• Is risk aversion holding back your career?

When you work in insurance, thinking about the worst-case scenario is often a vital part of your job - but when it comes to career progression, a “worst case scenario” approach can easily be your worst enemy.

Taking risks in an industry that is all about risk management can be extremely difficult, but, according to those who have made it to the top, it is often the most rewarding thing you can do.  Bridges Insurance director Faith Owens recently spoke at the Women in Insurance Virtual Summit 2020, where she noted that the insurance sector is naturally ‘risk averse’ and unwilling to place itself in a vulnerable spot - something which can often hold promising talent back when that mindset finds its way into every part of the job.

Owens discussed some ways in which taking a risk can be of huge benefit - whether that’s stepping into a new role, taking on a project, or simply asking for feedback from the people around you.

“Insurance is all about risk management, and I’d like to think that most of us are fairly naturally risk averse,” Owens commented.

Read more: Insurance careers: striking the right balance between barriers and rewards

“I’m a believer in the mantra of ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.’ That is ultimately saying that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll never change, move, grow or develop into leadership roles. Something has to change for you to be able to get outside your comfort zone, and that’s often about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and opening yourself up to some scrutiny.”

“Show that you’re keen, and show that you want to learn - and people will recognise that,” she continued

“You don’t usually get offered the same opportunity twice, because if you say ‘no’, why would they come back to you again? Someone obviously thinks that you can offer value, so really take that to heart.”

Owens said that one of the most rewarding things she’d done for her career was taking part in a ‘360 feedback’ survey which asked colleagues, senior managers and clients about how she was perceived. She said that people are rarely willing to open themselves up to scrutiny, but that doing so can often shake off doubts about your own performance.

“The survey asks some really telling questions about how people perceive you, and it’s pretty confronting - but it’s a great opportunity to get really open and honest feedback,” Owens said.

“Putting yourself out there for that scrutiny is pretty intimidating, but we are our own worst critics - so if you ever get an opportunity to do something like this, take it with open arms.

For Rachael Greer, head of claims and risk at Donaldson Brown Insurance Brokers, the best way of moving past risk-averse habits is to do some factual analysis. She said clearly defining the real risks around you can be helpful in dispelling doubt - but ultimately, there also needs to be a little bit of bravery.

“The first step of managing risk is you actually need to define what it is to you, what you’re actually facing, and considering whether you’re overthinking a situation or actually dealing with real life consequences,” Greer said.

“The second part relates to bravery rather than pure risk mitigation - ultimately you can mitigate the heck out of risk, but sometimes in life, bravery is simply required and you need to look forward.”

Read more: Career and family: Can you really have it all?

“Risk is very much the possibility of something bad happening, and that can be based very much on our own judgements and perceptions,” she explained.

“I’m a claims specialist, so I see what goes wrong every day - and I’m blessed with a touch of natural anxiety. I have a tendency to consider the worst possible scenarios, regardless of the likelihood of those scenarios actually playing out.”

Greer noted that early in her career, doubts about her own ideas and contributions led to a natural quietness. However, she said recognising these feelings can give us a good indication of our “natural boundaries” - something which can then be explored, tested and pushed.

“I really recommend being mindful of our feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, as they let us know where our natural boundaries and comfort zones are,” Greer said.

“Often, our perception of risk can be coloured by simply stress or lack of sleep, and I don’t think all of us are giving enough credit to the fact that we’re dealing with a global pandemic crisis.”

“I’ve learned that considering the worst-case scenario can ultimately be very detrimental, not only to your own mindset but also to how you’re viewed by your peers,” she added.

“What’s helped me overcome this is really drilling down and considering what the actual risk is - is someone really going to think my idea is stupid? Probably not.

“At the end of the day, you don't need to jump off a cliff to challenge yourself. The pathway to stepping outside your comfort zone is actually just one small step.”

 

 Insurance Business NZ



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