Insurance agency leaders struggle with many aspects of their responsibilities. However, it is always shocking to what degree, and how consistently, they struggle with what is one of their most important responsibilities – holding everyone on the team accountable for doing their job.
I've spent my career in insurance, so I can't say for sure how common this is in other industries. However, it is hard to imagine this being a bigger albatross than it is in ours.
We set ourselves up for failure
First of all, the hybrid nature of the industry so often has each person playing dual roles. This couldn't be truer than the role of the producer who is almost always responsible for both writing new business and holding on to current clients. In fact, it's a rare situation where a producer focuses purely on production.
If structured properly, the dual role makes sense. After all, the producer is a primary reason a client engaged in the first place. However, the "structured properly" doesn't always happen. Okay, it almost never happens.
The problem with dual roles
Especially in smaller organizations, wearing multiple hats is usually done out of necessity. However, that doesn't eliminate the fundamental problem of dual roles.
One role helps move the agency forward, while the other keeps it from falling backward.
The split personality of the producer role isn't the real problem; it merely allows the real problem to take root. The real problem is that the producer will, way too often, hide behind the most comfortable role (servicing existing clients), which is almost always the one that keeps the agency from falling backward.
Of course, it is critically important to retain current clients, but there is a whole team whose primary job and skill set is focused on retention. The producer needs to be a part of this team, but they need to be properly placed within it.
We often describe the ideal producer role as being responsible for take-offs (new sales), landings (renewals), and emergencies-in-flight (service issues that threaten the relationship). Producers need to be kept out of the day-to-day service issues of clients.
Think for a moment about the role of an actual pilot. The pilot may be standing by the door greeting you as you get on the plane and again as you leave. But, how ridiculous (and shocking) would it be if they came by to take your drink order or help you find the button for your reading light?
Two ways to protect yourself from yourself
Introducing role clarity and accountability for the first time may be a bit uncomfortable for everyone. But, if you are honest with yourself and your team about how uncomfortable it is to fall short of your potential due to role confusion, it becomes an obvious idea to embrace. Just follow a couple key ideas.
Who does what
First, make sure the producer explains to clients how everyone on the team helps support their business. WAY too many producers try to make themselves the all-important linchpin to the agency-client engagement. I can't tell you how many producers I have heard brag that they tell their clients, "Call me for EVERYTHING, day or night." And, guess what happens? The client does exactly as instructed.
This isn't good for anybody.
- For the client, they have the wrong person dealing with their problem. I promise you the account management team is way more skilled at dealing with the details of service issues than the producer. And a client is going to be much more comfortable knowing they have an entire team to support them rather than depending on a single, misaligned individual.
- For the producer and agency, having the producer focused on service issues takes them away from the production activities that move everyone forward.
This doesn't mean the producer doesn't continue to have interactions with the clients, just ensure they are the right interactions.
The second way to protect yourself is by instilling accountability in the organization. Too many agency owners/leaders are just not comfortable holding their team accountable.
Why? I think it's because they have the wrong idea of what it means to hold someone accountable, mistakenly believing it only focuses on failures.
Accountability simply means we expect everyone on the team to do the job they have been hired to do. Accountability is a reminder to each individual that their role is critical and is important enough to monitor and discuss on a regular basis.
In an accountable organization, it becomes manageable to have individuals in dual roles. For example, if a producer's goals are based on their primary role (writing new business), and you hold them accountable for achieving that goal, there becomes little need to worry about them hiding behind the service work.
Accountability is the foundation of a successful business
If you want to move your business forward in the fastest and healthiest manner possible, accountability is just not an option. Tell me which of the following you disagree with.
- There must be meaningful and measurable goals for the agency.
- Every team member must have clearly defined goals that support agency goals.
- Everyone's goals must be based on how their role uniquely contributes to organizational success.
- Measuring and discussing the progress towards those goals is in everyone's best interest.
If you agree with each bullet point, you clearly understand how important it is to cultivate a culture of accountability. When you do, you ensure higher performance from everyone. And in high-performance organizations, accountability is WAY more about celebrations than it is about punishment.
Are you ready to Up Your Accountability Game?
Photo by stokkete