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The Kuzneski Way

31 Fundamentals framed and hanging on wall.

At KIG, our culture is extremely important to us and is something that we are very proud of.  In 2018, we decided it wasn’t enough to just talk about how great our culture was, so we took the time to break it down and define it. What we came away with was 31 Fundamental Behaviors that describe who we are and drive how we do what we do - we call it “The Kuzneski Way”. Those who have found success at KIG embody the majority of these “Fundamentals”, those who did not, do not.

Many companies will list their mission statement or core values in their handbook, or on their website, and that’s it. While we do that too, we also focus on a “Fundamental” every week, to reinforce its importance in our everyday work. We share “The Kuzneski Way” with our clients, our carriers, and partners, and we use them for ongoing training and performance evaluations with our team. Most days you will hear someone talk about one or more of these “fundamentals” and how someone either lived up to it or didn’t. We ask that all our associates, read and re-read these 31 Fundamentals, internalize them, and practice them.

1. DO THE RIGHT THING, ALWAYS. Demonstrate an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in every action you take and in every decision you make, especially when no one’s looking. Always tell the truth, no matter the consequences. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize, and make it right.
2. CREATE WIN/WIN SOLUTIONS. Learn to think from others’ perspective. Discover what others need and find solutions that meet their needs while still fulfilling our own. Win/win solutions are always longer lasting and more satisfying than win/lose solutions.
3. DO WHAT’S BEST FOR THE CLIENT. In all situations, do what’s best for the client, even if it’s to our own short-term detriment. Put their needs ahead of our own. There’s no greater way to build long-term relationships than to steadfastly do what’s right for others.
4. FIND A WAY. Take personal responsibility for making things happen. Respond to every situation with vigor and purpose. Look for how we can do it, rather than explaining why it can’t be done. Be resourceful and show initiative. Don’t make excuses or wait for others to solve the problem. Put in extra time if necessary and see things through to their completion.
5. SHOW GRATITUDE. Recognizing people doing things right is more effective than pointing out when they do things wrong. Regularly extend meaningful acknowledgment and appreciation — in all directions throughout our organization and beyond. A simple act such as a kind word or a handwritten thank you note can have enormous impact.
6. GET CLEAR ON EXPECTATIONS. Create clarity and avoid misunderstandings by discussing expectations upfront. Set expectations for others and ask when you’re not clear on what they expect of you. We can’t exceed our clients’ expectations, if we don’t know what they are.
7. HONOR COMMITMENTS. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. This includes being on time for all phone calls, appointments, meetings, and promises. If a commitment can’t be fulfilled, notify others early and agree on a new deliverable to be honored.
8. PRACTICE BLAMELESS PROBLEM-SOLVING. Demonstrate a relentless solution focus, rather than pointing fingers or dwelling on problems. Identify and document lessons learned and use those lessons to improve ourselves and our processes, so we don’t make the same mistake twice. Get smarter with every mistake. Learn from every experience. You may not have caused the problem, but you must own it until it is solved.
9. PRACTICE A+ness AS A WAY OF LIFE. Demonstrate a passion for excellence and take pride in the quality of everything you touch and everything you do. Have a healthy disdain for mediocrity. Good is not good enough. Always ask yourself, “Is this my best work?”
10. MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES. We promote health and wellness to our clients and we need to walk the talk. Take care of yourself at home and at the office. Eat well, exercise, and get adequate sleep. Support each other in making healthy choices. Take your vacation and recharge. Be proactive in maintaining good health. The healthier you are, the more you’ll thrive personally and professionally. You can’t give 100% if you don’t feel 100%.
11. WORK ON YOURSELF. Be a lifelong learner. Seek out and take advantage of every opportunity to gain more knowledge, to increase your skills, and to become a greater expert. Be relentless about learning, sharing and documenting best practices.
12. BE CURIOUS. In the search for the best solutions, challenge and question what you don’t understand. Don’t accept anything at “face value” if it doesn’t make sense to you. Be curious, ask thoughtful questions, and listen intently to the answers. Dig deeper to go beyond the expected. Ask the extra question. Don’t assume. If you aren’t 100% certain, confirm and verify. Make sure you truly understand.
13. EMBRACE CHANGE AND GROWTH. What got us here is not the same as what will get us to the next level. Get outside your comfort zone, rather than stubbornly hanging on to old ways of doing things. Be excited by the possibilities that change and growth bring. Be flexible.
14. BE RELENTLESS ABOUT IMPROVEMENT. Regularly reevaluate every aspect of your work to find ways to improve. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. “Because we’ve always done it that way” is not a reason. Guard against complacency. Find ways to get things done better, faster, and more efficiently. Be open and willing to learn.
15. PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS. Missing just one detail can have an enormous impact on a job. Be a fanatic about accuracy and precision. The goal is to get things right, not simply to get them done. Double-check your work. Get the details right the first time.
16. CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR. It’s not about you. Don’t let your own ego or personal agenda get in the way of doing what’s best for the team. Be there for each other and be willing to step into another role or help a co-worker when that’s what’s required for success. Help each other to succeed. None of us is more important than anyone else; everyone’s job is important to the team. Worrying about who gets credit or taking things personally is counter-productive.
17. LISTEN GENEROUSLY. Listening is more than simply “not speaking.” Give others your undivided attention. Be present and engaged. Minimize the distractions and let go of the need to agree or disagree. Suspend your judgment and be curious to know more, rather than jumping to conclusions. Above all, listen to understand. Pay attention to cues and signals that may point to matters that require attention.
18. SPEAK STRAIGHT. Speak honestly in a way that helps to make progress. Say what you mean, and be willing to ask questions, share ideas, or raise issues that may cause conflict when it’s necessary for team success. Be courageous enough to say what needs to be said. Address issues directly with those who are involved or affected. Don’t agree if you don’t agree. Feedback is a gift, be open to hearing it when someone speaks straight to you!
19. LOOK AHEAD AND ANTICIPATE. Solve problems before they happen by anticipating future issues, planning for contingencies, and addressing them in advance. Work with appropriate lead times. Preventing issues is always better than fixing them. If you see smoke, be proactive and deal with it immediately! Don’t wait for it to become a full-fledged fire!
20. BE PROCESS-DRIVEN. Create systems and processes that are scalable and that support our ability to perform with consistency. Tweak the process when necessary and document it! Strong processes are the foundation of organizational effectiveness.
21. BE OBSESSIVE ABOUT ORGANIZATION. Be organized and plan your work for maximum efficiency. Have all the tools necessary before starting your work. Be thoughtful about your schedule, and have a game plan for your calls, your tasks, and your workday. Know the priorities and work on them first.
22. “BRING IT” EVERY DAY. Have a passion for what we do and be fully engaged. Make the most of each day by avoiding distractions and approaching every task with energy, focus, purpose, and enthusiasm. Work with a sense of urgency to get things done. When you are here, be here! Leave outside issues at the door.
23. BE A FANATIC ABOUT RESPONSE TIME. Respond to questions and concerns quickly, whether it’s in person, on the phone, or by e-mail. This includes simply acknowledging that we got the question and we’re “on it,” as well as keeping those involved continuously updated on the status of outstanding issues. Keep others in the loop while looking to close the loop.
24. PROTECT OUR CLIENTS’ DATA. While we should always practice transparency, it’s important that we always take great care in protecting our clients’ personal or confidential information. Be a good steward of our clients’ data. Practice the same good habits with your personal data. What happens in our office and what is said in our office, stays in our office.
25. DELIVER RESULTS. While effort and hard work are important, our clients expect results. We don’t get a trophy for participating, only when we win. It’s not about just checking a box. Follow-up on everything and take responsibility to ensure that tasks get completed. Set high goals, use measurements to track your progress, and hold yourself accountable for achieving those results. Make sure your actions are getting the desired results.
26. INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS. Get to know your clients and co-workers on a more personal level and work to build relationship equity. Talk more and e-mail less. Understand what makes others tick and what’s important to them. Strong relationships enable us to more successfully work through difficult issues and challenging times. Understand that building relationships takes time and consistent effort, it doesn’t happen overnight. Make decisions today that will promote long term relationships.
27. BE MINDFUL OF APPEARANCE. Your personal appearance and brand make a strong statement about the pride you take in your performance. Dress neatly and professionally. The appearance of our office makes a similar statement about the quality of your work. Take responsibility to see that our office environment is clean, neat, and professional.
28. CREATE A TONE OF FRIENDLINESS AND WARMTH. Every conversation, phone call, e-mail, letter, and even voicemail, sets a tone and creates a feeling. Pay attention to every interaction and be sure you’re setting a tone of friendliness, warmth, and helpfulness.
29. FOLLOW UP EVERYTHING. Internal and external clients rely on us and we rely on others. Don’t assume. Record a follow-up date for every action and take responsibility for its completion.
30. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Since information is the lifeblood of our business, we must be great at sharing it with each other. Document everything you do and everything you know so that others have access to the information necessary for success.
31. KEEP THINGS FUN. While our passion for excellence is real, remember that the world has bigger problems than the daily challenges that make up our work. Stuff happens. Keep perspective. Don’t take things personally or take yourself too seriously. Laugh every day.

Laurie Kuzneski

Laurie Kuzneski is Director of Client Development, and is the resident Culture Guru, funny girl, and often the voice of KIG. Laurie loves drinking wine, public speaking (preferably at the same time), talking about corporate culture, riding her bike, mentoring women-led companies (guy-led companies, too), and supporting many philanthropic endeavors. Laurie doesn't have time to write many blogs - to see why, check out her full bio on the About Us page.

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