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What’s the first thing you do every day?

Ben Walter
Ben Walter, CEO, Hiscox USA

I think about the three things that, at a minimum, I want to accomplish that day. Three is enough to be substantial but not so onerous that it doesn’t leave room for everyday blocking and tackling.

Are you always plugged into the office?

Not always, but most of the time. When I’m on vacation I try to respond as little as possible and only look at my email once early in the morning and once late at night.

Do you have an open door policy?

By definition, yes, because I don’t have a door. We have an open floor plan that encourages collaboration and open dialogue, and I much prefer that arrangement. People come up to my desk all the time to ask a question or fill me in on something, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What conversations take place via email, and what do you handle in person?

It’s a judgment call, but basically any dialogue that is sensitive, or where there is a clear risk of someone misinterpreting the tone, I try to do in person. As a rule, in-person conversations are more impactful for 1:1 dialogue and email is more useful when I want my point of view firmly and clearly known to a large audience.

What is one software tool or app you couldn’t manage without?

My calendar. Between the hectic nature of my schedule and the amount of travel I have, I look at it all day long.

What do you do in your spare time that helps you stay fresh, innovative and better able to generate creative ideas and strategies when you return to the office?

Running is very important to me. My body ramps up, and when I really hit a rhythm my mind slows down, which allows for fresh, left-field type thoughts. Hiking has the same effect when I’m lucky enough to be somewhere I can do it. The other thing I do, especially on flights, is challenging crossword puzzles—the kind full of puns and clever clues. They really stretch the plasticity of my brain and force me out of the mode of linear thinking. I often have fresh ideas about existing problems after completing one.

How do you solve problems? Do you delegate troubleshooting or take care of things yourself?

To solve a problem, I prefer to solicit lots of opinions over time and slowly put them together into a mental image in my head. Taking the pieces of each point of view that resonates with me the strongest helps me see patterns and drive toward a solution. With respect to troubleshooting, I push others to solve their own challenges, but typically when issues escalate to me people are looking for help. I try to use my authority sparingly but make it count when I do.