Featuring Liberty Mutual Insurance
Many of us have experienced the sense of excitement that comes from attending a conference. The amazing speakers, helpful breakout sessions and spontaneous conversations—all contribute to the buzz of new ideas and possibilities you feel. Indeed, 78 percent of Women’s Conference attendees reported feeling more optimistic about the future after attending the event.
So how do you sustain that inspiration? At the Texas Conference for Women last November, Liberty Mutual hosted “Letters to Our Future Selves” in their booth. Attendees wrote a letter to themselves describing their goals, aspirations and learnings. They will receive their letters six months after the conference.
In the meantime, we asked four women who work at Liberty Mutual in Texas to share a piece of advice that helps them be their best self at work.
“Don’t be afraid to be direct.”
—Stacie Graham, SVP of the national insurance division and general manager
At the Texas Conference for Women, Graham says that keynote speaker Dr. Brené Brown said something that really resonated with her: “To be clear is kind, to be unclear is unkind.”
Explains Graham: “Often we’re afraid if we’re direct, we’re being ‘mean.’ Instead of addressing feedback head-on, both women and men sometimes sidestep around issues or our delivery is so soft that it’s ineffective. Now when I’m giving feedback, I start by saying, ‘I want to talk about an area where I think you can improve and I’m going to be clear about it. If I’m not clear, then I am being unkind to you and your career.’”
Her new, more direct approach has been well-received, she adds: “People are reacting well to the concept and recognizing that the feedback is helping them in the long run.”
“Have a personal mantra.”
—Veronica Burns, claims service center supervisor
Burns has two words that have helped propel her forward in her career: strong enough. These simple words have given her the courage and resilience to go from an individual contributor to a manager who embraces change.
For Burns, the first test of her mantra came early in her career when her boss and mentor invited her to do a 45-minute presentation for 200 people — including senior managers — on delivering exceptional customer service. Although extremely nervous, Burns said to herself, “I’m going to take this challenge. I am strong enough to deliver this message.” The presentation went well, with many people thanking her afterward for sharing useful advice. “I believe that presentation is what opened the door to my becoming a manager,” Burns adds.
“Focus on what you want to do now.”
—Ja’Vonni Partlow, employee relations specialist
To women just starting out in their careers, Partlow recommends being prepared to jump around at first. “You never want to pigeonhole yourself into a role that isn’t you and where you can’t be your authentic self,” Partlow says.
She passes along this advice from her mother who worked in HR for 16 years. Instead of the standard advice about having five- and 10-year plans, Partlow says that her mother “taught me to be flexible. She advised me, ‘Don’t look too far ahead; focus on what you want to do today.’ Having that kind of flexibility helps you avoid getting stuck in a job or career that isn’t right for you.”
“Don’t be afraid to speak up.”
—Keri D’Angelis, claims operations manager of global retail markets for medical and special investigation claims
Whether it’s your first job out of college or in a new field, D’Angelis believes that women should be willing to speak up about what they bring to the table. “When I first started out at Liberty Mutual, adjusting auto claims, I was more soft-spoken,” D’Angelis recalls. “I thought everybody else had all the answers because they had more experience than me.”
She soon learned that this was not the right mindset. “Even if you’re a new employee, you’re the only one with your unique perspective and viewpoint,” D’Angelis says. “You add value by speaking up.”
D’Angelis pushed herself to speak up until it came more naturally. “It’s all about being your authentic self. If you’re introverted, you don’t have to be the one to lead the meeting; look for other ways to contribute.”
In the end, she adds: “The effort and determination you put into your work really dictates what you get out of each job, project and task, no matter how small.”