Advice from the C-Suite

February 10th, 2018

Careers are built on lessons learned and good advice from those you trust. To celebrate Insurance Careers Month, we asked several people WE trust what lessons they have learned and what special advice they received to be successful. Here’s what they said.

Susan Haack, (retired) Senior Vice President, Mergers and Acquisitions, Motorists Insurance Group

Lessons Learned

"Keep your eyes open and notice the big picture; don’t get too focused on what you’re doing. This requires building relationships and being curious. For example, my career path was not normal. I started as an accountant, then management, then HR, then IT, and then executive positions. I found that the keys to my progression were knowing what was going on around me and being curious about how I fit in."

                                                    

Professional advice

"I value the advice I got as part of Dave’s (Dave Kaufman, Motorists CEO) vision process, which taught me that even when I thought I was working hard I should always ask the question, ‘Am I working hard on the right things?’ It challenged my thinking about what were the right things. As far as advice I’d give to others, I would say stop what you’re doing and build a team and focus on the relationships. It’s important to get to know each other, because that opens dialogue about your challenges and the sharing and understanding of diverse perspectives." 

 

Dave Kaufman, CEO, Motorists Insurance Group

Lessons Learned

"One of my most important lessons was the need to be a continuous learner and to own my own professional development and career. You can’t delegate your future to a company or an organization. It’s up to each person to increase his or her own street value. That ensures you will have more opportunities than you would otherwise. I also have learned that natural curiosity is a tremendous asset; it can lead you to places that you never would have imagined."

Professional advice

"Some of the most important advice I got was from Bob Buford, former chairman and CEO of the Halftime Institute. He challenged me to go past success to significance – meaning making a contribution that outlasts me. He encouraged me to look at work-life balance as integrated and to strive for significance in everything. I learned that success isn’t the end; it’s a pathway to significance."

 

Chris Paterakis, Group Human Resource Leader, Westfield Insurance

Lessons Learned

"We don’t have a lot of traditional career paths like we used to, so one of the important lessons I’ve learned is that it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up. I’ve learned you can’t pigeonhole yourself into one track and that you have to look forward. Also, you have to explore on your own, understand different positions, talk to people and gather your own information and data. Finally, I’ve learned that you have to take risks in your career in order to gain broader perspectives and to build relationships."

                                                       

Professional Advice

"I’ve benefited from personal coaches insisting that I be receptive to brutally honest feedback and let people put things on the table so I have a better understanding of myself. This helps accelerate the path to improvement. They’ve also encouraged me to form a ‘personal board of directors’ to help guide me down the right path. I have six or seven people who are close to me and who know they can be brutally honest. Creating a personal board has to be intentional, it doesn’t just happen. I will move people on and off the board, especially if I find someone with a valuable perspective."

 

Mark Russell, President and CEO, Ohio Mutual Insurance Company

Lessons Learned

"Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in my years in the profession is that company culture is the biggest factor in whether a company succeeds or stagnates. A big part of building a culture conducive to success is building a great team that is aligned to a cause."

Professional Advice

"The best advice I’ve received is to invest the most time in attracting and entertaining the best talent that fits your culture. You can tell who is pulling for the team. You want a team that works together."

 

Rocky Parker, Chief Talent Acquisition Officer, Nationwide Insurance

Lessons Learned

"One real lesson for me was the importance of giving and expecting loyalty as a way to build strong relationships. Loyalty is both organizational and personal. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you aren’t willing to demonstrate loyalty to them. It must go both ways."

                                                           

Professional Advice

"I’ve received a lot of good advice, but the best was to not be afraid to take a career risk. For example, don’t be afraid to move geographies, or move to different companies and industries, or to move up, down or across – this enriches your career and your experience and knowledge."