9 August 2019
Final Reflection: Lincoln Financial Group
My time at Lincoln Financial Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a tremendous learning experience that I felt I grew both personally and professionally. I was able to accomplish the goals I set forth for the summer, included in my Personal Plan Paper, as well as my Site Description and Personal Contribution Paper. With all of these goals and objectives I put forth, I would not have been able to act upon them or make informed decisions in the work place without my leadership studies courses, which ultimately shaped my understanding of my organization. In my weekly reflections, I was able to jot down my thoughts and feelings as they related to my course work and accomplishments. Specifically, it was my critical thinking and theories and models courses from my sophomore spring that really allowed me to excel this summer as an associate. I hope to elaborate on my time as a Practice Management intern utilizing the context and lens of my leadership studies coursework.
Over the course of the summer, I learned a great deal regarding the financial services industry and how consulting plays a role in the greater landscape. As explained in my Site Description and Personal Contribution Paper, I hoped to fine tune my technical competencies as they relate to computer programs used to analyze and organize various data as it relates to finance and the insurance industry. Although most of my previous internships have mostly been focused in communications, I am eager to learn more regarding the technicalities and intricacies of information systems and business solutions. Next, I hoped to gain an insight into how companies partner with and sponsor other companies and firms in their communications and promotional efforts. For example, the Lincoln Financial Group has a partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles football team, so that they gain exposure and the Eagles gain benefits and exposure as a result as well. The company has an entire floor and department in their Radnor, PA, headquarters dedicated to their partnership with the Eagles, and a lot of their business is driven by their success and exposure in turn. Finally, I mentioned my interest in learning the purpose and everyday focuses of higher level executives, and what their functionality is within the company. I have always been interested by the power dynamics between interns, managers, VP’s, and C-suite executives, so I hoped to first-hand witness and be involved in these relationships these past few weeks.
After re-reading my Site Description and Personal Contribution paper, I was shocked by how much I ultimately was not able to complete during the program. Despite how kind the people were and eager to assist me in learning and teaching me during the duration of the program, I felt bored and not challenged by the minimal work I was assigned. Despite my access given to programs like Salesforce and Excel, I felt I was not challenged in the projects I was given in terms of stretching my technical competencies. The most that I was trusted with was to reorganize documents from an organizational and accessibility standpoint, as well as printing out booklets for team meetings and distributing them as needed to the Practice Management team and their network of advisors at large. At its end, my desire to grow professionally with regard to my technical skills in the financial services industry was not met, due to the lack of projects and work that I completed. Next, I stated that one of my goals was to better understand how large firms, such as Lincoln Financial Network, partner and do business with other companies, such as the Philadelphia Eagles NFL organization. Due to my small interactions with other groups within the company beyond my own direct team and those on my floor, I was not able to meet this goal. However, I was able to interact a great deal with those on my floor and understand how cross-functional teams can work together to get the job done. For example, a lot of the time the consultants and experts on my PM team would seek the guidance and assistance of the Advisory Consulting Group who my team sat next to. There were several questions from advisors within the Lincoln Financial Network that the consultants on my team could not answer, regarding decisions for fund allocations that the paperwork and signature experts on my team have not been trained in. Although I did not get to witness cross-functional and cross-team interactions on a corporate level like I discussed in my Personal Contribution and Site Description paper, I did see it on a micro-level in my day to day interactions with teams on my floor.
Finally, I touched on how I wanted to understand the functionality and responsibilities of higher level executives within the firm, and what it really is they do every day for Lincoln at large. To my surprise, this was actually the objective and goal that I was most easily able to accomplish- and quickly. I was blessed to have such personal interactions with C-suite and higher level employees within the firm, through Lunch and Learns provided only to the participants in the IDP (Internship Development Program). One of the lunches was with a man named Tim Seifert, who is the Vice President of Sales and Annuities within Lincoln, who spoke at length regarding leadership. He teaches a class at Villanova and speaks all over the country regarding leadership and lessons learned from his time in the industry, as well as how these lessons helped him in climbing Kilimanjaro. He sent out a survey prior to the lunch asking interns to respond to a question: Who do you admire as a leader? I obviously, being the college basketball junkie that I am, responded with Coach Jim Valvano: the North Carolina State coaching legend who died of cancer many years ago. He had an extremely unique charismatic and transformational leadership style, that I really believed Mr. Seifert would potentially enjoy reading about. To my surprise, he liked my response so much that he read it to the entire live stream of over 200 Lincoln employees. I took it upon myself to write his assistant a message, requesting to speak with him and put some time on his calendar to thank him for passing on my words about Jimmy V’s leadership to others. And again, to my surprise, he responded immediately and requested to speak on the phone with me after the completion of my internship. We finally spoke on the phone yesterday, and I spoke at length with him about my Jepson education and how much I admired him for caring about it as much as I do. Moreover, I would say I accomplished my goal of interacting with and understanding better the roles of executives and how they can impact the firm.
Next, there were many applications from my leadership studies courses and connections to my environment in the financial services industry that informed the way that I understood Lincoln Financial Group and the way that I was able to contribute during the course of my internship. In one of my Theories in Action posts a few weeks back, I wrote about transactional leadership and how consultants utilized this leadership style, whether they recognize it or not, to accomplish goals and reward associates for their continued contributions to the Practice Management team. I was able to identify this leadership style relatively early on in my internship, as the consultants emphasized to me how the treatment of advisors from an external perspective is entirely dependent on their revenue generated for Lincoln Financial Group. There are TRG advisors, who pay a premium to receive full service and visits from Lincoln team members, and then Premier Partners, who do not generate as much profit and bring customers Lincoln products as often as others. With these two groups, a transactional leadership style is applied as employees are rewarded when they do well, and are given praise and other benefits as a result. Next, I was able to identify the use of charismatic leadership a little further into my internship, as I got to know the Practice Management team and their leaders a little better. I noticed two examples of charismatic leadership on my team: one by one of the consultants Linley who I worked closely with, and one by my manager Lisa. Both were able to deeply motivate others on the team to be patient with advisors, complete work on time, and travel with intention and confidence to train advisors across the country in Lincoln technologies to empower the best solutions for others. Lisa has this larger than life personality, and at times can intimidate others, but is always enthusiastic and charismatic in her work and how she coaches others. Weber’s theory of Charismatic Leadership discusses how this type of style exists in contrast with traditional authority and legal authority, which I do not believe would be effective on my team. Therefore, without the sheer charisma and use of persuasion in this way by managers and consultants on my team, the Practice Management team would not be successful as these two other leadership styles cannot be applied, in my view.
In conclusion, I was able to apply a great deal of my leadership studies concepts and ideas to my time at Lincoln Financial Group, despite how difficult it was to accomplish the goals I set out for myself. I would accredit this challenge to the environment and small team I was placed on, as I do believe I could have accomplished these goals on another team within Lincoln. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to receive a full time job offer with Lincoln Financial Group as a Marketing Associate for after graduation, so hopefully I will be able to apply more leadership theories, models, and critical thinking in the real world.