Director of Actuarial
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
L. Liang: What three skills/abilities do you feel are most important for career advancement in today’s rapidly-changing global environment?
J. Ryan: Being creative, solution-focused, and having the ability to make effective and critical decisions. Being flexible and embracing changing environments. Having the ability to communicate and network effectively.
L. Liang: What advice would you give to an individual interested in advancing his/her career to help determine if he/she has a future in his/her present company, or if he/she should change companies?
J. Ryan: You have to be passionate about the work you do. You also have to be dedicated and have a sense of loyalty to the company for which you work. You have to feel those you work with respect you, seek out, and value your opinion, believe in you, and are willing to invest time and resources to develop you. You have to feel empowered as an employee.
L. Liang: Do you or did you have a mentor? If so, how did you obtain him/her? What was the most important benefit you gained from your mentor?
J. Ryan: I hired a leadership coach to develop and enhance my skills as an effective leader. Also, recently, a vice president at Horizon has volunteered to mentor me. I met my leadership coach while golfing, My mentor is a vice president I work with. My coach has stressed managing is about managing things, but leadership is about leading people. She has made me realize I need to understand each person and treat each person fairly but differently, because each person is unique. Everyone reacts and interprets things differently based on their own experiences. The key is to be emotionally connected to them, but remain detached as a leader. If your emotions do get the best of you, it’s important to step back from the situation and, as my coach would say, just breathe. Another benefit from my coach is encouragement to get out of my comfort zone, whether it applied to a work situation, professional development opportunity, or personal experience. Doing so has increased my confidence better prepared me for other challenges I may face. It also just feels great to do something I never thought I would be able to do or was too afraid to. I have only just started to work with my mentor, but getting his honest opinion about my performance and my areas for development has been invaluable.
L. Liang: What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to emerging leaders to assist them in advancing their careers?
J. Ryan: Always be honest and never compromise your integrity. Be confident and forward- thinking. nspire and empower your employees; make them invested in the outcome. Get to know each individual, because what works with one may not work with another. Care about them, trust them, treat them with respect, and create a positive working environment.
Linda A. Liang PhD, is president of Organizational Resources, LLC. She’s an executive coach and leadership development consultant and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org