ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

THE HOTTEST TOPIC

As some of you may be aware, I publish a series of short 2-3 minute video posts on LinkedIn (search under Brandie Hinen). I’ve been doing it for some time, topics ranging from common leadership headaches to staff motivation, some unique ways to gain accountability, etc. These are life lessons and business principles alike, but there is a common theme that gets a lot of attention when I talk about it. Implementation.

In fact, in a recent conversation with a large agency association, we were told that this is “the right subject at the right time.” and that they (The State Association) have been getting scads of calls, all asking for implementation help! He said this is, by far, the hottest topic going in the agency community - how to get change implemented in the agencies. The concepts that we presented are the very hot topics about which all agents are interested no matter of the agency size.

So, what to do about it?

Well, for me and Al Diamond, it was the inspiration for creating our program Insurance Agency Transformation, a common sense solution for agencies of all sizes and some much needed help.

Truth is, most of us know what we should do; we just don’t always know how to get things done on time and on budget with the demands of outside circumstances which include internal barriers and weaknesses. For example, I intellectually know I need to be on the treadmill more often, but a personal trainer who will get me out of bed a little earlier in the morning would be very helpful indeed!

Here are some of the most common questions I hear:

1 How do we design our strategic plan to get results after several days of grueling conversation – how do we find the energy to follow up?

2 We have a mess when it comes to consistency with our staff doing the same things in the same way!

3 How can we get our producers and service teams alike communicating with one another and working in the same direction?

4 Do you have away for my people to follow up with consistency in our client care initiatives?

The answers to all these have a lot to do with the way you set things up from the beginning.

Let me offer an example of a life changing experience I had when I started the company.

It was 2003. I had several people who knew me both in and outside the insurance industry ask me to come in and help create change in their organizations. At first I thought,

“Ohhh no, that sounds like consulting. I have never had a good experience with consultants! Consultants are snobs! They come in, tell you what you already know, send a big invoice and leave!”

As a matter of fact, some of the business owners that asked me to work with them on these initiatives had just finished hiring consultants with terrible results. One in particular whose wallet was $20,000 lighter for a week’s worth of words in a report the consultants had clearly used for another client, typos and all!

So I started. I went in with an eagerness to please, listen intently to the owners’ wishes, and help the Sales and Service teams succeed. But I hit a snag, and I hit it right away. Soon my naivete brought me tears and disappointment. Why weren’t they listening to me? After all, I had the answers! I had lived these scenarios as a top performer in every position I had been in up to that time. I knew what I was talking about! I had lived it!

Let me offer some insight to what came to me through that tough experience all those years ago....

First, I learned that the Tell-Do Method of management and change does not really work at all. And no matter how much knowledge I had, the reality was that people would continue to keep flipping me off if I treated them as projects to get done.

So out of a great need to figure this out, I created formula, a system that works; and in fact, it worked every time.

I have had everyone at a smaller organization all the way to one of the Top 20 largest agencies in the country have me share it with them. I use it in keynote speeches and in board rooms, and it still works, all the time, every time, hundreds of experiences later.

First, and most important, get your head on straight and your heart in the right intent. That means, be clear about what you are committed to create – the experience or emotion you want to have happen for the other party. Focus on the outcome, and not just the pragmatic; focus on the feelings of joy, creativity, victory. For those of you who know sales, you‘ll remember that people “buy” emotionally. Your team is no different.

Second, get everyone together to talk about what you want to “create”, hear the objections, the ideas, and don’t cut anyone off yet especially ask for the opinions of those that rarely speak.

Third, have all the ideas laid out for everyone to see, and set about to create agreements – who will do what, and when (yes, this is where we talk about my famous by when).

Last, make sure that your team comes with time-defined answers on progress, alleviating you from having to chase.

WORKFLOW

Here is an example: In our program, after working with Leaders and doing an on-site visit, we often work on Workflow for Leaders, Sales Teams and Service Teams alike. Workflow is the mental process each of us goes through to accomplish a designated set of tasks in our respective job descriptions.

2 key words: BUDDY and BATCHING

This program was created and given to me by a task-queen named Kim Maier many years ago. She is one of the most efficient learners and doers that I have ever met, and her work has inspired hundreds around the country to bring stress down to manageable levels in 30 days. (*note, there are testimonials to this program on our website in great detail) So how do we do it?

1. First, we get the team to begin by listing all the things they do in a given work week, 1-20.

2. Then, we have them allocate certain tasks for certain days or certain times of the day.

3. They meet with a buddy to talk about the work, what can be “batched”

4. Teams have designated Quiet Time allocated, usually 2 hours per week, that is meant to work on heavy projects. We have had agencies come up with very funny ways to implement Quiet Time, from colored sticks red on one end, green on the other, to some that have placed police line – do not cross or caution tape across cubicle doorways!

5. We have teams try the new program for 1 week, course correct, then go again for 3 weeks straight, not compromises, no variations.

Seems like a simple thing, but it requires oversight, and a lot of discipline from the group. The rewards, however, have been incredible, as mentioned in the 4 individuals testimonials, below:

“I can’t tell you how much things seemed to have changed around here. I think a lot of the credit for this change is owed to you. It is also owed to everyone who was willing to swallow pride, allow for change, commit to their own changes, etc.... Change is a hard thing, and it is also a very brave thing!”

“Since their program has arrived the stress level is less and trust is becoming easier. There has been a great change in staff. There are still issues that need corrected but things are finally coming around and our office is a much more enjoyable place to come to. I appreciate all that your program has accomplished.”

“I want to thank you for saving me from letting stress eat my life away.”

“She came in with new ideas on how to accomplish our daily job duties in a more efficient and effective way. She has presented suggestions on more effective time management methods. She has been the mediator over the typical office issues and has been fair in those mediations.”

As you can read, we have been a witness to seeing a great amount of teamwork and camaraderie that comes from the Workflow program!

There is much more in the way of word documents, video, and other agency’s examples that I cannot share in this format, so, if you want a copy of our famous Workflow program, email me at brandie@PowerhouseLearning.com or call (208) 316-7656 for the PDF.

Brandie Hinen is known for her ability to help implement change. She is the President of Powerhouse Learning and will be featured at the 2015 National Young Agents’ Convention in New Orleans.