Adviser tackles the myth of work-life balance
When Lisa Talcott, an employee benefits sales executive with AssuredPartners, was playing softball and volleyball in college, the sports enthusiast wasn’t expecting that her competitive and team oriented nature would lead her to a career in the benefits space. In fact, she would walk down several paths, including teaching English in Osaka, Japan, for two years before she took on the world of employee benefits.
“My teaching and coaching background infuses everything that I do,” Talcott, one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s 20 Rising Stars of 2020, says.
The fire sparked by the thrill of those games and the challenges of team leadership helps to push Talcott to connect with clients and solve their most difficult issues.
“She’s got that coaching mentality and figured out a way to put that into a sales method. She really can relate to the client immediately,” says Diane Lysen, vice president of employee benefits at AssuredPartners. “She can put everything into that perspective of, we can all be winners if we do it this way, whether it’s with her coworkers, clients or during open enrollment meetings.”
About seven years ago Talcott, now 44, decided to change careers, she moved with her family to a new city where she would dive headfirst into an unfamiliar industry. She started working at Direct Benefits, a national general agency, where she worked with brokers across the country to promote and sell dental and vision plans along with other ancillary products. But she eventually realized that selling directly to clients was where her talents could best be utilized and was recruited to AssuredPartners by Lysen in 2019.
“She doesn’t go in with any expectations except ‘what can I do to make things better for the employer?’ and in turn making it better for the employees,” Lysen says.
Talcott’s ability to help clients understand the complex world of insurance and connect with people on a human level is what makes her stand out as an adviser, says Nancy Stewart, HR consultant at Vinna Human Resources. There was a situation with one client where their HRA out of pocket max wasn’t being captured correctly. It took a lot of work, but Stewart says Talcott was able to go in and sort it out in favor of the employer and their employees.
“She has a very calm demeanor, and she doesn’t make people feel like they are just another number,” Stewart says of Talcott. “She and I have worked well together in the short time we have known each other. I trust her.”
Making employee’s lives better is the part of the job that is most personal to Talcott, she says. “I get to help [companies] take care of their employees, and I get to help employees take care of their families. Family is everything to me.”
That commitment to helping families would help Talcott when her own family was faced with difficult times. Talcott was starting a family right around the time the real estate bubble burst, she says. This made living in a resort community difficult at that time.
“There were a lot of things that broke,” she says. “Finding a way to rebuild in that environment, while starting a family, was challenging. You just put one foot in front of the other and figure it out as you go.”
But that kind of resilience has helped Talcott with another challenge: being a working parent. Finding the ideal work-life balance is a major issue for employers, as they want their employees coming in focused, without distractions from their life outside the workplace. To that end, many employers have begun offering benefits that tackle the work-life balance problem. But the real problem, Talcott says, is with the mindset that there is such a thing as work-life balance.
“I have taken issue with the concept of work-life balance because I don’t believe it’s realistic and actually think that mindset is a detriment to having a rewarding and satisfying personal and professional life.”
Talcott says she’s replaced that old way of thinking with the concept of work-life integration. Thinking of it in terms of work-life balance means employees, especially working moms, always have to sacrifice something in either their work lives or their home lives to be more successful in just one.
“The demand of being a mom and the demands of a professional career take a lot of time and energy,” she says. “I don’t like the idea that if I put more time and energy into something that is important to my career that I am somehow inadequate or deficient in my mom roll, and vice versa.”