LAS VEGAS — Managers should try to think of tough times as a chance to grow.
Linda Witham, a managing partner in the Woodland Hills, Calif., regional office of Thrivent for Luthernans, Minneapolis, gave that advice here earlier this week at the Leadership & Management Program, a conference organized by GAMA International, Falls Church, Va.
The LAMP conference attracted about 2,600 attendees from across the financial services community.
Witham, who holds the Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Financial Consultant professional designations, is the 2009-2010 president of GAMA International.
She recalled starting her career as a life insurance agent in 1983, when the economy looked about as abysmal as it does today.
Stock prices were down, and inflation and unemployment levels were high.
But “I didn’t know I was supposed to be discouraged,” Witham said. “I just knew that to build my career, I needed to do what [my manager] told me: Prospect, build new relationships, and sell my clients what they needed.”
Two years later, she said, she and her husband bought their first house in California. And, through hard work, they moved from being a struggling couple to becoming successful life insurance professionals. By 1991 – a year of economic turmoil and war in Iraq — Witham had become a front-line manager.
“All of us can be swept away by life’s challenges,” Witham said. “Or we can view them as unique blessings for the opportunity we are given to grow. We can view our glass as half-empty or half-full.”
To help maintain a positive attitude during touch economic times, Witham suggested that LAMP attendees keep a “happy journal.” For 5 minutes each day, she said, attendees should record activities they enjoy, write about friends and colleagues who are fun to be around, and add any other uplifting thoughts.
“Writing a happy journal naturally leads me to a sense of gratitude,” Witham said. “And this is so contagious, because it makes others around me happy, too.”
Witham said another essential in the face of adversity is to stay connected with the individuals who “build you up”: family, friends, industry colleagues and team members.
Whether part of a small or large organization, she said, managers should spend time and planning to develop close relationships with teammates.
She added that managers learn most when they teach.