the chance to prove you could do this job. No one else even got the chance. So do what you want to do.”

Now, this wasn’t a “Win one for the Gipper” speech; this was a “Get out of my office because you begged me for this job” speech. Guess what? He was right. I had begged him for that job. I sat in his office for four hours interviewing for that promotion yet, once I got the job, all I could see was the hard work. All I could see were the demands and the tough things I had to do. I knew it was a tough job, which was why I had asked for it in the first place. I just could not see the opportunity anymore.

My boss recognized that all of the extra hard work I was going to have to do was my opportunity to prove that he was right for hiring me in the first place. All of that hard work was my opportunity to show that I was the right person for the job. The hard work was the challenge that I had wanted, and would produce the satisfaction I would feel from knowing I could do a difficult job that not many could do.

Somehow, my attitude had gotten turned around and I found myself looking for the wrong things. It was not entirely my fault, I simply had not been trained. Trained in what? The key in knowing how to recognize opportunity when it is there.

To show you what I mean, I have rewritten the comments as I believe an awesome adjuster would have seen things.

  • I have too much work, but at least I have job security.
  • My manager trusts me to handle the difficult files.
  • Customers need my help. That’s my job.
  • If this job were easier, the company would not need me and just hire someone less talented.
  • I am left alone to do my job.
  • oI have a job that is important and requires thoughtful care. My company trusts my decisions.
  • oMy supervisor does not hover over me and lets me do my job.
  • oI am trusted to interpret important information and help train others in my office.
  • oThe insureds are very needy. If they weren’t, anyone could do this job.
  • oI am relied upon in my office because of my experience.

Spend just one week pretending that you already have what you want, and rewording every negative comment you say or hear, and you will see an immediate change in your attitude toward your responsibilities.

You can be stressed out that you have too much work, or you can be relieved that you do not have job security concerns. You can be frustrated that your manager expects so much more out of you than anyone else, or you can feel proud to be such a valuable asset in the office. You can be irritated that customers complain, or be glad that you have a job where people need your help. Just keep in mind that, either way, it is a choice you make.

Awesome adjusters know that having a positive attitude is nothing more than deciding what to look for. They know that, once you allow yourself a taste of positive attitude, job satisfaction will go up and stress levels will go down. Then, if you like the way that tastes, go ahead and indulge. Keep eating up that positive attitude. Don’t worry; positive attitude is the ultimate diet. High on energy, with no fat and no carbs.

Carl Van is president and CEO of International Insurance Institute and dean of he School of Claims Performance. He can be reached at