By: Bernd G. Heinze, Esq., President of Heinze Group, LLC

Over the past 36 years, it has been a privilege to continue working in the insurance marketplace: first as an insurance defense and coverage trial attorney, vice-president and national chief litigation counsel for a property and casualty insurance company, executive director of a professional insurance trade association, and now as a legal and insurance executive today. During these years, I have been able to observe what makes a leading professional and the values that will sustain them as they ascend through their career. Here are five thoughts to consider:

  1. Differentiate Yourself. There are thousands of insurance professionals in the industry. What makes you stand out from the rest? Be a sponge and absorb everything you can read, observe, hear and see. Then, find one thing, just one thing, and become an expert in it. Be the “go-to” person on that topic in your organization and to its customers. You can start a podcast, blog, or offer to speak at functions.
  2. Stay humble, loyal and caring. No matter what your role is throughout your career, consider the organizational chart as horizontal versus vertical. Take an interest in and treat everyone respectfully and on the same level as you. It is an uncommon trait these days. Remember, what’s more important…a professional title on your business card or the testimony of how you will be remembered? When you’ve made it into a management or leadership role, forget about “empowering” your team. Inspire them! Don’t just give them tools and resources, give them your heartfelt interest, encouragement, and inspiration of goals they can achieve by exemplifying your personal brand of leadership. Share the credit. No one gets where they want to go alone.
  3. Never eat lunch alone. Everyone has a story to tell. The insurance business is still built on trusted relationships. The more we share that golden hour with others, the more we can learn, expand, and foster our professional network. Watch those new ideas and opportunities harvested from a conversation over a salad, soup or sandwich and a Diet Pepsi.
  4. Burn the Boxes. Remember the phrase “think outside the box”? Forget about it. The boxes and those who think outside of them are history. Don’t look back for inspiration from them: you’re not going that way. Think ahead and of writing on a blank canvass or iPad screen and ask the question: “What if?” It’s more important to ask the best questions than having all the answers. In today’s marketplace, we’re all looking for the next big idea or how to change the paradigm. Constantly challenge the status quo and use your own personal skills to creatively develop that new portrait and landscape.
  5. Serve your community. Get involved in a non-profit, your church, temple or synagogue, little league, 4-H, or senior center. Rather than asking “what’s in it for me?” ask “How can I serve?” You will exponentially lift up the lives of others and yours in the process. Life is balancing yourself, family, profession, and spending yourself in a worthy cause.

Today is best time to be in the insurance marketplace. Thanks for what you’ve done and all you’re going to do. You’ve got this. Make a difference. Leave a mark. Be sustainable.

For those of you who missed our February Webinar by Beth Fitch who presented on effective mentoring, we’ve summarized the takeaways. Enjoy!

Beth Fitch discussed the importance of cultural legacy and how it can impact who you are as a mentor or mentee. How you conduct yourself is a direct reflection of your culture and your legacy. We must be aware and mindful that we are always influencing someone, and we are always leading or following someone. Here are the most important things to learn and remember when looking to be a mentor or mentee.

Things to think about:

  • Who was a positive influence over you?
  • What is the positive character trait that you attribute to your cultural legacy?
  • What do you need to overcome from your cultural legacy?

Understand who you are before entering a mentoring role.


Differences between a mentor and sponsor:

  • The Mentor helps develop self-awareness, character, skills, goal developmental and fulfillment. Helps give you guidance and accountability.
  • The Sponsor advocates for career advancement. Helps open doors that a mentor alone might not be able to open.

How do you pick a mentor? Think about who do you want to model. Find someone that is willing to commit to you.

Principles of good mentoring relationship:

Transparency, authenticity, time commitment, process, feedback, accountability, intentionality.

Characteristics of a good mentor:

  • Self-awareness
  • Good listener
  • Humility
  • Committed personal investment in mentee
  • Patience
  • Persistence

Characteristics of a good mentee:

  • Lifelong learner
  • Vulnerability (take mask off)
  • Commitment to process
  • Appreciative (of time)
  • Respectful
  • Humility


Behavior follows belief and beliefs follow behavior. What do I believe about myself? Change your belief system.


(Observe, reflect, discuss…)

  • What happened?
  • How did I contribute, how did I react?
  • What could I have done differently or better?
  • Meet with mentor

A Mentor is there to be a good listener and ask good questions – not to give advice necessarily

(Plan, Act, Account)

  • Share, observe and reflect…
  • Talk together what can you do to remedy, resolve?
  • How will you act to a Kairos event?
  • If it’s a conflict situation, how do I respond to conflict? Consult with mentor.
  • Account to mentor

To be an Effective Mentor, you must be a good listener.

(Probing, supportive, interpretive, reflective, evaluative)

In a mentoring relationship “teach them how to fish.”

Don’t be sympathetic – Most people have support for life events, positive or negative.

Reflective listening: non-judgmental for understanding and not agreement.

  • What I hear what you are saying…
  • Paraphrasing
  • Clarifying
  • Perception checking – feeling of the fact…
  • Summarizing


Engage your mentee in conversation: That’s interesting…

  • Tell me more…
  • Why would you say that?
  • Why would you do that?
  • Why are you asking me that?


DON’T DO – Parroting, faking it, analyzing.

DO – Shut off all devices BE PRESENT.


S                          O                             L                                 E                           R                         Approach


Squarely face the person

Open your posture

Lean towards the sender

Eye contact maintained

Relax/reflex posture and content


10 Commandments

  1. Stop talking
  2. Smile and SOLER
  3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues
  4. Listen for what is not said
  5. Reflect back
  6. Tune in – listen to understand not to oppose
  7. Concentrate on tone and word emphasis
  8. Be patient – don’t interrupt
  9. Check your temper at the door and don’t become defensive
  10. Empathize with the speaker


“Success comes to those who have been given opportunities and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” Michael Gladwell


Comment below! You can also reach Beth Fitch by email at:

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