If there is one thing every organization has in common, it's facing problems that threaten their path to success. I don't have to tell you; the insurance industry is no exception to this rule. In many ways, especially for insurance agencies, the issue of dealing with problems is far more challenging than it is for most.
We have the privilege of working with some unbelievably effective leaders every day. However, without exception, they would tell you they work exceptionally hard to be an effective leader. It’s the typical career path in this industry that requires them to play catch-up when it comes to developing leadership and problem-solving skills.
Most agencies are owned and led by men and women who have spent the majority of their careers as very successful salespeople. Most of them still spend much of their time in sales-related activities with precious little time to lead, much less find time to develop their leadership skills.
If you are going to own an agency and hire employees, you have a fundamental responsibility to develop your leadership and problem-solving skills to help protect their future.
Because of their continued focus on sales, too many agency owners/leaders tend to ignore problems when they arise. Way too often, they will intentionally ignore their problem-solving responsibilities and double down on sales efforts. They rationalize that "revenue forgives all problems."
I'm not going to argue that adding revenue can make some nuisance-level problems go away. Still, it can't cure issues that threaten the viability or trajectory of the organization. Those kinds of problems require a focused attack.
And therein lies the issue for the typical agency owner/leader who just hasn't been trained to solve problems they face. I get it.
On the surface, the complexity of problems that threaten our businesses can be overwhelming. Many factors are uncontrollable. Add the overwhelming feelings together with a sense of helplessness, and it's no surprise most problems end up ignored.
No, you may not be excused
It is true, many things affect our businesses we can't control. However, that cannot be an excuse to hope and pray they go away.
Every problem you face is, most likely, some combination of three things you can control or at least influence:
Unfortunately, most owners/leaders are reluctant to deal with the people issues, and they flat out don’t understand processes.
This results in agency leaders putting too much emphasis on product. They somehow feel if they acquire the "right product," it will fix everything.
If internal operations are an issue, the response is to buy a new product solution (technology, as an example).
If a lack of new business is an issue, the response is to buy another "value-added" product to give away.
Adding fuel to the fire
Not only does the product not fix the problem, adding another distraction without a proper process or the necessary people-training will MAKE THE PROBLEM WORSE. Every. Single. Time.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Stop worrying about all the things you can’t control and, instead, focus on the things you can. Using the people-product-process framework will keep you properly focused.
Take any particular challenge you are dealing with right now and ask yourself the following questions.
Have we prepared our people to address this problem successfully?
As uncomfortable as you are with this, you have to deal with the people issues first.
- Have you taken the time to discuss the problem with them to ensure they understand why it MUST be fixed?
- Do you have people who are motivated to be a part of the solution?
- Have you provided the training to help ensure their success?
- This one is a bit harsh, but are they capable of solving the problem once trained?
- Do you have a culture of accountability to ensure everyone plays their role in solving the problem?
Do we have the product (resources) necessary to fix this problem?
Don’t waste time looking for the “perfect” solution. Instead, commit to a solution you are comfortable using, and you believe will remain relevant and effective for the foreseeable future.
With the right products in place, have we taken the time to learn how to use them?
More importantly, have you taken your learning and used it to create processes that ensure they are used effectively, efficiently, and consistently?
Hint - Processes are not the mystery you may think they are. Next time a team member performs a task, have them document the steps they followed. You now have a documented process. No, it likely isn't perfect, but you can now identify the opportunities for improvement.
It may not be easy
I’m not pretending that solving problems that threaten your future is easy. But, if you take your role as a leader (and protector of your team) seriously, you have no choice.
Find the focus to ignore what you can’t control.
Find the discipline to address what you can.
Always ask the people-product-process questions and ensure you have the right answers in place. Then you can guarantee you’re able to keep the path to success cleared.
Are you ready to Up Your Problem-solving Game?
Photo by levranii