As marketers, we’re often catalysts for change. To borrow from a 2017 article on Forbes.com, change management is the new marketing capability.
One of the highlights of IMCA’s 2019 Annual Conference was a panel discussion on navigating change in your marketing career. IMCA board members Anna Hargis, Rachel Harris and Angela Kim provided insight into how they’ve successfully effected and responded to change in their careers. Following is a recap of selected remarks our panelists made during this discussion.
How are you challenging perhaps a more stagnant viewpoint within your company, or using your role to challenge old practices?
Rachel Harris (RH): One of the biggest traps I’ve seen companies fall into with regards to marketing is just doing what they’ve always done… I think this is one of the biggest ways that we, as marketers, can make a difference in our organizations, is by challenging these “safe practices” and thinking out of the box, trying new things and taking risks… I continually look for ways to help our company stay fresh and relevant — keeping our marketing strategy fluid instead of static is key.
Angela Kim (AK): Gallagher has always been a sales-driven firm that had been highly successful without true, strategic marketing. Our CMO arrived 2 years ago, which has been a complete game changer for Gallagher. He has transformed leadership’s viewpoint on marketing by demonstrating the benefits of integrating sales and marketing… We now have divisional marketing teams responsible for lead generation and cross sell through integrated marketing campaigns, something Gallagher hadn’t done before.
Anna Hargis (AH): Shelter Insurance has put a specific focus on innovation for the past couple of years. Our leaders are encouraging everyone to think outside the box when possible. We’re thinking about and focusing on innovation across the board. We found out late last year that a lead generation opportunity we’ve provided our agents for many years was going to end. I put together a group of vendors to review and one of them had a solution that was very different from what we had been doing. I ended up presenting that option as our solution, and leadership thought it looked great. We’re building it all out now and plan to launch in the fall.
What is your perspective on working with peers or other generations within your company?
AK: The producers I work with range from seasoned, 30+ year sales professionals to straight out-of-college, young producers who are green and eager to pound the pavement. I find myself needing to adjust how I work with different generations. For the older generation, I tend to pick up the phone or walk to their office to have a face-to-face conversation whereas I email younger producers. You have to pick up on their preferred style of communication.
AH: I’m a Gen Xer — one of the early ones — and many of the stereotypes do apply to me. I never had a problem working with Baby Boomers but spent the first years of my career thinking “we could do this differently.” I remember when we got our first desktop PCs — and the early days of email —how exciting it all was while my baby boomer boss wasn’t thrilled. Now I find I’m one of the “more mature” folks in the room and while I love technology, I’m not an early adopter any more.
Have you made any mistakes or had regrets in your career, which you’ve since overcome?
AH: I made what I thought was a big mistake with my budget early in my career. I missed budgeting for one large item. I can remember the terrible feeling when I found the error and then had to tell my boss. I went to him with a solution — which is always a good approach to handling mistakes, and I’ll never forget what he told me. He said that perfection isn’t a job requirement for any of us. He encouraged me to look for ways to prevent something similar happening in the future, but he didn’t want me to continue to beat myself up about it. He liked my solution to fixing the problem, so we did that and his encouragement really helped me.
RH: I think the biggest regrets for me, both in life and my career, are the things I haven’t done, rather than the things I have. There were definitely times, especially in my early career years, where I didn’t speak up in a meeting, and wished I had, or where I didn’t share an idea, when I should have — and someone else usually thinks of it later. I’ve learned that it’s important to be bold, and to step out and take a risk, and to say something, or present an idea, or share your opinion, even if it takes some courage — and even if the idea never comes to fruition. It’s important to know and see your value, and to use your voice when you have the opportunity.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking for a career change, is looking for guidance in expanding their current role or is just beginning their career in insurance marketing?
AK: Make networking part of your professional DNA. You never know who will tap you on the shoulder for a job opportunity… Having a mentor — both within your company and outside — is also critical in advancing your career. My former company had a formal mentor/mentee program, that provided structure on when to meet with your mentor/mentee. From there, relationships naturally developed and I’ve maintained most of my relationships.
AH: My advice is to really weigh options and alternatives — and think about what I call your personal risk meter. There are times in your life when you can take on more risk — such as switching companies. For years my risk meter score was very low — I had a young child and other family matters that didn’t lend themselves to making a career move. As those factors change, the risk meter score can move up. I’d encourage a self-evaluation asking yourself the key questions like “what would I do if the opportunity ended?” Think worst case scenario and go from there.
How do you manage a work/life balance? How do you avoid burnout and practice self-care?
RH: I’ve had a few wise people tell me that there is no such thing as work life balance — it’s more about work/life management. Instead of trying to “balance” something that can never truly be balanced, it’s more important to think of it in terms of how to “manage” both work and life. I’ve learned that managing your work and life effectively means that it’s important to take time for yourself, every day if you can, to do things that make you happy, and make you feel fulfilled, and are, most importantly, separate from work.
AH: I’m a work in progress for this. I’ve had to take my work home on weekends or evenings and explain to my teenage son that sometimes a work/life balance means that work has to take precedence. On the other hand, when he or my husband need me – I’m there. I read something recently that spoke to paying attention in the moment, and I’m trying to do that. I’m actively listening to what my family members are saying and asking follow up questions to further engage when possible.
AK: I make it a priority to make time for myself. It’s a non-negotiable. Gallagher has a free gym for employees with classes throughout the day. I take the 4:45 p.m. classes, and my colleagues (and boss) know that I’m down at the gym at this time. They respect my time because I stand firm on making sure it’s a priority. Of course if circumstances arise where there are meetings in the evening, I adjust. But overall, don’t compromise what’s important to you.