For People Who Like To Talk, Insurance Agency Owners are Not Effective Communicators

Kevin Trokey on February 22, 2016

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw

Peter Drucker is well known for his observation that “Culture eats strategy.” His intent seems obvious; as important as a well thought out strategic plan is for the success of your business, it doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding if the culture is unhealthy.

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Drucker, but I would argue it’s the way we communicate that allows us to build and maintain a healthy culture in the first place. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t very good at communication.

We communicate every day without giving it much thought, we communicate without a plan. Planning to communicate may not be something we think of doing, but it is the single most important thing to plan for during times of change. And, you might be surprised at how many factors must be considered as part of that plan.

We must plan around:

  • Priorities – To know we are communicating the right things
  • Data – To know we are communicating accurately
  • Audience – To know we are communicating to the right people
  • Rhythm – To ensure we are communicating consistently

Priorities

You can’t get everyone on the same page if the page has never been written, and you can’t keep everyone on the same page if you don’t keep the page in front of them on a regular basis.

The following list is what we emphasize with our member agencies to ensure they capture a very clear picture of the most important aspects of their organization. It takes work, but they capture it on a single (albeit both sides) piece of paper. Having it on that single piece of paper helps ensure it remains visible throughout the year.

If you don’t yet have this clarity for yourself, dedicate some time to find a clear answer for each of the following items. With your newfound clarity, introduce the total picture to your team and then re-introduce them to the entire picture on a regular basis.

  • Value proposition
  • Values
  • Someday goal
  • Ideal client
  • Sales process
  • Organizational brand
  • Marketing message
  • Vision of the company you must become in 3 years
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI) –This is the data I mentioned above. Read this previous article for more details on KPIs
  • Most important KPI to improve this year
  • Top goal/objective to achieve this year
  • Top goal/objective to achieve this/each quarter
  • What you have accomplished year-to-date

This list may seem long and somewhat overwhelming, but I challenge you to identify a single item on the list that isn’t absolutely critical for you, and everyone on your team, to understand.

Audience

If you take time to consider who needs to hear your message and what their respective concerns are, your communication efforts will be rewarded.

  • Prospects – Will reward you with a meeting. But only if you communicate to them how you can bring better results.
  • Clients – Will continue to reward you with their business. But only if you communicate to them in a way that constantly reminds them of the improved future you will deliver and the progress you have already made.
  • Partners – Will reward you with favors and will make collaborating with them easier than they do for your competition. But only if you communicate to the advantages of working with you, the overlap of your mutual “ideal client”, and the success each will achieve by working with one another.
  • Team – Will reward you with loyalty and effort. But only if you communicate to them your Vision of the agency’s future, your plan to get there, progress reports along the way, and how they are critical to your collective success.

Rhythm

Now, back to my opening quote, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place.” Consistent communication is absolutely critical. To communicate effectively, you have to know what needs to be communicated and when (rhythm) it needs to be communicated.

Weekly – On a weekly basis, you have a responsibility to spend at least 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your direct reports. Of course, issues will arise that will require longer discussions, but schedule those as separate conversations. The key to these meetings is the 10-minute time limit. The agenda will vary slightly based on the role of your direct report, but the agenda should be consistent from week to week.
  • Producers – The agenda should be as follows:
    • What was your greatest success over the last 7 days?
    • What was your greatest challenge over the last 7 days?
    • How many prospects did you add to your pipeline this week?
    • Of the prospects already in your pipeline, how many moved forward?
    • If you can only accomplish one thing over the next 7 days, what does it need to be?
    • Did you accomplish your one thing from last week?
  • Non-producers – The agenda should be as follows:
    • What was your greatest success over the last 7 days?
    • What was your greatest challenge over the last 7 days?
    • If you can only accomplish one thing over the next 7 days, what does it need to be?
    • Did you accomplish your one thing from last week?

Monthly “All-team” meeting – Who is included in “All-team” is going to depend on the size of your agency. For smaller agencies, less than 10 or so, it could include everyone. However, for larger agencies it may be having separate “leadership team”, “sales all-team”, and “service all-team” meetings.

I know you cringe at the idea of these meetings, but that’s because they usually suck. If you take the time to prepare and organize ahead of time so that each team member leaves better informed, confident, and prepared for success, they will actually start looking forward to the meetings. The agenda should be as follows:

  • Good news – Share a few minutes of good news; it doesn’t matter if it is personal or business related.
  • KPIs – Report on new business written, business renewed, and any other KPI that has been established as a priority.
  • Recurring issues – Discuss any recurring issues that are having a negative impact on your team or on your clients.
  • Deep dive – Spend 10 – 30 minutes getting deep on a single issue. This is a great opportunity for team education. Share the facilitation responsibilities from month to month.
  • Confirmation of take-aways – Don’t leave the meeting until you hear what everyone is taking away from the meeting.
Quarterly All-team meeting – (And, for the quarterly meeting, it really should include everyone.) Similar to the monthly meeting, but even more strategic in nature. The agenda should be as follows:
  • KPIs – Go beyond the new business, renewal business, and top priority KPI and review all KPI’s that you are tracking on an annual basis.
  • Quarterly priority – Discuss the progress to whatever goal/objective had been identified as your quarterly priority
  • Progress towards annual goals – Should be self-explanatory
  • Priorities – Get out the summary of the priority items as outlined above and review in detail with the team. Remember, you have to keep them on the same page
  • Establish next quarterly priority

Holy crap, communication is a lot of work isn’t it?! But, as I said earlier, there is nothing more important in times of change than effective communication. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s work that is non-optional. Unless, of course, you consider an unhealthy culture, a fractured team, missed goals, and potential failure to be viable options.

Photo by mingaling.

Topics: Team Development