Jim Grauel and Michael King | The Level Up Leader | Teams.Coach
Episode - 15

Winning Is a Team Experience – Jim Grauel and Michael King

Today, Jim shares a story about how he had a boss that was jealous of his success and tried to move him out.

You’ve heard it said that the ones that embrace technology are the ones who will win.

In today’s rapidly-evolving world, staying ahead of the curve is more important than ever. And nowhere is that more true than in the world of life insurance.

Gone are the days of traditional policies and paper-based applications. Today, the most successful life insurance companies are the ones that have embraced technology to streamline their processes, make it easier for customers to apply, and provide faster, more personalized service.  

Today I am excited to talk to you about another application in which this company is using technology to change the face of the life insurance industry.

Welcome to The Level Up Leader Podcast.  I am your host, Michael King.  I am an executive coach and founder of Teams.Coach, LLC. I work with C-level leaders to clarify and expand the vision, elevate performance, and elevate their Leadership.  

On today’s episode, I am joined by Jim Grauel, the CDO of FOXO Tech. Jim comes with an impressive tenure in the insurance industry, brandishing nearly 30 years of experience in roles ranging from agent to CDO. With prior experience from Legal & General, Physicians Mutual, and Assurity, he has been instrumental in building agencies, brokerages, and regions, and is now drawing upon this unique skill set to implement FOXO’s innovative “for agents, by agents” model. 

Jim shares a story about how he had a boss that was jealous of his success and tried to move him out.  I don’t know about you, but I have stories like that from my past…and it’s painful.  As leaders, we need to remember that it’s not about who we are in charge of, but rather who’s in our charge.  What are we doing daily to set our team members up for growth?

A special thank you to our featured Artist, Names Without Numbers, for allowing us to use their music. We decided we wanted to feature music that I produced as a music producer..so that’s pretty cool.

To find out more about everything we’re up to, check us out at Teams.Coach, and don’t forget to join our Facebook group at Teams.Coach/LevelUpLeaders/

Music by: Names without Numbers www.nameswithoutnumbers.com

Where to find Jim:

Other Links:

Connect With Us @
Level Up Leader Facebook Group
Teams.Coach Facebook Page

Share This


Michael King 0:00
You’ve heard it said that the ones that embrace technology are the ones who will win. In today’s rapidly evolving world staying ahead of the curve is more important than ever, and in nowhere is that more true than in the world of life insurance Gone are the days of traditional policies and paper based applications. Today, the most successful life insurance companies are the ones that have embraced technology to streamline their processes make it easier for customers apply, and to provide faster and more personalized service. Today, I’m excited to talk to you about another application in which this company is using technology to change the face of the life insurance industry. Welcome to the level of leader podcast. I’m your host Michael King. I am an executive coach and founder of teams that coach I work with sea level leaders to clarify and expand the vision elevate performance and elevate their leadership. On today’s podcast, I am joined by Jim growl, the CEO of Fox OTech. Jim comes with an impressive tenure in the insurance industry, brandishing nearly 30 years of experience in roles ranging from agent to CTO. With prior experience from Legal and General physicians mutual and assurity. He has been instrumental in building agencies brokerages and regions and is now drawing upon his unique skill set to implement foxes innovative for agents by agents model. Please welcome Jim Grauel to the podcast.

Jim Grauel, welcome to the level up leader podcast.

Jim Grauel 1:46
Thank you, sir. Nice to be here.

Michael King 1:49
We’ve been we’ve been chatting, uh, you know, off and on for the last last few weeks. And as I started to dive in a little bit more into what you do, and what your company does, who you are, as a leader, I became more in infatuated and just curious about what you do. So once you give us a real quick overview of who you are, and how’d you get to where you’re at now, today?

Jim Grauel 2:13
Well, who I am. So I’m Jim Grauel, I’m the Chief distribution officer responsible for building out insurance distribution for Fox on the life Fox. So life is a longevity based company, we are going to change the way life insurance gets sold, we want to change the way life insurance gets underwritten as well long term. But at the end of the day, we’re all about showing people how they can live a longer, healthier life and enjoy that life as opposed to, you know, get old and creaky and broken down. And so that’s that’s kind of in a quick nutshell, what we’re trying to do. And what I’m trying to do is work with producers, agents, life insurance agents, to help them have a different conversation to talk to clients about and move away from kind of the spreadsheet selling life insurance. Even

Michael King 3:08
visiting your your website, like the way that you guys are presenting yourself and the look and the feel, and even your marketing. We were just talking about this, but it feels very Tesla meets Apple, like so you know, I know specifically who you’re targeting by even looking at the way that you make things look and feel. But I love this, this. I love your marketing tagline that says life insurance designed to keep you alive. What what an oxymoron like, because that doesn’t necessarily you know, in the insurance world if you know, just to call it obvious, you know, longevity isn’t necessarily profitable,

Jim Grauel 3:47
right? Actually, it should be because is it as a carrier, don’t you want your clients to continue to live and pay premiums. Because if if they die, then that cost the company a much larger settlement than if they’re paying premiums for 30 years or 40 years. And so the reality is the the life insurance companies in the industry, we focus on death and you need Michael you need to have life insurance because when you die you your family is going to get a million dollars. But while you’re alive, we want you we want you to live longer, we should want you to live longer, because the longer you live, the more you’re paying those premiums. And so as a company you know a carrier, we want you to pay more premiums as opposed to die quicker. And it’s all about giving people the opportunity to understand that a healthy lifestyle longevity lifestyle is better for you not just for life insurance, but for you overall. And that’s that’s kind of the passion I think that drives us is providing that opportunity for people.


Michael King 4:56
Now you’ve you’ve had a pretty expansive history of success as a leader in some different different roles that you’ve had with different organizations, and then all sudden this opportunity comes up with with voxel life.

Why did you say yes to this?

Jim Grauel 5:14
It’s interesting, because when I met with the team that recruited me, it was the two of my team members now and our, our former CEO, and founder and his his energy and his excitement about longevity. And where it could go was was just, you know, it brought you in and made you excited. And he made a comment that my energy level for what he was talking about, without really knowing a whole lot about it was, was what really kind of drove drew us together. And it’s a different, it’s a different way to talk about life insurance. You know, your historically, the life insurance industry hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last, let’s call it 100 years, you know, it’s find people that are, you know, buying a house having a baby looking for retirement, having kids go off, and the conversation is more about, hey, you need to protect these things. If you die, why shouldn’t the conversation be more focused on what if you live? You know, and what if we can show you how to live healthier, longer. And so the longevity, part of what we do is we talk about biological age versus chronological age. Well, if your biological age is lower than your chronological age, then you’re going to have a whole different set of needs as you get older. And that’s what we want people to focus on is that, that they can in fact, improve their lifestyle by following some you know, better exercise, better eating. And it doesn’t mean you have to run off and, you know, join a gym and spend tons of money or by a specific diet plan. It just means paying attention to what you’re doing and, and focusing on, on how you’re doing things. So for example, I showed you this a couple weeks ago, Michael, my longevity report came back that I’m 1.7 years, I think younger than my current at the time, it was 54. So it was came back and 52.7, I think is what it was. And it, it brought out some tips on things I need to do. And when you think about it, it’s Oh, wow, I guess that is impacting it. You know, for example, it’s said that I should cut out the high fat dairy, well, I know exactly what that is. My wife and I love blue, but Blue Bell Ice Cream. So you know, we got to get to, you know, bring it back down and eat it on a more sparingly basis, as opposed to every day or every weekend. The same thing with the talked about, you know, getting out of a sedentary lifestyle. Well, since 2020, march 19 2020, we pretty much been stuck at our desk, from an industry. And so it’s getting out and doing the exercise. And it’s very easy to sit at your desk for eight 910 hours a day, get up, go out and sit on the couch and you know, watch a little TV and go to bed and you really don’t get very active. And so by knowing what those things are, you can make changes and improve your lifestyle. And if you improve your lifestyle, get healthy, you’re going to live longer. If you live longer than you can enjoy things better. Kind of a roundabout answer I apologize for rambling there.

Michael King 8:25
No. Well, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to people that kind of get that get that from you as far as like your motivations, that you’re excited about this. But the way that you guys actually get this differential factor of between your chronological age versus your biological age, it’s really fascinating. And it’s very future thinking. The reason why I am fascinated is because well I’m always fascinated when when somebody falls into that camp that I consider a market disrupter. Right. And it kind of feels like a little bit that you know, the way that you guys are doing things, that it could be for a season that you’re gonna you’re it’s gonna feel a little bit Maverick ish, because you have to disrupt some norms in order for your thing to be to be looked at. But what you’re doing is actually very future thinking, would you agree with that?

Jim Grauel 9:14
I would. And that was again, that was that was kind of what the passion was that John came at it with was we’re doing something that’s going to change a very old industry and make it so that people have a better view into what they’re doing. And the way we build the longevity report, we call it as through a saliva based kit. You know, everybody has genetics or DNA, we can’t change it. It is what it is. But the epigenetics in the epi layer around our DNA, that’s where we get the data. That is what you kind of recorded in what you’ve done to yourself. Good, bad, indifferent, but you have the ability to to make a change, you can make a right hand turn and totally improve things. or you can stay the course and just go on with it. And it’s, it is cool. It’s a very disruptive technology in our science team has done an outstanding job building this, this platform for us.

Michael King 10:15
And I think with just the overall, you know, the the Embrace factor of things like, you know, how people are actually curious about, you know, how am I built? What’s my history? Where do I come from my DNA, you know, like, companies like 23andme and ancestry.com. I mean, for Pete’s sake, we did it. We did ancestry.com, a couple of years ago. And I found out randomly that I had a half sister that nobody knew about. That’s another story for another time. But, but yeah, I mean, but she contacted me and, and, you know, interesting to find out history and all that stuff. But, but yeah, there’s this, there’s this accessibility to you can actually understand a little bit more about your origins, and even just the trajectory of your life, by some of the technology that’s been rolled out. So I do think it’s pretty fascinating.

Jim Grauel 11:04
That’s, that’s a little different than what we do is we don’t go into your ancestry, we focus on you, and what you hate to say, but how you abused your body or not abused your body. And that’s, that’s the interesting thing is it’s it really gives you your biological versus your chronological, which is important to know that you don’t think about it like, well, I’m the same age great, but if you’re, if you’re aging slower, then that means you have different concerns. And if you’re aging faster, if you’re aging faster, and if I were 56, instead of 54 at the time, that would bring up a whole other level of concern for me, because now, that being said, I’m not gonna be around, see my 10 year old daughter grow up, maybe, you know, she’s not going to be there when she gets married in a couple of years, 30 years or whatever. So it’s, it’s about, you know, making the change. And then of course, you have to want to make that change. And that’s at the end of the day, it’s, it’s really up to the client. But if you have the information that allows you to say, hey, I can do this, like I said, it doesn’t doesn’t mean you have to go out and join one of these fancy gyms or go buy this machine that you spend five grand on, it just means making small changes daily, and improving. You know, one of the funny things, the story I tell my team is that, you know, I’m allergic to working out as my my theory, although I have started doing it because of my scores. But it said I should start eating more avocado. Well, heck, I got avocado in the frigerator. Or in the kitchen, we went out on that day for lunch, I had avocado. So I made the change right away, because it was an easy change. I didn’t have to go make things and I think if people understand what they’re doing themselves, they will look at it and say, Wow, I can, I can live longer, I can live a healthier, healthier, not just live longer, but I can live healthier, longer. And that’s a big improvement on disrupting not just the life insurance industry, but really disrupting life.

Michael King 13:07
It’s, I’m so fascinated and interested in what you’re doing. Alright, so obviously you can’t do this alone, you you’re you’ve you’re, you know you you’re a leader, a CFC level leader within your company now and you have obviously a very talented and robust team. So you have some you have some tricks, you know, and were some principles that are in your back pocket that you say you want to live by. Big Can you tell me a little bit about what you’d say is like your number one level up leader tip for leaders that are listening to this

Jim Grauel 13:38
man, the number one tip I think is really that you have to listen. I, I don’t believe that any leader come if you come into the room, and you’re the smartest person or you know everything, you’re in the wrong room. In the you, you surround yourself with people that have ideas, they may not always be the same idea that you have, which is really good, because that allows for conversation. We have a very small team and I believe we have very talented team, not just in the sales team, but in the science. And then our other sea leaders. We have really good people that question what we do. They’re questioning why are you going in this direction for sales? They have no sales background, but they’re able to question because they they look at it differently, which means that we have to be forced to look at things differently. So as a leader, I think you have to listen to those people around you whether it’s it’s the telemarketer on the phone, or a different you know, the CEO, obviously, but you have to listen because everybody has ideas. It may not be the aha moment but it’s something you can file away and use let a later date. And that’s, that’s to me that’s the biggest tip is you have to listen to the people around you. I like

Michael King 14:56
that you know one of the principles that we lead through when it comes to Just transparency and approachability, this ability is this is that leaders who go unquestioned, make questionable decisions.

Jim Grauel 15:10
I would have been,

Michael King 15:12
right. And so I love that you’ve built this into just you’re just even your your relationship ethos within your team. One of the things I really liked to just as I’ve gotten to know you, and even hear you talk here today, you really do a good job of making sure that you you celebrate successes on your team. And that you recognize that unless your team is successful, then you can’t really succeed.

Jim Grauel 15:37
Back to my coaching days, if you had a ballplayer and he had success, or she was successful, that was something to celebrate, you know, that’s, that’s when you win. And my team, Manny and Aaron are great guys, and I want them to, I want them to be where were they they’re further beyond in the future, and we want to celebrate when they have something that’s successful. It’s not a one man, one woman show to team, we’re never going to use the code the other day. In a meeting, I said, you know, and I, I, I stole this quote from a really good leader I worked for and he said, a high tide raises all ships. And it’s the same thing with the team, you know, the whole team has to work together, or else you’re not going to, you’re not gonna be able to row straight. Sorry for the boating analogies.

Michael King 16:31
I love it. I love it. A lot of times leadership principles like like this, you know, the whole idea that is that your team can’t be you can’t have success unless your team is successful. And then when they’re successful, you’re you’re successful, right? Sometimes those leadership principles come out of pain points of experiencing bad leadership or bad bosses along the way. And then you end up building these big leadership principles that work for you, as you mature and you grow, do you have a story about a bad boss that might have influenced a little bit about what that looks like for you, I

Jim Grauel 17:09
hate to tell stories at a turn. But I have I had a I had a couple experiences very early in my career, and they happen to be back to back, believe it or not. In both of the bosses at the time, and we’re very much micromanagers in critiquing everything, just the way you stood and talk and talk to them the way the way you sat in the meeting. People don’t want robots, they want people they want to deal with people, and they want to deal with people have personalities and relationships. And both of these guys were very, very critical of everything, and very guarded. They didn’t trust anybody, and they wanted it all to be their idea. If they thought that you were building something that was outside of them, they got very nervous, because maybe they were going to get cut out. Ultimately, they did get cut out, not because of something I necessarily did, but because of the way they manage the team. People want to know that the My belief is that people want to know the leaders are thinking about how they behave, and how they can contribute to each other, not just well, you know, he’s getting the accolades or he has to present this idea as his, it’s a team idea. And you’ll get a lot further in leadership, I believe by recognizing that the team is is valuable. And so you can’t critique everything you can’t make it about, I can’t make it about me, make it about me, we’re dead. That’s just not how it works. And so

Michael King 18:54
I find it amazing, especially because I’ve never actually met a leader that is able to get significant distance when they’re micromanaging everything around them. But I do find this and so think about this statement I want to I want to get your reaction to it is that is that the level of organizational trust that exists, is equal to or greater to the commitment to clarity that the leader has within the organization.

Jim Grauel 19:21
Agreed. You, you have to have clarity. You have to have clarity of where you’re going. But you also have to have the clarity to trust the people that are working with you. That they you know, if you’re you’re talking about 360 leadership, but you if you are spinning your head around in a circle, then you’re going to get dizzy and having the team around you to provide that 360 Now all of a sudden, if there are three or four or five of us all looking around, we can see so much more than what I can see in front of me. So declarative becomes much better. I don’t know if that answers your question or not. But I know that’s exactly it. Yeah, yeah. No,

Michael King 20:08
you that’s that I mean, that is exactly it is that especially, you know, understanding that anytime a micromanagement comes up, we’ve been in your past stories, it’s a reaction to something. And it’s usually a reaction to the lack of clarity that a leader has within their head. And it’s also a big lack of clarity to what they’re actually expecting of their team. So they don’t know where their authority begins, they don’t know necessarily where it ends. So let’s, let’s go ahead and just kind of try to control everything and see if we can, you know, make a mess, or make make clarity out of a mess. But that’s not the way to do it. And

Jim Grauel 20:40
just, I love that boss doesn’t make us a leader, oh, my gosh, yes, you may have the title. And you may you may come in and be, but if you don’t listen, or if you get jealous, or afraid, and I’ve worked for bosses that, you know, they come in, and they’re afraid because of what you have and their their, I don’t want to say they’re jealous, but they’re, they’re concerned that you’re going in a different direction, instead of allowing you to maximize your talents, they want to, they want to kind of push you down and make you do things their way. Not that it’s always bad to listen to ideas, but it needs to be an open dialogue needs to have that to your point, there needs to be clarity amongst where we’re going. And what we’re doing in recognizing that there are more than one ways to skin a cat. Well, and I believe in any cat, so PETA can’t get upset with this, but you know,

Michael King 21:33
we’re gonna back away from that strike. But so the idea though, of this, you know, I do believe that to be clear is to be kind, in, especially when leaders are at a micro level. So like, we talked about bad bosses, and we talked about being micromanaged, etc. I found myself in a situation to where I was a middle boss. So I was like a number two within the organization. And I remember walking into a room and I had this team member that reported directly to me. And my relationship with her became incredibly toxic over a period of close to a decade in more times than not is because she had a direct relationship with the CEO of the company. And so, like a, like a 30 year like this, this gal had been around for so long, she actually babysat the CEOs, kids when they were growing up, right. So I’m responsible to beat her. But there was no clarity as far as what was expected of her role. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I was the one that was stuck in the middle. And I remember one time walking in the room, and I just I was so frustrated. And I laid down the I’m your boss card. How did that worse, they most ridiculous and most stupid thing. But you say things out of frustration, you know, at times to try to, you know, get some sort of authority in places to where, you know, they I tell people this all the time, there’s nothing more painful than having responsibility with no authority.

Jim Grauel 23:01

Michael King 23:03
I was feeling that that day. But I think he was in that moment, I was a bad boss, because I was responsible for it. But I had had no clarity as far as what to expect. But here’s the hard part about it, too, is that the reason why I wanted a micromanager is because I didn’t know what to do. But she didn’t know what to do either. Like there was the lack of clarity goes both ways. So to be clear, is to be kind i And

Jim Grauel 23:26
I wouldn’t even suggest that the CEO didn’t have the clarity, because he or she should have stepped in and said look, this is this is how we do things. This is a here, I may know you for 30 years, and you may have babysat my children. But Michael is your boss and you need to be you need to run up with him and get that together. And to me that’s that’s true leadership is when when the ultimate boss says hey, you need to stay focused and doesn’t mean we can’t have a relationship. And we can still be friends. But there are there are our lanes, you do have to stay in sometimes to make things be clear for everybody.

Michael King 24:05
We’re getting to a place in 2023. It’s been a bit but you remember back this was probably even, not even a decade ago. But you saw this massive trend to where people were actually on ramping team members into into roles on their teams, but didn’t really necessarily know what they were going to do. They just knew that they liked them. They knew that they fit the culture. But as far as what to expect to them or how to you know how the role was going to function. It was they were kind of okay with just letting things play out and letting him feel it, feel it out as they went. I am I’m a build by design type of guy. I believe that infrastructure has to have functionality to it. And so these two these two methodologies right now you’re seeing in the marketplace, or philosophical approach is really more accurate but you’re really seeing like some of these. The reason why tech is going through just such a massive layoff structure right now is because okay, we don’t have the mark hands anymore. Infrastructure actually has to have functionality and profitability to it. So. So if you’re on a sales team right now, like this is kind of a big deal is because if you are sitting on a sales team, you are a gold level employee for that organization, you’re one of the most valuable assets and they recognize it. But if you’re not delivering, you probably won’t have that job in the future. Right. So all right, that we went on some tangents there. But so talking about what your what you need to promote, on this is that I liked, I liked just some of the disruptive factors about your company. But you said this to me, you said, we’re building a different kind of insurance marketing organization. So if you’re interested in living longer and healthier or selling your clients, on healthier aging, we should talk. That’s what that’s what you, you told us. Can you break that down for me a little bit?

Jim Grauel 25:49
I think you said it wonderfully. Matter of fact, I want to record that. We are building an insurance organization. And that starts from the ground up, we’re looking for producers and general agents, they want to work with a group that is willing to ask the hard questions and willing to go to their clients and say, Hey, we want to talk to you about something nobody else is talking to you about. And so we’re looking for producers that they want to change the conversation on how life insurance gets sold, and how we can do that. We have access now to pretty much every major carrier. There’s no no slowing down the chance of building something and changing the conversation about why you should buy life insurances is new. It’s a little novel. To your point earlier, I really hope it’s a disrupter. And that a year from now, we’re talking about how great things have gone, because we’ve been able to get people to change their viewpoint on life insurance, or longevity is a whole.

Michael King 26:53
Yeah, absolutely. So if people wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that?

Jim Grauel 26:59
So you can reach me via LinkedIn. And my email is Jim@foxolife.com. It’s pretty simple. Reach out, let’s have a conversation. Let’s let’s let’s change the conversation about why you should sell life insurance. And then talk about longevity.

Michael King 27:16
Fantastic. So if people want to reach you out on LinkedIn, again, your name is Jim Grauel and last name is spelled G R A U E L. All right, well, we’ll get that well, we’ll include all your links in your web web in the notes as well. So Jim, you’ve been an awesome guest today. Thank you so much for making time in your time with us on the level of leader podcast.

Jim Grauel 27:39
My pleasure, thank you very much.

Michael King 27:41
Thank you for joining us today on the level of leader podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, consider leaving a review on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts, it helps to get the word out. And make sure to like, subscribe and to follow so you get all of the episodes, Jim shared a story about how he had a boss that was jealous of his success, and try to move him out. I don’t know about you. But I’ve had stories like this in my past and it’s incredibly painful. As leaders, we need to remember that it’s not about who we are in charge of but rather who’s in our charge. What are we doing daily to set up our team members for growth, a special thank you to my friends names without numbers for allowing us to use their music, we decided that we wanted to feature music that I’ve personally been involved with in the studio. So I think that’s pretty great. To find out more about everything that we’re up to please check us out at www dot teams dot coach. And don’t forget to join our Facebook group at WWW dot teams dot coach slash level up leaders.