Stacey Schabel: An athletic approach

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As VP and chief audit executive at Jackson National Life Insurance and North American internal audit director at Prudential plc, Stacey Schabel focuses on examining and evaluating the key activities and processes supporting the North American operations. Her organization helps protect the insurer’s assets, reputation and sustainability by assessment and reporting on the overall effectiveness of risk management, controls and governance processes.

Schabel joined Jackson in 2005 and stepped into her current position in January 2013. While her position deals with data, numbers and facts, it’s Schabel’s people skills and team-centered approach to management that help her excel in her job and set her apart as an industry leader.

It’s easy to see how Schabel evolved her leadership style. A lifelong athlete, she grew up participating in sports like basketball and soccer. Today, she plays in a women’s soccer league year-round, enjoying the challenge and camaraderie. Schabel brings the discipline, drive and cooperation required to win at sports into the work environment. The result is a team of professionals who are excited by their work and who like to come to the office.

“It takes a lot of perseverance to be successful in sports,” Schabel explains. “You’ll never be perfect at any sport you play, but you can overcome challenges and reach your goals with a lot of hard work and persistent effort.”

Schabel manages her team as a cohesive organization and focuses on supporting each team member. What she finds most exciting about her position is nurturing and enabling her staff’s growth and learning, or as she calls it, “continual people development.”

“I like to help people learn and take on challenges they didn’t necessarily think they could do, while developing great professionals for the business,” she explains. “People on my team may not stay in internal audit forever so we want to ensure everyone understands all the aspects of the business, and have gained the knowledge, expertise and skills to be very successful, no matter where they go from here.” Schabel also meets one-on-one with team members at least quarterly. She also holds an annual Strategy Day, where her team brainstorms its strategy for the year, discussing internal audit branding, personal development, communication and relationship management. The team then formulates an enhancement plan supported by various work streams.

There are always ongoing staff development initiatives in place on Schabel’s team. “We’re never going to stop focusing on finding great opportunities for people to learn and grow,” she says. “At the end of the day, it makes us happy, engaged and successful.”

Schabel credits her success to a mentor who helped her find a way to monitor and adjust her work and life goals. She regularly identifies her personal and professional goals and continually assesses how she’s progressing in meeting them. Today, as part of her performance planning responsibilities, Schabel mentors her own team members, helping them set individual goals.

Many people haven’t yet thought about what will make them happy in their personal and professional lives so it helps to take stock in what they have and where they want to go, she explains. “Each team member makes a list of what he or she want to accomplish personally and professionally, and we work together to develop a plan to help them achieve their most important goals,” Schabel notes, adding that the list needs to be focused and limited since goals change every year as priorities shift.

Although she stays busy with work, family and friends, Schabel likes to volunteer in her local community as much as she can. Since she stepped into her current role, she has combined volunteerism with team building exercises for outreach activities that include working at the Greater Lansing Foodbank.

Schabel advises her staff to support one another to grow their leadership abilities and make a difference. “Take the time to talk about your experiences with others,” she says. “It benefits the organization, and it benefits you.”

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