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By:  Patricia McHugh Lambert, Esquire

My friends, as we begin this New Year, it is time we once again talk about legacy.

Legacy is about life and living.  Legacy concerns what we, in our lives, have learned about the past, given to the living and leave to those in the future to build better lives.  When we are at our best, we plant oak trees that we will never see fully grown—but we hope that others will see the beauty of a fully grown tree and enjoy the shade of its spread leaves.

Legacy is what makes us human.  The idea of legacy helps us to create, to endure and to build. Legacy is about what we have created and our impact on the world at large and, more importantly, our own smaller but more personal world.

How we impact this smaller more personal world is what makes our lives significant.  Very few of us will be remembered in the history books.  But that does not mean that we do not have a legacy—or that we will not be remembered.  We live on in our family, our colleagues, and generations that we have never met.  We live on in the traditions we have established, extended and taught–both with our families, our businesses and our communities.  We live on in the hope and help we give to others, some we know and others we don’t. We extend our legacy to each person we have touched in our lives—and in turn they touch subsequent generations. Our lives are our own legacy monument.

Today, I am asking each of you to build a legacy monument by becoming a mentor to someone in our profession.  In a time when so many are focused on the bottom line, people need mentors to listen to their fears and their goals.  They need mentors to challenge them to always do what is right and to get them focused on the impact of long term reputation and the dangers of quick fixes.  They need mentors to tell them what is a best practice and what is a convenient short cut.

I know that many of you will shrug off my request that you mentor.  We all can find reasons not to be mentors.  Mentoring takes time—and many of us are too stretched by work, family, and community obligations already.  To be sure, giving advice can be dangerous; to mentor correctly, candid advice (which may be difficult to give and to hear) is key. Mentors can also feel distress when advice is not followed, when a mentee fails, and when a mentee no longer needs mentoring.  Despite these problems, those of us who are the leaders in this insurance profession need to mentor.  One by one, person to person, the platform for success can be built.

There are so many ways that a mentor can attempt to create a roadmap to success.  We can discuss with our mentees expectations such as loyalty, appreciation, and the need for “Vegas” rules.  We can demand that the mentee not wallow in complaints or focus obsessively about what they perceive is wrong. Instead, the mentor should strive to have the mentee focus on what can, with effort, be achieved.  If the mentee will agree to this, the mentor should be willing to share their wisdom, their connections, and their life experiences.  With such one on one efforts, the needle on our legacy moves.  And mentoring, when done correctly, allows the profession to improve.

But just to be clear, mentoring does not just help the mentee.  It helps the mentor.  It allows us to become better leaders; research shows that leaders who strive are those who are involved in mentoring.  One recent study showed that people who act as mentors are six times more likely to be promoted than those who did not and twenty percent more likely to get a raise.  Mentors gain by learning of new perspectives and fresh ideas.  Mentors learn by being able to connect to the ideas of a younger generation.  Mentoring increases emotional intelligence.  Most importantly, we stay vibrant and engaged when we mentor.

There is not a single successful member of this insurance profession who does not owe at least a part of their success to the advice, learning and friendship provided by a mentor.  We owe it to those past mentors to pass on their mentoring legacy.

In this month where we focus on continuing education for our profession, we need to focus on mentoring.  When we mentor, they learn, we learn and the profession improves. And our legacy builds.

Ms. Lambert has over 35 years of experience in handling complex commercial litigation and insurance matters. Ms. Lambert has worked on national class actions, significant litigation and regulatory matters for Fortune 500 companies. She has also assisted small and mid-sized companies and business executives with contract, real estate and commercial disputes that needed to be resolved quickly and efficiently. Ms. Lambert is best known as an attorney who knows the field of insurance. She has represented insurers, policyholders, and insurance producers in disputes both in court and before the Maryland Insurance Administration.