Natasha Naidoo is the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) for a UK subsidiary of an international insurer. She has consciously and deliberately managed her career since her early roles as an actuarial student, through qualifying as an actuary, and completing her Executive MBA at London Business School, and has worked for insurers directly as well as a consultant. In these reflections on her career, she shares three elements fundamental to her career success so far:
“I realised relatively early in my career that I had a strong interest in risk management. I entered a risk role in my second year of work, and have performed risk-related roles for most of my career since. I also have the view that most of the benefit of risk professionals is when they are seen as a key decision-maker, effectively supporting and steering business decisions. As a result I have had, at times, an almost singular focus on managing my career path towards an executive risk role.
There were three elements that were common in the approach I took as I transitioned different career stages towards an executive position: (i) profile exposure, (ii) mentorship and (iii) sponsorship. Before I describe how I actively managed these elements in my career, a brief interlude on foundations in my education that I was fortunate enough to benefit from. In those formative years, the systems at school and university provided me with a blend of the three elements without me having to put in additional effort… Those experiences did highlight to me, however, their importance for me to manage in my post-qualification years.
This article is by Soshan Soobramoney, one of Protagion’s mentors. Soshan is a qualified actuary who has worked in a number of product and customer-facing roles in the insurance industry, and now is a lecturer teaching future actuaries at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He is also a Time to Think facilitator – in that capacity he teaches others how to create environments that enable people to think beautifully and courageously for themselves. Such training allows us to improve the quality of our relationships, structure meetings to maximise their impact, boost the quality of the thinking of our team members, and increase our effectiveness as leaders. Here is his introduction to the Time to Think principles:
“What is the one thing that, if it could, would change everything? This important question and others drove Nancy Kline, bestselling author of Time to Think*, to a lifetime of work on how human beings could “be” with each other in such a way that ignites our human potential and increases our intelligence.
I first came across Time To Think in a three-week leadership course I did while working in the insurance industry several years ago. I was fascinated at how the facilitators of that course made me feel that I was thinking, growing and flourishing during every single minute of those three weeks. “How did they do that?” I wondered after each day of that course. And how could I be the type of leader that generates that kind of creativity and energy in people? I soon discovered that those facilitators understood some powerful things about how the human mind works. What ignites it and what blocks it. How it hates to obey but loves to play. How it dances at the sound of a question but stumbles when given an instruction. How it creates in the presence of ease but freezes up in the presence of urgency. So when I was due to move to London at the end of that year, I made it a goal to meet Nancy Kline and started studying with her. I’ve been studying this work for nearly a decade and I continue to get more and more excited about its potential to change the world, the more I learn about it...
Some of our members are finding themselves with more time than usual on their hands: extra time not spent commuting as we’re working from home, and less in-person socialising as we isolate ourselves in our free time too, all to slow the global spread of the viral contagion. A positive perspective is that it’s forcing us to take downtime, to step away from the hustle and bustle, and reflect on whether perpetual busyness really is good for us and our businesses…
Some are investing their extra capacity in personal development, and building new skills. Examples include learning a new human language or programming language, reading business books* or tackling new online courses in meditation, cooking, statistics... Reinvesting in themselves is however not possible for everyone at this time, perhaps because of increased family care responsibilities or stretched finances. We also need to bear in mind that doing less may lead to achieving more - Tim Maurer argues that busyness leads to us being less productive, and says that “many are finding enjoyment in more productive work at a less busy pace”.
This post is inspired by by a recent LinkedIn article by Frances Mensah Williams called The Joy and Pain of Busy-ness. Frances is immensely qualified with respect to busyness, as evidenced by her varied portfolio career, including her concurrent roles as:
I’ll admit that at times I relish the pressure of racing through the to-do list, ticking off task after task and writing up a new one for the next day. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced feeling so deep in the flow of what I’m doing, that I carry on for hours without taking a break...”
Frances warns against being busy at all times, as this can impact our work/life balance, our relationships and even our health. The first step, she argues, is admitting and owning the problem. However, she writes: “There is a big difference between knowing something intellectually and embracing it fully. I’m just as guilty as many people of thinking that a bit of hard work never hurt anyone. And yet, it does. Burnout isn’t a myth, and if we don’t control our hyper-busy selves, it doesn’t take long to lose the joy you once found from whatever it is you’re busy doing.”
She quotes Kelly Feehan of the UK’s Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association, the charity supporting the wellbeing of past and present chartered accountants and their families: “People have the tendency to believe that to achieve personal success and happiness they need to be busy at all times – often at the expense of their [physical and mental] health and relationships.”
While we at Protagion are mostly fans of keeping busy (as opposed to being lazy!), there is a limit to how much we can accomplish if we push ourselves too far. It’s about being in the sweetspot of motivated, engaged and productive, rather than dispassionately listless at one extreme, or crazily overextended at the other. Another key aspect for us is thinking about work not in terms of hours spent, but rather in terms of value delivered i.e. an outcome-focus. To build a diversified income stream (and a successful portfolio career) and see yourself as a business, it’s important to have at least some sources of earnings which aren’t linked to selling your time… Examples include rental income, investment income and royalty income.
In fact, if you do find yourself incredibly busy, we’d suggest pausing to question whether the effort of ‘getting your hustle on’ is contributing towards you building a sustainable income for the future. Is your work building ‘assets’ (such a business) that can generate ongoing revenue for you?
Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, as reported by Tim Maurer for Forbes, feels that we should take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labour too. Taking a “moment of closure to catch [our] breath and regroup” helps us to mark the occasion, “get perspective and reconnect with [our] purpose”.
Working intelligently is not about being busy, it's about being productive.”
And, if you need a tune to lift your spirits while hustling, remember the 1975 disco hit by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony.
Stay well, be productive and enjoy what drives you in your work”
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