A former pro quarterback may not seem the most likely of keynote speakers at an insurance conference, but Joe Theismann delivered today at the Insurance Accounting and Systems Association’s 81st Annual Educational Conference and Business Show in Orlando.

The former Washington Redskin signal caller quickly disavowed any specific knowledge of the insurance industry, but proffered advice on leadership culled from his years on the field, and his subsequent career in the broadcast booth.

Not surprisingly, Theismann extolled the virtue the teamwork. “You cannot be a success if you think you are doing it on your own,” he said, urging the managers present to think of themselves as part of a team. “Nobody works for you—they work with you.”

Theismann encouraged managers to lead by example, saying that leaders who do their jobs with energy and enthusiasm will inspire those around them. He also stressed the importance of making goals explicit. “Write down your goals,” he said. “Make a contract with yourself.”
Theismann’s high tempo presentation was a peppered with anecdotes from his days on the field. In addition to recounting his notorious career ending injury suffered at the hands of the New York Giants’ Lawrence Taylor, Theismann recalled some more lighthearted moments, such as the time a first-quarter injury to the Redskin’s punter pressed him into an unaccustomed role. Brimming with confidence, Theismann assured Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs that he could punt. When the opportunity arose later in the game, the resulting punt traveled a mere one yard beyond the line of scrimmage. Though the punt is enshrined in the record books for its futility, Theismann savors it as a learning experience. “There are no failures, just educational experiences.”
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner imparted a similar, if less voluble, piece of advice the day before during his keynote address. Eisner stressed the importance of creativity and said that success required failure. “Failure is not a corporate death sentence,” he said. “If you punish failure, you reward mediocrity.”

Eisner also sought to disabuse the audience of the notion that micromanagement is always a bad thing. Indeed, Eisner told how Disney founder Walt Disney would stop to pick up litter he encountered at his theme parks. “It showed that the man in charge cared,” he said. “Micromanagement in the path to effective management.”

Another seemingly counterintuitive dictum from Eisner was that major capital investments are advisable in a recession. He noted that investments that at first seemed extraneous, such as the much-maligned EuroDisney, have paid dividends in the long run. “It’s may be hard to find a place to play right now, but you have to stay in the game.”

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