4 Reasons Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion

The Harvard Business Review identified a few ways intelligent people undermine their success. Four of their insights hold acute relevance for insurance industry professionals.
By: | December 6, 2018 • 3 min read

You graduated at the top of your class. You’re a quick learner who doesn’t need a lot of oversight or guidance. You have the critical thinking skills necessary to solve tough problems. But your junior colleague just got the promotion you thought you had in the bag.

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What gives?

The reins holding you back in your career may have nothing to do with the quality of your work, and everything to do with how you interact with those around you. The insurance industry is full of smart people — you need an analytical mind and strong critical thinking skills to succeed — but being smart is often not enough if you want to take on a leadership role.

The Harvard Business Review identified a few ways intelligent people undermine their success. Four of their insights hold acute relevance for insurance industry professionals.

1) You don’t work on your people skills.

Any senior leader in this industry will tell you relationships still matter. In a competitive market where customers have their pick of top-tier products and services, your ability to forge a personal connection could be what wins over a new account.

“Your ability as a leader to create and develop powerful relationships is fundamental to success,” said S4 Consulting President Sallie Sherman in a 2017 Forbes interview. “The leader’s world is about creating a direction and context for action, and leaders need to develop special relationships that include high levels of trust and commitment.”

But people skills apply internally as well. Most people want a leader who they find friendly, warm and personable. Lacking social skills in the office may sabotage efforts to move up the ladder.

2) You don’t delegate.

People skills mean more than making small talk by the coffee machine. When working in teams for specific projects, the ability to listen to other ideas and be open-minded is essential. Highly intelligent people tend to want to take charge, believing if they want something done right — and done quickly — they have to do it themselves.

But the ability to delegate tasks and not micromanage are core leadership skills. According to Forbes, “a leader’s primary responsibility is to focus on the success of their people.” That requires giving your people the independence to lead projects and accomplish tasks on their own. Not only does this keep employees engaged, but it also increases their sense of satisfaction at work and helps them develop the skills to become future leaders.

Demonstrating the ability to delegate tasks and instead manage priorities is necessary if you’re eyeing a corner office.

3) You play it too safe.

HBR says that highly intelligent people — who have been praised since childhood for their academic performance — tend to identify themselves by and attach their self-esteem to their intelligence. That makes them less likely to take risks because the chance of failure is greater.

“Any situation that triggers feeling not-smart is perceived as highly threatening,” the HBR said.

“Innovation” is on the agenda at every major carrier, and an unwillingness to go outside your comfort zone will hold you back.

Though the insurance industry is risk-averse by nature, success still demands thinking outside of the box. Especially as risks emerge and evolve faster than ever (cyber security, extreme weather, reputation, etc.), brokers and underwriters need to be creative in finding new solutions and willing to take on new exposures in order to better serve clients.

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“Innovation” is on the agenda at every major carrier, and an unwillingness to go outside your comfort zone will hold you back.

4) You don’t develop a niche.

Companies don’t necessarily want a jack-of-all trades when they’re shopping for a broker or carrier. They want experts with specialized knowledge of their industry and their unique risks. For curious people who love to learn, staying in one lane for the length of their career is unappealing.

Intellectual people may desire to develop a level of expertise across a range of topics, but being a master of none does not make you stand out as a candidate for advancement.

If you’re stalled in your career, ask if any of these characteristics apply to you and outline a few concrete steps to change them. Start with one face-to-face interaction, one task to assign, or one creative solution at a time.

You’re smart. You’ll figure it out. &

Katie Dwyer is a freelance editor and writer based out of Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]