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.