Don’t Sell Yourself Short

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Laura Sherman: All right. Hello everyone. I’m Laura Sherman and I’m here with an amazingly esteemed group of female colleagues.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Why don’t we just cut the crap?

Laura Sherman: What?

Elizabeth Krystyn: That’s what we promise people. Let’s just get to it.

Laura Sherman: Let’s do it.

Kelly Nash: I’m Kelly Nash.

Laura Sherman: I’m Laura Sherman.

Amy Ingram: I’m Amy Ingram.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I’m Elizabeth Krystyn

Laura Sherman: Let’s get started.

Amy, you are incredibly authentic here at the office. How did you find this path to finding your true authentic self at work?

Amy Ingram: Well, I think being authentic for me was a path more so than I started out perfectly knowing what that looked like. So in my career, I started as an underwriter for a large global insurance company, and I started out as a marketing underwriters.

So that meant you traveled around and you talk to people, which I love, and you got to analyze the risk, which I like, and you got to win, which I also like.

What I didn’t like about that role was having to write down everything in a risk report and no surprise to anyone who works with me. So I did that, and I worked really hard at that for a long time, and I finally got myself in a position to lead a small team, which I had been wanting to do for a really, really long time.

And I was meeting with my new boss as a leader, and he asked me what my Myers Briggs type was. And I am an ENFP. And nobody, uh, the global insurance company was in the ENFP and he looked me dead in the eye and he said, “Oh, you’re one of those, if we don’t get you into management, you leave.” And the pieces clicked together for me.

And I thought. This is why I had been wanting this for so long and I’ve been working, filling out these terrible risk reports for years so I could finally get this opportunity because that is actually what I want and am naturally inclined to do. And I think that really helped me trust myself a little bit more.

And I think when you trust yourself, you can show up more honestly. And, and so that’s, I think that was when the pieces kind of came together for me.

Kelly Nash: I think it takes incredible courage to be yourself every day and to know that you come with your vulnerabilities and the things that you’re really good at and the things that perhaps you have some opportunities for development and to bring all of that to work every day as long with the things that we all are dealing with in the background with our families and our life, and to come as our whole– wholeselves at work is just a far more rewarding experience.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I think it’s kind of easy to tell when someone isn’t… Kind of showing up as their whole self. I grew up and when I grew up, everyone called me Betsy. And when I got my first job out of college, I decided enough with that I’m going to be professional. I’m wearing pantyhose after all, and I want everyone to call me Elizabeth.

And when my friends that I’d known growing up would call me Betsy in front of my work friends, I would be mortified. I’m like, no, no. I’m Elizabeth. And do you have a nickname? No, I don’t. I was never known as anything else. Just call me Elizabeth. Okay. And now I think being just more comfortable with who I am, I would introduce someone.

As you know, this is one of my Betsy friends. They’ve known me for 30 years, as opposed to everyone who’s known me for less than 30 years. Everyone calls me Elizabeth. So.

Kelly Nash: You warned me; the first day that I met you that you have some Betsy friends and I didn’t know what that meant.

Laura Sherman: And you also told me when I first met you, life’s too short to wear pantyhose.

Amy Ingram: We’ve all come a long way.

Laura Sherman: So I think it’s all about really developing your authentic style. When I first started my career at an insurance company, I had a mentor tell me that they called me the cheerleader, and I don’t think they meant it as a compliment because I was very expressive and enthusiastic and that person pulled me aside and said, “Laura, you know, now you’re in the professional world, you really need to tone it down and work. And in business, we don’t show emotions.”

And I was like, “Oh, that’s a great point. I’m so glad you told me that.” And so I immediately went home and I practiced my very serious face. And I walked around, you know, very seriously underwriting, um, risks, and I realized it wasn’t me. And it really, like, there’s nothing worse than an inauthentic phony person.

Probably another choice word or two. And so I really kind of wrestled with it for a while and I said, okay, you know what? I’m going to just get my own groove on and be who I am and maybe I will be passed over for promotion, or maybe [for] some people, it will turn them off. But I am an enthusiastic person and that is actually for me, has been one of my character strengths.

And I think one of the things I bring to the table that counterbalances some of our other partners, wouldn’t you agree?

Elizabeth Krystyn: Absolutely. As the non-cheerleader partner.

Laura Sherman: I think you’re a cheerleader, but in your own authentic way. Right?

Elizabeth Krystyn: Laura when… When did you decide that you had enough professional credibility to not have to downplay the enthusiastic cheerleader?

Laura Sherman: It was last week.

[Laughter]

Elizabeth Krystyn: So when you were 26?

Laura Sherman: Exactly. No, but it was, it probably took me a good year to really, I wrestled with it a lot because I would do that and I would find that it did– especially when you have age against you, right. When you’re early on in your career, you do have to see more credible. Right? We are employing quite a few millennials, right?

Are constantly talking to them about how do you talk to your clients when they say, “I’ve got socks older than you.” Right? And so you do have to develop that prof–, professional credibility. And for me, I’ve learned to use my enthusiasm as part as I guess as a strength by having that acumen of insurance, right?

So I have studied it. I’ve become an expert so that my technical credibility shines through even while I’m making insurance fun.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I think that’s true. And I think, um, that’s definitely been something that others in our organization could admire about you because you bring that enthusiastic passion with the skill needed to back it up.

Um, it’s not. You know, it’s not just about do you have not, you know, you’re very enthusiastic about stacked and non stacked auto insurance–

Laura Sherman: I am we can actually do a seminar, a podcast on that if you guys would like?

Elizabeth Krystyn: Anyone, anyone?

[Laughter]

But when people say, why does it matter? You’ve got 10 facts to back it up and then that enthusiasm seems genuine and you’re genuinely interested in making sure that they’ve got the right coverage.

To provide peace of mind for their families.

I think the best compliment I’ve ever received from a client was, “I bet you’re absolutely no fun at parties.” And I was like, “thank you!” And he was like, “Oh, Oh, you’re welcome.” Because I think he realized that I do make risk management fun and it’s become my life, and I’ve realized that.

I still get invited to parties and I can check it at the door, but I–, I did text a client the other day at around 11:30 at night. I said, “Saw on Facebook, your daughter turned 16. Happy birthday! By the way, we need to remove her license from the photo you just posted to your, you know, thousand followers.”

And he’s like, “this is why I have you.”

Kelly, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you don’t want to sell yourself short.

Kelly Nash: Thanks. Yeah. So I recently read this book called Girl, Wash Your Face [by Rachel Hollis], and there was an absolute aha moment in there for me. She was talking about, let’s say we have a friend named Tina, and let’s say whenever you make friends with Tina, you say, Tina, let’s go get a drink after work.

And Tina, right before the end, right when you’re about to get there, she sends you a text and says, “I can’t go.” And every single time you make a plan to do something with Tina, she flakes out on you. Well, in our lives, don’t we– A lot of us do this to ourselves. Like for me, for example, let’s say I want to go to Elizabeth and I say, Elizabeth, I want you to give me whatever coaching it is that I need in order to make it to the next step, but right in the moment, right before I do it, something else comes up and I chicken out and I flake out on myself.

Don’t be Tina, right? I need to stop being Tina for myself. This was an absolute aha light bulb moment that if anybody is gonna advocate for me, it’s me. And if anybody is going to come through for me, it’s me and I need to set that expectation that I am worth coming through for. And um, it was one of those moments that will forever change my life.

And I’m so glad that I read it.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I appreciate you recommending it to me cause I loved it. And it also reminded me of Mel Robbins wrote a book that I’ve loved and it’s The 5 Second Rule and it’s basically your brain has five seconds to convince your body to stop doing that, which it really thinks it needs to do.

So to get up without putting your phone, your, um, your alarm on snooze or to have that discussion or to stick your hand out and meet someone new. And it’s very similar to that, and it’s by counting down five, four, three, two, one. You take your, your brain off, it’s pre-wired disposition to keep you safe and not move.

If you do one, two, three, four, five, we’re sort of wrote on that and we don’t have to think about it so we can be talked out of anything. So five, four, three, two, one go, but very similar and also super helpful to not let your own voice in your head be that which holds you back.

Kelly Nash: Just do it. Right. I love that.

I love that, that she said that. And she also said something that sounds a little harsh, but at least Mel Robbins said this, but really resonated with me when she said it. Stop worrying about how you feel about it. The change itself is simple, or whatever it is that you’re trying to do is really simple.

You’re bogged down in how you feel, and this sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. When you’re trying to get yourself to do something. She said, I don’t care how you feel about it, just do it. And that is so accurate and so true, and really goes back to, don’t be Tina. 

Elizabeth Krystyn: And also raising teenagers. I don’t really care how you feel about macaroni or geometry.

Laura Sherman: So Elizabeth, tell us how you got into a stage of continual learning.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I think early on in my career, I didn’t want to be the person that didn’t know. So I probably didn’t say much. And then I decided one day that I must not be a curious person. I’m just gonna keep in my own self and you know, keeping in myself as comfortable.

And then that just seems like a 180. And then I thought, well, maybe I can just be more curious and say, I’m just curious. What about this and what about that? And when you ask people to explain something or to take a minute, or you have a followup question, one, you start getting someone else invested in your learning.

And two, the growth is exponential. So once I decided that staying quiet wasn’t my thing, and you guys are looking at me like. When did she ever think staying quiet was her thing? Um, I just started asking people questions. So that… That curiosity becomes continuous learning. And I never want to stay still in who I am as a person, who I am in my relationship with you all, our colleagues, my family, our clients, and in the community.

So to do that, you’ve got to be a continuous learner, and there’s so much that is changing and there’s so much that we don’t know. And then by asking others to help me, I developed relationships with people who could mentor me of all ages, of all backgrounds, and that just kind of fed on itself.

Amy Ingram:  I think for me, I figured out continuous learning in my prior life where we were not mobile–

my husband and I weren’t mobile for like a decade and working in the same office for the same company. You know, after two or three years I was like, okay, I kinda got this part down. What else can I do? What else can I do? And it ended up, uh, you know, now we talk about matrix career– you know, your career path is matrix.

It’s going to weave around. And because I was in one location for all those years and kept asking, what else can I do? What else can I learn? What about that over there? If I, you know, if I trained you, would you train me? And then we could both do the same thing. Ultimately after 10 years, I had this great resume of all of these skills that other people who had stayed in one place or move doing the same thing.

So I ended up having this great matrix career path before matrix was cool. When we were able to move, it ended up springboarding me forward. So I think sometimes. No matter where you are, you have to seek out your own learning. You have to seek out your own opportunity, and sometimes that doesn’t look like everybody else.

Laura Sherman: I would just add too, I think humans are definitely creatures of habit, and I think that unconscious bias sometimes prevents us from learning something new or doing something differently. So I don’t even remember where I read it, but I talked about how when you have an issue or a problem, try changing your mindset and looking at it from a completely different perspective. So pretending like you’re a child and you know, park your knowledge of insurance or business on a shelf and just come at it from a child and what would they do? Because they aren’t confined by what they know is not possible.

And it’s amazing how that change in mindset can really help unlock that learning. And so I’ve been trying to be very deliberate about learning and about carving out that time really every night. So my thing is, every night after I put the kids to bed, I spend about an hour reading and it’s amazing, and I send lots of articles to different people.

Like I have one person that you all know who is very interested in learning about Alzheimer’s or about different interests. And so I’ll have these little articles and I’ll start sending them out and people are like, wow, where did you read it? So I love Flipboard is my go-to because it curates articles and I read it from top to bottom every single night in addition to learning something new about our industry as well.

And I think. We– we’re going to talk a little bit later about kind of networking and mentoring, but becoming an expert means you are continuously learning, right? So whatever that interests you the most, and that’s one thing I love about our field, right, is that you can become an expert in transportation or pick a vertical or employee benefits.

There’s so many subsets of that, of employee benefits where you can become a true expert. That that to me, the, it’s endless.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Okay. I’m writing down, I’m going to start looking at Flipboard. I’ve always been a big proponent of Harvard Business Review. It comes out about every other month, a little bit more frequently.

They’ve got some special additions, but they go deep on very specific topics, and then. Being the rabbit hole learner that we all are, then I go and read the 10 more articles and the 10 more articles, but–

Laura Sherman: And they also have the daily news update that I read. I don’t know if you read that as well. If you want, I can get you on that as well.

Kelly Nash: I love HBR as well. I call it university of HBR. Whenever something comes out, and then I need to learn about strategic execution or whatever it may be. I quickly go pull two or three articles and read them, and I may only read the brief, but I get the just what it is they’re saying. There’s so much wonderful content on HBR, and there was something that Amy said that really reminded me actually, I had a mentor early on in my career that said, no one will ever say no to you if you ask for help.

Unless they’re a real jerk and then you don’t want their help anyway. Which is true!

Laura Sherman: Elizabeth, I’d love to know how do you reduce your stress?

Elizabeth Krystyn: I think one of the ways that I sort of am able to live a life that just inherently has less stress is to just be. That one person, Amy, is kind of like what you talked about before. I’m one person at home. I’m one person here. I think of my life is sort of integrated.

My clients are my friends, my friends are my clients, the community projects that I’m passionate about. I’ve developed friendships there, and so I don’t think of, now I’m at work. Now I’m at home. When I’m at work, I’m thinking about work and home and vice versa. So I think by not trying to. You know, shut the door completely to either sets of responsibilities that I think I’m able to have less stress.

And then of course at the dinner table, the whole family, and I’m sure it hears as well, know a lot about insurance.

Amy Ingram: I actually think I have. You know, I tried to manage my stress a little bit differently, although not completely differently. I think one of my strengths is that I am 100% present where I am.

I am not sitting here worrying about the other aspects of my life, but when I’m– when I’m home and when I’m with my kids, I’m 100% focused on them. So I guess you could say I’ve compartmentalized my life, which sounds like that might be stressful, but for me it’s not. For me when I’m at work, I’m 100% at work.

When I’m at home, I’m 100% at home. When the kids go down, if I get back on or I, you know, I do something to learn or I do something to relax, just me by myself in the dark with a glass of wine. I am 100% doing that. And I think that to me, has kept the stress from bleeding over. So I try to keep home stress at home and I tried to keep work stress at work and it doesn’t always work that way, but I think that has helped me be really present where I am, which is what I want.

I want to be really present when I’m home with my family and I want to be really present here.

Laura Sherman: And that’s a work in progress area for me. I think that is something that I’ve always put myself last, so I would run until I’m on fumes and then like all of a sudden the doctor would be like, “Oh, Laura, did you know that you’ve had pneumonia for the last week?”

And be like, “Oh, Oh, does that mean I should be resting?” And so I haven’t been historically as good. Now, thankfully, with the addition of like Kelly and changing my role, I think I’ve been a lot better because I’ve put it on my calendar and I’m trying to not be Tina, so I’m trying to put it on my calendar because then I feel an obligation or I have a buddy, right?

So like I have a phenomenal walking buddies that I’ll walk with in the morning so that I know that– and that is a great de-stressor because it’s a great way to start the day, get the adrenaline pumping, right? You get some exercise and meditation out. So I’ve really, that’s an area that I’ve, for 2018– at the end of 2018 and 2019 Dr. Pat hopefully would be better– be more proud.

Amy Ingram: As working parents.

I do think it is super easy to let us come last, and I think that’s a work in progress for me. I would say I think I, I try to be 100% present with others and I don’t know that I’m always 100% present with myself.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Are you saying that we all need to go spend the day at the spa together?

Amy Ingram:  Oh, yes!

Laura Sherman: Sorry. So next time we’ll just make sure that we schedule it for that. We’ll meet at the spa. I like that.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Kelly–  are you a comp? You’re kind of a compartmentalizer?

Kelly Nash: I am. I’m also a compartmentalizer. I think though, I agree with you in that when I come to work, I’m focused at work and I am very lucky that I have resources at home to help. I don’t need to worry about whatever’s happening at home, but when I’m at home, I’m at home and for example, I leave– I have a separate work cell phone.

I leave it in my car so that I can, when I’m with my kids, I can be with my kids and really focused on what it is that they’re talking to me about. And I think, however, I don’t fully. Compartmentalize cause when I come to work I’m definitely a mom and that mom bit of me, that loving, caring maternal bit is always here.

It’s in my vision statement for me at work. And I think that also helps it when I am very clear about what my priorities are with Elizabeth, for example, or with the team. Elizabeth knows what to expect for me. She knows to text my personal phone. If it’s going to be on Saturday morning, I’m happy to respond.

I’m just not looking at the other phone right now and with my team, when I share very clearly what our priorities are, for example, we’re going to do right by the colleague in the situation, no matter what that may be. They are then empowered to make decisions… On their– on their own and to grow their own careers, then they don’t come back to me, which is wonderful.

I love that the team is a little bit more empowered and a little bit more able to execute. So I think when we are very consistent in how we handle ourselves and what our priorities are, it allows the, for those that we report to, uh, allows them to better be able to predict what we’re going to do. And for those who report to us, allows them to be more autonomous.

Amy Ingram: You also are modeling what we want for our colleagues, right? We want our colleagues to… I don’t want my colleagues working every night and not seeing their children. I don’t want, um, I don’t want my colleagues to feel like they have to be at my Beck and call on their phones every, you know, seven days a week.

I don’t want that for myself. And I think by modeling that we give our colleagues the freedom to do the same for themselves. And that’s… And why wouldn’t you want to work in a place where you have the freedom to have a whole life?

Kelly Nash: You reminded me of something that I was– it was once suggested to me and that now I think I need to implement, and that was do not send any emails to anybody on your team before 8:00 AM because you’re giving them the wrong impression. I need to learn how to, it was just one piece of advice–

Elizabeth Krystyn: that was some sly info right there. Okay. I don’t tech– I don’t send emails at night or on weekends.

Kelly Nash: You never do.

Laura Sherman: She just schedules them to arrive after eight.

Elizabeth Krystyn: I will now change it cause I’m a little, you know, I’m a 6:00 AM mad emailer, so I will try to hold back. Maybe we can negotiate to seven o’clock?

Kelly Nash: I’m good with that. Well, I want to learn how to, there’s a way you can schedule it, apparently.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Yes.

Amy Ingram: We’ve tested it. Elizabeth and I’ve tested it. It works. You just have to remember every email. Yeah.

Elizabeth holds them in drafts.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Hold them in drafts. And then there’s that great sense of accomplishment, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, and send them off.

Kelly Nash: Oh, I’d love that.

Elizabeth Krystyn: There was something you said a minute or so ago, Kelly, that I think is cool. And you talked about consistency and how important consistency was for the people that you are accountable to and as you show up and how you want your team to be there for their families and be there for work.

And I think having a consistent way to be approached in a consistent, this is what I do with my phone at night and this is how I’ll interact with you off hours gives people a sense of security and safety, which I think is so important, especially because… Regardless of the organization or industry, there is some definition of moving fast and there’s some definition of, I don’t know what this person is thinking, or the person hasn’t said what they’re thinking or they don’t know yet.

And so many times in business in general, there can be feelings of uncertainty, but consistency really does help to bring that down and make people feel grounded. I think that’s critical as a leader to provide that for your team.

Kelly Nash: You provide that for us. So thank you for that. Actually, Amy and I were talking about this one time that there was a time when, when I, especially when I very first came, I feared major judgment because I do have this two phone system and this is the way that I manage it.

And when I’m at home, I have really young children like there is no possibility of trying to multitask with them hanging on me and saying, mama, mama. So I was worried about that being something that would be an impediment. And it was very clear, very early on that immediately that was accepted and wonderful.

That’s great. So thank you for offering that kind of support because it allowed me to do what I needed to do so I can be more present when I’m here. So thank you for that.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Are you trying to make up for taking me out on the 8:00 AM emails?

[laughter]

Kelly Nash: No! I really didnt mean that for you. I meant it for me. For those people who get 5:00 AM emails from me too! It’s me.

Amy Ingram: I should be better about that too. Sometimes it’s a good time for me and it might not be a good time for everybody else.

Kelly Nash: Yes. Well said. Well, said.

Elizabeth Krystyn: Next time on the Cut The Crap Podcast, we discussed the benefits of creating a safe place for failure in the workplace.

“Safe isn’t safe because it’s the same. That safe is because there’s no punishment for failure.”

Thank you for listening to the Cut The Crap Podcast. Please send your topic ideas to: podcast@bks-partners.com thanks, and we look forward to next time.

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