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February 2020

Sorry Not Sorry: Why You Need to Stop Apologizing

Upset woman

“Never apologize; it’s a sign of weakness.”

John Wayne famously uttered those words in the film “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” but for those of us who aren’t The Duke and don’t live in a 70-year-old Western, apologies are sometimes necessary. Witness the backlash when a celebrity caught behaving badly makes an insufficient or insincere apology (“I’m sorry if I offended anyone” and such).

Like anything else, however, apologies are subject to the “too much of a good thing” phenomenon. Excessive apologizing can undermine your effectiveness as a leader. It’s not a sign of weakness, but it can weaken others’ confidence in your abilities. Saying “I’m sorry” over and over again is like saying “I messed up” over and over again. Who wants to work with someone who’s always messing up?

Worse, “over-apologizing can desensitize your listeners when you want to deliver a sincere and necessary apology,” Donna Moriarty writes at careercontessa.com. “The more you say you’re sorry, the less power it has. Remember the boy who cried wolf? If everything rises to the need for an apology, then nothing does.”

It’s probably not news to you that over-apologizing is a largely female trait. Men and women apologize at roughly the same rates when they’ve caused someone actual harm or major inconvenience, but when it comes to unnecessary apologies, women hold the lead, Canadian sociologist Maja Jovanovic explains in a TEDx talk from Toronto.

Over-apologizing can not only undermine others’ confidence in you; it can also do a number on your self-confidence, Jovanovic says.

“If you're beginning and ending every sentence with, 'Sorry about that,' 'Sorry, is this a good time?' 'Sorry, can I come in?' 'Sorry, can I speak?' don't be surprised if there's nothing left of your confidence at the end of the day, because you've given it away with every needless, useless apology."

Jovanovic tells the story of a work meeting at a restaurant where one of the participants was late.References:

“He arrives to the restaurant and … he says, ‘Hey, thanks for waiting,’ … and do you know what the rest of us said? ‘You’re welcome.’ And we all just opened our menus and ordered, and life went on!

“Can you imagine if a woman arrived late for a work meeting with her superiors? … She wouldn’t have been able to get in the door with the apologies! … ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t find parking, and then my GPS didn’t work, and then I didn’t have gas, and then I had to take the kids to day care, and I forgot their lunch … .’ (And everyone else is thinking), ‘Yeah, how can I get some of that on my team?’” she says with a large dose of sarcasm.

Are you a sorryholic? Do you find yourself apologizing for every little thing? Worse, are you apologizing for things that aren’t your fault? Are you so addicted to the S word that you use it as punctuation?

As with any addiction, recovery from apology abuse is possible – but it takes practice, and you might backslide a few times. It’s OK – this isn’t Sorryholics Anonymous, and nobody’s going to take your 90-day apology-free coin away if you relapse.

Start by becoming aware of when you feel a “sorry” coming on. What’s the reason for it?

If it’s something beyond your control – the weather, traffic, illness (your own) -- squash that “sorry” like a bug. If it’s something you’ve done – arrive late, bump into someone – stop yourself and consider an alternative.

Take a page from Jovanovic’s colleague and replace “Sorry I’m late” with “Thanks for waiting” or “Thank you for your patience.”

“Thank you” can stand in for a variety of needless apologies. Someone finds a mistake you made? “Thanks for catching that.” You realize you’ve been monopolizing the conversation? “Thank you for listening.”

For those bump-into-someone moments, try “Excuse me” or “After you.” When you have something to contribute to a discussion, replace “Sorry for interrupting” with “How about we try this?” or “Here’s an idea” … anything but the S word.

If you over-apologize in your speech, you probably need to dial it back in your written communication as well – and there’s an app for that. “There’s a Google Chrome plug-in called ‘Just Not Sorry’ that will alert you to all the needless apologies” in your emails, Jovanovic says.

Breaking the “sorry” habit isn’t just good for your self-confidence and others’ confidence in you. When you replace “sorry” with “thank you,” you’re boosting the other person’s ego by acknowledging their patience, listening skills or attention to detail.

Over-apologizing comes from a desire to be a people pleaser – but the best way to actually please people is to stop apologizing for yourself and start thanking them. Try it!

© 2020 Women in Insurance and Financial Services. All Rights Reserved.

By Chia-Li Chien, PhD, CFP®, PMP®, Assistant Professor and Director of Financial Planning Program at California Lutheran University

Robots are whirring their way into our lives. My husband TC and I were in San Francisco two years ago. I was on a business trip, TC visited friends and families. One night after our dinner, we went to the Mall for a walk. We found this robot that asked my husband if he’d like to learn how to dance. TC hesitated but the robot started to show some dance moves with a song. After 30-seconds or so, TC said, "Oh, this is stupid!" The robot immediately stopped and said to my husband, "Would you like to learn another language?" I laughed so hard, and I believe the robot is smarter than my husband!

Robots have been helping with our daily chores for decades. I grew up having a rice cooker as a typical kitchen appliance. Today, a cat could press the button for you to get your rice done. A couple of years ago, I bought a bread machine so I can have home-made whole grain bread. I make mostly Chinese steam buns from the bread machine today. Did I mention that your cat now supervises the vacuum robot at your home? While you are busy at work, your cat oversees its operation. Obviously, people programmed robots to help us. Robots tend to help us free up time so we can enjoy other more important things like eating, living, and entertainment. Having robots or automation is not new in the financial industry. Robo-Advisor is the latest trend where the primary focus is to reduce costs for investors. According to Stat Bank from Journal of Financial Planning, robo-advisors managed assets worth $75 billion in 2018. The same report indicated that robo-advisors are in the upward trend to $250 billion assets under management by 2020.

Read the complete article here.

By Mary Ann Cook, SVP Knowledge Resources, The Institutes, and Executive Director, American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA)

In the risk management and insurance (RMI) field, finding and recruiting the right talent is a bit like hunting a mythical creature. Legend has it, applicants, with the right skills and interest in RMI exist, but sightings are few and far between.

With a quarter of insurance professionals less than 10 years from retirement, the much-publicized talent gap in the insurance sector has put considerable focus on the need to seek out that elusive talent early in their careers and on college campuses. Stereotypes, and even some surveys, suggest that college students and young people aren’t interested in RMI jobs. In my own research, the preliminary results suggest the exact opposite. Talented, eager and engaged future insurance professionals are right in front of us. We just have to know where to look. From there, it’s a two-step process to helping them launch and maintain an RMI career.

Read the complete article here.

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