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3 Things That Can Help Executives Do Their Jobs Better

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

from, March 27, 2018

Here are three tips executives can use to do their jobs better and be more effective leaders:

  • Don’t rely on transparency so much. Back-room, private discussions can actually elicit more honest feedback, according to researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. This link will lead you to more of their insights.
  • Just listen. Sit down with key players at your organization and give them time to talk about what is working and what isn’t. The executive who listens this way can develop greater insight and better problem solving, said Margot Murphy Moore, an executive with Standard Homeopathic Company and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Click here for more of her perspective on the topic.
  • Give employee surveys a try. After all these years, an employee survey still helps determine employee engagement. It can also help build morale, shape behavior and teach the executive who relies on the survey about employee priorities, executives from Facebook and others noted in a recent Harvard Business Review blog posting

Tags:  management 

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The Downside of Transparent Decision Making

Posted By research by Ronen Gradwohl and Timothy Feddersen, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

from KellogInsight, January 4, 2018

It seems logical that you would want to be fully transparent when making a big decision, right? But according to a recent analysis by a pair of Kellogg School researchers, requiring transparency may actually yield less information than allowing deliberations to go on in private.

When Unanimous Is Misleading

You may have experienced an inkling of this phenomenon. Meeting minutes, for example, sometimes say that a particular vote was unanimous.

“Now, was it really unanimous?” Gradwohl asks with skepticism. “It could be that people went into the meeting with differing opinions, but they wanted it to look unanimous because they know that whoever makes the decision is going to try to read into not just what the recommendation was, but also how many people were in favor, and how compelling was the evidence that this was the right decision.”

For example, a group that wishes to open a new branch of a retail chain might consist of four people who believe the new location will be very profitable and one who is unsure. After learning how certain the others are, that unsure person is likely to assume that her information was simply inferior to everyone else’s and become convinced that the new location makes sense.

But if the decision-maker knew that one person started out uncertain about the new location, he might scuttle the project. So to make the most compelling case to the chain’s owner, it is in the best interest of the group to claim that all five people strongly believe the new location will be lucrative.

In other words, knowing that the decision-maker will have full transparency into the recommendation process can actually change  what people recommend. Moreover, knowing this, the decision-maker might be suspicious of a unanimous vote—and rightly so.

Thus, in this case, transparency fails to achieve its goal of revealing better, more accurate information.

A Babbling Committee

The researchers turned to game theory to model these sorts of scenarios. Their model is predicated on the idea that the committee and decision-maker have different incentives: the decision-maker might be more conservative, for instance, because he has more “skin in the game,” while the committee may be more open to taking smart risks. Their model also assumes that the only reason decision-makers turn to a committee is because they do not have all the relevant information themselves.

In the opaque version of the game—when the only information the decision-maker is given is the committee’s final recommendation—the model shows that the committee’s decision ends up accurately representing the group’s aggregate opinion; the rational decision-maker might then find the committee’s recommendation convincing and take action on it. In this case, opacity works well, according to the researchers’ model. Any differences between the committee members and the decision-maker in terms of motivations or tolerance for risk is neutralized.

“Then we show the opposite case,” Gradwohl says, referring to the scenario of full transparency. In this case, the committee members “don’t say anything meaningful.”

This complete breakdown of communication comes about gradually, as each player second-guesses the others.

Misaligned Incentives

Such scenarios—where decision-makers decide whether to demand full transparency when they seek recommendations from parties with differing incentives—are common in other contexts as well.

Consider the case of a manager debating whether to launch a risky new product. To help her decide, she turns to her employees, each of whom has information relevant to the decision. Is she likely to get better information by asking employees for their opinion one by one (analogous to transparency) or by letting the employees confer in private to come up with a joint recommendation (the opaque scenario)?

“Our result suggests that asking each employee separately would lead to less informative advice and would be inferior to letting the employees come up with a joint recommendation,” Gradwohl says.

For example, employees might be more eager than the manager to launch the new product, with less to lose if the product flops. So when the manager approaches employees individually, each employee has an incentive to exaggerate the new product’s odds of success.

But once again, the difference in incentives between the manager and the employees does not pose as much of a problem in the opaque scenario. If employees can have a private group discussion, they can freely share their information with one another before the group makes their joint recommendation.

For example, if all employees think the probability of success is low, the joint recommendation will be to not launch the new product—and the manager has less reason to doubt that the recommendation truly reflects everyone’s information. The same is true if all employees think the probability of success is high: they will recommend the launch, and the manager will accept the recommendation.

Lessons for Decision-Makers

Gradwohl’s main takeaway from the research is straightforward: “Think twice before implementing anything like radical transparency.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, backroom discussions and other private conversations can be more helpful in getting people to share information.

“These sorts of offline conversations might actually be beneficial to everybody—not just to the committee, which is obvious, but also to the eventual decision-maker,” he says.

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Turn Up Your Listening Skills

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Turn Around an Organization

from MIT Sloan Fellows Program

A leader who isn’t a good listener isn’t a good leader, says Margot Murphy Moore, SF ’07. President and chief strategy officer of Standard Homeopathic Company, Moore says she kicks off every turnaround situation with a listening tour, sitting down with each of the key players one by one and giving them the airtime they need to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the company and the culture.

The aggregate value of these conversations is a big picture that reveals the operational issues, the cultural and political issues, and the strategic issues that are challenging the organization. “In my experience, when you sit down with stakeholders individually, you find they often have greater insight than you expect into complex challenges and innovative solutions. The issue often is not a lack of awareness about the source of a problem but multiple failures to act on that awareness. The goal is to find out what systems, perceptions, or individuals are preventing action.”

Resolving personnel issues, Moore believes, is an essential precursor to driving change. And sometimes that change means termination. If one person is a stumbling block to productivity and is souring the organizational culture, their termination might be key to salvaging the situation. “I can recall one turnaround situation in a remote plant. I was flying there every Monday to resolve an acrimonious situation. By Wednesday, I would pretty much have resolved the issues and, on the flight home, would be feeling relieved and optimistic. But on Thursday, I would get a few disgruntled calls and emails, then on Friday a few more. By the time Monday rolled around, we were back to square one.” Finally, termination was the only answer.

Turnarounds, Moore says, can be thankless work if you’re in it for the glory. “It takes a strong stomach and a level of unrelenting optimism to make a career of rescues. Success is often not viewed as gloriously as it merits, so the satisfaction of facing the challenges and reaching success must be enough. Bottom line: turnarounds are not a sport for the weak-spirited or for souls seeking affirmation.”

Tags:  leadership  listening  turnaround 

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Who Needs Employee Surveys?

Posted By Scott Judd, Eric O'Rourke and Adam Grand, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

from Harvard Business Review, March 14, 2018

You Do!

For decades, having regular employee opinion surveys has been on evidence-based lists of high-performance HR practices. Our internal research at Facebook suggests that for three reasons, it would be a big mistake to abandon them today.

1. Surveys are still great predictors of behavior.

At Facebook, we’ve found that simply asking our people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts by an industry leader in predictive analytics.

We learn a lot from surveys even when people don’t participate. People who don’t fill out either of our two annual surveys are 2.6 times more likely to leave in the next six months.

2. Surveys give employees the chance to feel heard.

Not having a regular survey sends a clear message: you don’t care about people’s opinions. The act of filling out a survey gives them a specific channel for expressing voice. At Facebook, even though we can often gain the insights we need from a sample, we often invite the whole company to participate so they have a chance to contribute to the conversation. Passive monitoring loses that employee feeling of active ownership.

Differential participation rates tell us what issues matter most to our people: 95% complete the engagement survey, more than two-thirds fill out our annual diversity survey, and more than half do our benefits survey. And it turns out that employees value having a say even if they don’t get their way. When we send out a survey, we get a surprising volume of write-in comments: on average, 61% of our people submit their own feedback and suggestions, and each person touches on (on average) five distinct topics. It’s clear that people take the survey seriously and want to be heard. And knowing that they won’t adopt every idea, leaders go out of their way to show that they still value the input. As a fun way to reward participation, some of our leaders have come to work dressed in a costume of their teams’ choice when they reached a 100% response rate!

3. Surveys are a vehicle for changing behavior.

When you ask people for their input and insights, you aren’t just learning from them. You’re also influencing them. Psychologists find that asking questions can change behavior. Survey people on whether they’d like to volunteer three hours for the American Cancer Society, and volunteering rates spike from 4% to 31%. Poll people about whether they’re planning to buy a new computer in the next six months, and they become 18% more likely to do it. Survey NCAA basketball ticketholders on whether they intend to show up at next week’s game, and their attendance jumps from 76% to 85%.

Part of the effect is consistency: saying yes creates a commitment and many people follow through. But even people who say no are more likely to shift their behavior, because questions prompt reflection. As long as the behavior is desirable, some of them will end up convincing themselves to do it.

On our engagement survey at Facebook, we often try out new questions with different samples of people. In one recent survey, we asked 30% of our people whether or not they were personally committed to improving their experience working here. We weren’t trying to influence their behavior, but they ended up being 12% more likely than their peers to request a curated list of additional resources and tools to help them become more engaged at Facebook — and that was true whether their original answer was yes or no.

Smart technology and big data will continue to help us figure out what matters most to our people. But that will make surveys more important, not less. In an age where more employees are afraid that Big Brother is watching and companies have the tools to observe more than ever before, running a survey can signal that Big Brother is still human.

Tags:  employee  employees  insurance agency  management  survey 

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Sales, Marketing and Management Ideas for Agencies

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

from, March 14, 2018

Doable Dozen

Eggs, juries, roses, even doughnuts– many good things come in a dozen. On the theory that more than 100 of anything seems like a lot to consider, but a dozen seems doable even on the busiest of days, here are 12 out of the 101 sales, marketing and management ideas for 2017 collected by Insurance Journal Editor-in-Chief Andrea Wells for her annual feature report in Insurance Journal magazine. These 12 were randomly selected from 101 in the full report. Where no contributor is credited, the idea came from an Insurance Journal staffer or a shy friend of the publication.

Learn, judge, enjoy, digest and share:

  1. Break the Mold. It’s common to hit a “sweet spot” in terms of what works in agency management and stay there, focusing on the “sexier” sales side of the business. It’s fine to keep what works, but it’s important to always evolve the management processes for a competitive edge. — Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  2. Use Technology. Better utilize comparative raters, agency management systems or marketing automation to help the agency be more efficient with repeatable tasks. Track lead sources. Know exactly where leads come from. This helps the agency know which marketing dollars are working and which are being wasting. — Laird Rixford, ITC
  3. Constructive Tension. Adding “constructive tension” to the relationship can indicate the true interest of the prospect. Ask the prospect for something you’ll need later — early on. Continue this with every interaction, setting a mutually agreeable “due date” for each of the next steps. A prospect who agrees to a timeline and delivers accordingly is engaged. Avoid “x-date blues” of working hard on an account only to find the prospect won’t take your call on the inception date. — Steve Pearson, ISU Insurance Agency Network
  4. Forms Matter. Read your forms and do not assume that because you learned something studying ISO forms that the applicable forms read the same. This is where agencies earn their commissions. — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates
  5. Welcome Committee. If your community does not have a service that welcomes newcomers to the neighborhood, then start one.
  6. Area of Expertise. Nearly all million-dollar producers have three to five well-defined niches. What industries are you an expert in? — Jim Wochele, unit manager, sales performance, MarshBerry
  7. TV and Radio. Host your own local radio or cable TV show featuring events and people in your community. Many local cable and radio operators are looking for content.
  8. Incumbent Loyalty. Ask prospects one question before you go: “Do you know why people who have a long relationship with their agent still want to talk to me?” We have seen that a long and loyal relationship can lead to: 1) Agent apathy — Agents no longer worry about losing their clients business. 2) “Slow drip premium increases” — each year they are too small to notice but given time-add up 3) “Lack of marketing” — who benefits from a lack of competition? The prospect’s current provider does. — Todd Heller, The Nitsche Group
  9. Workshopping. Commercial and personal lines producers or agency principals can put on workshops for local businesses to discuss how to promote business locally by leveraging social media, Yelp, email marketing and other tools. Local chambers and realty groups are always looking for quality content in their meetings. This will help with new business and build referral relationships. — Stuart Ganis, Ganis Consulting
  10. Best Friends. What percentage of your customers own dogs or cats? They might welcome advice on training, local regulations, dog parks, not to mention dog bites and liability — or pet insurance, whether you sell it or not.
  11. Safety Tours. Arrange for a risk management/safety tour of an iconic building, stadium or event for customers and prospects.
  12. Get Bored. When you give your mind nothing to do is when the greatest of ideas can emerge. — Alicia Frye, NFP

Tags:  agency  ideas  insurance  management  marketing  sales 

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5 Ways to Lead Change in a Change-Averse Environment

Posted By John Lokhorst, Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Despite the constancy of change in today’s global marketplace, the environment for change in many organizations is unfriendly at best. Few organizations have the appetite for change found at Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other innovative firms. I work extensively with CPAs, CFOs, and other technical professionals; a group not known for its propensity to change.

As a leader, you recognize that when the pace of internal change lags the pace of change in the external environment . . . well, it’s not good news. But what do you do in a context that resists change? How can a leader initiate and navigate change in a change-averse industry or culture? Here are five approaches to overcome barriers to change in these situations.

Launch a “CEO for a Day” forum.

Host town meetings with workers from across all levels of your organization to ask what they would do differently if they were CEO for a day. Offer a structured brainstorming conversation that invites new ideas. Start with questions that generate ways to improve current practices. Then move to explore new opportunities.

Leverage these gatherings to open your team to ideas for improvement, growth, or new opportunities. Workers are more apt to support change initiatives when they’ve been a part of forming them.

Host an “If We Were the Competition” discussion.

Invite a cross-section of employees to view your organization as if they worked for your top competitors. Encourage them to point out weaknesses that could put the organization at a competitive disadvantage.

Ask questions like, “How would our top competitors attack us if they had inside information?” Or, “What weaknesses make us vulnerable to losing customers or market share?” Flipping the conversation will prompt your team to think critically about things that need to change.

Form an innovation team.

In 1943, Lockheed Martin commissioned an engineer to create an experimental team to begin work on a secret fighter jet for the U.S. Army. The name Skunk Works originated from the bad smell near the rented circus tent in which the team worked. The company website shares the full story of how this team delivered the new fighter jet and sparked an innovative culture at Lockheed Martin.

Your innovation team need not operate with the same degree of secrecy as Skunk Works but should be given the autonomy to explore and develop new and innovative projects. Include workers from all areas of the organization critical to the project’s success. It should be led by forward-thinkers, but consider including a skeptic or two to ensure hard questions are asked.

Create a pilot program.

This approach invites commitment to change as a trial run. Framing a new initiative as a pilot program eases fears of “betting the farm” or putting workers’ jobs at risk.

Conduct a structured review of the pilot program at regular intervals, so skeptical team members know it is being carefully scrutinized. This creates an iterative process where the new program can be retooled or enhanced as it is being developed.

Provide an innovation budget.

The fear of losing money on a new initiative is enough to kill it without further consideration. Allocating resources for new ideas shows a willingness to fund them without expectation of immediate return.

Every annual budget should include funds for innovation, even if new ideas are yet to be identified. Plan for them to emerge as the year goes on. This helps overcome the “it’s not in the budget” argument against such initiatives. At the same time, quantifying the allocation ensures the organization doesn’t open a bottomless pit.

Don’t be afraid to push the envelope

After all, that’s what a leader does. Be mindful of your employees’ and customers’ appetite for change as you consider how fast and far to push the envelope. But don’t neglect to push it. Try these approaches and start gaining new momentum on your change initiatives.

Tags:  agency  independent agent  insurance  management 

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The Independent Agent as Entrepreneur

Posted By Barry Seigerman, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How successful your agency becomes is only half about your ability to sell insurance.

from, April 18, 2018

Running a successful business requires certain business skills; running a successful insurance agency requires certain insurance skills. The trick is to combine both skill sets so that your business, which happens to be in insurance, will succeed.

If both the business and insurance skills aren’t mastered, the agency can never reach its growth and profit potential — and that can lead to failure.

Entrepreneurial and business skills such as finance, management, marketing, sales and administration, have nothing to do with insurance expertise but everything to do with making the business successful. One must learn to think like an entrepreneur, a businessperson, not only like an insurance agent or broker.

Firsthand expertise

We always referred to our business as “a sales organization that happens to be in the insurance business.” My attitude was that “business is a game” to be played to win. That doesn’t mean it’s all for fun, because it can often be a difficult game to play.

As the business grows, different people can provide the various skills needed. Insurance sales and product knowledge can be easily learned and acquired. The industry offers a wide range of education and development.

But how does one learn to think like an entrepreneur? What is an entrepreneur, anyway? It is not a job or an occupation.

The traits that contribute to success

Most agree that an entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take a financial risk while creating a real business to make money.

From my own experience and observations, successful entrepreneurs possess similar traits in varying amounts: the ability to take risks, strong leadership, foresight (vision), drive, embracing change, being a team-builder, being opportunistic, having a strong ego, being a decision maker, and a desire to play “the game of business.”

Successful entrepreneurs will continuously seek learning and self-improvement. While I was a mediocre student in school, looking back I can easily see where some of my entrepreneurial skills were developed early on, especially risk taking, leadership and playing the game: as quarterback of my high school football team, earning a BBA college degree coupled with four years’ Army ROTC, serving overseas as an infantry lieutenant and platoon leader, and during my undergrad years working summers as a waiter in the illustrious Borscht Belt in NY’s Catskill Mountains.

Between high school and college I worked for an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in NYC — think “Mad Men.” After the military I worked for Aetna Life as a career agent in Brooklyn, N.Y., then in an independent agency in New York City, and at the age of 34, with a wife, three children and a mortgage, flat-out quit my job and started my own agency (drive, ego, opportunist, risk taker, will to win).

The road ahead

Experiences help to shape the future entrepreneur, but once you begin, how do you continue to learn and develop while trying to sell insurance and run your agency at the same time?

For me, I participated in every insurance company producer council I was invited to, and attained president of producer councils with Aetna Life & Casualty, The Hanover and Northbrook P&C. My exposure to “big corporate” boardrooms was invaluable. I subscribed to the Harvard Business Review, served on not-for-profit boards, and for 19 years, while still CEO of my agency, served on the board of directors of a $2.5 billion bank listed on NASDAQ.

All these exposures and experiences helped me to leverage the agency into generating revenue opportunities by both vertical and horizontal growth and integration. In addition to P&C, and Life, A&H, we became general agents for several life insurance companies. With my NASD license, early on we obtained selling agreements with broker-dealers and were able to offer mutual funds and investment products to our customers.

The most significant vertical integration opportunities we developed were: starting a new in-house HR company to provide HR services to our own customers, and forming a leasing company by establishing a partnership. We leased computers, office equipment, and automobiles, among other things. Can you guess who was the major customer of the leasing company? Our own agency! (Talk to your lawyer and accountant before you do anything.)

Tags:  business management  entrepreneur  independent agent  management 

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6 Ways Insurance Agents Can Build Winning Teams

Posted By Bernice Napach, Thursday, February 1, 2018

In addition to developing talent, advisors need to know themselves and their clients, says the former Tennessee Vols coach Phillip Fulmer

from, October 3, 2017

Growing trust in business relationships is not all that different from coaching a college football team, according to Coach Phillip Fulmer, former head coach at the University of Tennessee, now a partner for business development at Finworx, a behavioral finance firm that works with financial advisors.

In his keynote on the first day of FPA’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Fulmer laid out his recommendations for how advisors can build a solid foundation for their team members and clients:

1. Be a mentor but do it well. He described a time when he failed at that task with Dustin Colquitt, a punter for Tennessee who eventually went pro with the Kansas City Chiefs. Colquitt was kicking high and long when he joined the University of Tennessee Volunteers (the Vols), so Fulmer played him in a game where he subsequently kicked out of bounds the first two times, followed by a short kick that rolled back to the snapper. Fulmer had failed to establish a true mentoring relationship. Once he did and cleared the air, Colquitt performed better.

2. Set goals and work to achieve them: “Know where you can realistically go and don’t get paralysis by analysis,” Fulmer said.

3. Surround yourself with the people who lift you up, then ask them what can be done better. Fulmer recalled a time when the Vols were one in three, looking for a way get more wins. “The first thing we did as a team was as coaches we evaluated ourselves. Then we asked the staff what we could do better. Then we shared that with everyone on the team to work together.” 

4. Remember that talent cannot do it by themselves. “As good a leader as Payton Manning was [he played for the Vols for four years], we had to get into the silos of other positions,” said Fulmer, “…to the linebackers, offensive line, support staff, folks in the training and weight rooms.” One way to do that, said Fulmer, is to make an example of the best player; coach them the hardest, then others watching will also want to be coached as hard, and put the best players in a position of authority.

5. “Fix the divot,” said Fulmer referring to the piece of turf that gets gouged out by a golf club. In other words, fix problems as they arise.

6. Find something to motivate the team. He recalled a carved walking stick he received as a gift, which led some players to call him Moses. He took advantage of the nickname, gathering the team in a circle and lending each member the stick for a certain period of time. “They took good care of it; it was the first thing on the bus and on the sidelines,” and they kept it as a secret among themselves, as a team thing, that helped unite them.

In addition to developing a winning team, Fullmer counseled the audience, advisors must know their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their clients. 

He cautioned advisors to be humble; confident, but honest with themselves; and to “count their pennies,” knowing what’s essential in their life in business and family.

He concluded by recommending that advisors in the audience “look for one bit of knowledge" that they can take back from from this week’s conference and use in their business.

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What Football Can Teach the Insurance Industry

Posted By Rosalie L. Donlon, Thursday, February 1, 2018

Disruption, collaboration and leadership: Football players have learned to expect the unexpected, and the insurance industry can as well.

from, January 26, 2018

“Disruption is what the game of football is all about,” Terrell Davis, Pro Football Hall of Fame 2017 inductee and former star running back for the Denver Broncos, told the insurance industry professionals gathered at the Property Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum 2018 on Jan. 16.

Davis explained that teams go into the game with a strategy and a play book, but the strategy can be completely disrupted in myriad ways: Plays don’t go as planned, the other team does something unexpected, or a key player can be hurt and out for the remainder of the game, if not the season. Football players have learned to expect the unexpected, and other industries can as well.

In answer to questions posed by Insurance Information Institute President and CEO Sean Kevelighan, he urged the audience to be prepared to deal with disruptions, even if they weren’t ready to embrace them. And he reminded the audience that companies that succeed, like teams that succeed, expect disruption; they’re not defeated by it.

Stay focused on the end goal

During his time with the Denver Broncos, Davis played in two Super Bowl games, and he credited the team’s ability to collaborate and stay focused on the end goal with the team’s winning the championship. He explained that on the football field, collaboration is key. All 11 players have to work together to execute plays effectively. They have to keep the Lombardi Trophy in sight and agree that winning the game, and eventually the championship, is more important than any individual player. “Teams that win, teams that succeed, have guys that collaborate, that think of the team first and themselves second,” he said.

Davis used the example of player bonuses — similar to executive bonuses in the insurance industry — as one way his Broncos teammates pulled together to win games. “Many contracts have bonuses if the individual carries the ball a number of times per game, and a number of times a season,” he explained. But in certain games, handing the ball off to someone else means that the play will be made and the game will be won. Does that mean the player forgoes the bonus? Yes. Does it mean the team may advance to a higher level? Also, yes.

For insurance professionals, Davis said, taking the risk of letting someone else “carry the ball” can mean better results overall, even if it’s not in the best interests of the individual.

Leadership and mentoring

Davis spoke eloquently about the role of mentors in his life and the many ways outstanding leaders in sports helped him succeed in his profession. He told the audience that his father passed away when Davis was only 13, and he got off track for a while, dropping football and failing at school. When he finally decided to turn himself around, there were teachers and coaches who stepped up to help him get back on track. They made sure he had someone to talk to and ask advice from, whether it was about sports, academics or life.

He credited then-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and the team’s owners with seeing the players as individuals as well as a winning football team. As Davis reminded the audience, “Football players are human too. You see us on Sunday on the field and think we have no problems. But we all have wives, children, families, and everyone has something that’s not going right.”

Davis noted that appreciating employees doesn’t take a lot, that small gestures go a long way. He explained that many football teams require players to share rooms when traveling to away games. It’s a reasonable cost-saving measure, but it can interfere with preparation if the roommates have different ways of getting ready for the game.

Some like to watch game films of opponents over and over, while other prefer to exercise and get plenty of rest. The Broncos made sure that players had single rooms and paid for two in-room movies. “That doesn’t seem like much,” Davis said, “but it went a long way to making us feel valued.”

Athletes as insurance professionals?

Kevelighan asked Davis whether he thought professional athletes would be interested in the insurance industry as a second career. “It could be a great fit,” Davis said. He noted that football players, like most professional athletes, are accustomed to taking risks on and off the field and devising strategy to win games, as well as thinking quickly during a play. All those skills could translate well to insurance as the industry looks to nontraditional sources for talent.

I am an unabashed football fan, who regularly watches college and professional games on weekends. After listening to Davis, I’ve thought more about the teams who do consistently well on the field and about the many organizations, not just insurance companies, that thrive even as the world shifts around them. I found myself agreeing with Davis that disruption and change, whether major or minor, are a fact of life, and that those who succeed will manage the change, not let the change manage them.

If you’re in the insurance industry, what do you think about Terrell Davis’ words of wisdom?

Tags:  Agency Management  Collaboration  Leadership 

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3 Steps to Disaster-Proofing Your Insurance Agency

Posted By Brad Wheeler, Thursday, January 18, 2018


from ThinkAdvisor, January 9, 2018

From hurricanes to wildfires and more, 2017 brought calamitous weather and major events that forever changed many communities and industries across the country. Many financial advisors found their offices inaccessible for reasons beyond their control — but their duties to clients hadn’t changed. This reality in times of crisis is forcing advisors to take a hard look at their businesses and seriously consider whether they are adequately prepared to serve their clients at all times.

We spoke with a variety of advisors in areas affected by the extreme weather and disasters that occurred in 2017, and their experiences confirmed that the value of preparation and communication cannot be overstated. Clarifying communication processes, protecting against potential breakdowns in emergency procedures, and regularly testing your firm’s preparedness can make all the difference in ensuring you are still able to assist clients even in adverse circumstances.

1. Formalize a Broad Disaster Plan

It’s vital that everyone in your office understands what to do when business as usual is jeopardized by an unforeseen event. To be prepared, you should develop a simple plan that ensures you can support your clients in the event of a disaster. It should be a plan that your staff can access after hours or refer to at home. At the very least, your plan should provide answers to the following questions:

  • How will staff reach one another to disseminate instructions in the event of an emergency?
  • Will the key vendors you rely on have alternative ways to reach you aside from your main office phone line?
  • Does everyone have contact information for emergency services such as police, fire, and building management?
  • Where can staff plan to meet in order to continue operations and serve clients, such as an affiliated office in another city?

2. Consider All Links in the Chain

Creating a clear, buttoned-up plan is a necessary foundation, but also thinking ahead to possible points of failure in that plan will further strengthen your ability to withstand an emergency. We’ve seen vulnerabilities crop up when even a single staff member is unavailable. During a major weather event, for example, if only one person in your firm knows how to log in remotely or only one person knows how to operate your Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), you are vulnerable. Identifying and eliminating points of failure through cross-training or documenting procedures is important. Also, firms with a well-established chain of command may find their entire network of communication weakened if just one high-level member is inaccessible. To prepare for eventualities like these, we encourage advisors to create multiple options for passing on instructions if the primary one fails.

Similar problems arise when clients are inaccessible. Suppose you need to distribute emergency funds to a client, but they are unreachable and cannot give final authorization. You can avoid this kind of roadblock during a crisis by drawing up an agreement with your client that authorizes you to distribute emergency funds in the face of a disastrous event. And as an additional backup, always ensure that you have multiple ways to contact your client on file should you need to get in touch with them urgently for any other reason.

Even with potential vulnerabilities with staff and clients accounted for, disaster plans fall short if they don’t consider a business’ most basic resource: power. Make sure you always have alternate power sources and batteries to keep office equipment running in both your main location and any affiliated offices.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

The final line of defense involves ensuring that your disaster preparedness procedures are fresh in the minds of everyone at your firm. At least once a year, set aside time with your team to run through a surprise scenario and note how your plan succeeded — or didn’t. You can achieve much more than you ever expected simply by gathering your key staff around a conference table and talking through an unexpected scenario. Were you able to get in contact with all necessary parties? Which parts of the plan did staff members forget or fail to execute? Use those findings to make updates to your plan, and continue testing it to ensure success even during a situation lasting several days. Many advisors reported marked improvement in their firms’ overall readiness after as little as one hour spent practicing responses to hypothetical crises.

We could not have foreseen the intensity and frequency of disasters that struck the country last year, but we can certainly learn from them. Taking the time to create contingency plans for your business now will give your staff the confidence and the tools to deliver crucial client support right when your clients may need it the most.  

Tags:  disaster  insurance agency  preparedness  safety 

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PIA of Kentucky
107 Consumer Lane
Frankfort, KY 40601


Phone: 502-875-3888
Fax: 502-227-0839