Empower, Equip and Improve - Lessons from Agency Leadership Institute


Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, I am your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. I am excited, I'm revved up, if you can't tell by the sound in my voice, fired up, to share with you some really important agency leadership principles today. In fact, what I'm going to share with you are three key principles or ideas that came from this past week. This is really some reflections from my heart and I always try to take a look at things that I'm experiencing and have the opportunity to experience, personally, professionally, typically professionally, but you're going to hear today is a combination of both, that have some key leadership lessons. What I'm going to correlate today may sound a bit odd because it is, but there's a huge impact and there's some great lessons from it. I'm going to share what I've learned from my wife's 40th birthday party. Okay, bear with me, there's a reason for this and also my experience with the Agency Leadership Institute this past week in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What these two completely separate events, there was some correlation with some common leadership themes and I want to share that. It really is all about you, the agency leader, helping you become that best version possible of yourself and certainly your team, and always want to mention the Best Version Possible book, it is out, I mention this on most podcasts, but really want you to get opportunity to get your hands on it, whether it's audio, we have an audio book out there, also the Kindle edition. But if you go to sitkins.com/bvp for Best Version Possible, you can get your copy.

Actually just, I got back, I'll mention on this podcast, the Agency Leadership Institute that I was part of in Cincinnati. On the first session of that, I gave every agency leader a copy of the book, and I had several of the agency leaders that I had a chance to talk in different areas of the conference. A couple of them said directly, "We've already got this thing highlighted and dog eared and taking action on some of the practical steps in the book." We really kept this to a very practical book that your agency can begin to implement. So go check it out. Best Version Possible.

I want to get into the podcast today. Again, this are reflections from my heart. What does a 40th birthday party and a leadership institute have in common? I'll start with the 40th birthday party because it's my wife. She finally turned 40. I say that finally because I'm a little bit older than she is, but she turned 40 and I got to start off by kind of calling out myself. I'm a terrible gift giver. I really am. I am. I'm not a good gift giver. It's not because I don't love people or want to help people. I forget, I get distracted, and it goes back to something that's not good enough, because I've said this on this podcast before, silent gratitude is no gratitude at all. Right? There's a lesson to remember.

I'm thinking about this. I'm like, "Okay, I've done a miserable job of giving my wife gifts." Yes, we do things, but a really thoughtful, proactive gift. Several months before her birthday, I'm like, "I've got to get on this earlier. I've got to be intentional with this." A week would go by and I'm like, "Okay, next week," and a week would go by and next week and finally I'm like, "All right, I got to figure this out." I reached out to two of her good friends, and I also, my two oldest daughters, one's in college and one's in high school, and I said, "Listen, I need all your help." I said, "But to get your help, I got to share a vision with you." I said, "Obviously Tracy's coming up, it's her 40th birthday," my wife, "And I want this to be really special. I want it to be memorable. I want it to be something that she can say, 'I was just really excited to be part of that. It meant a lot to me. It was a great experience.'" That's what I was going for. I said, "That's what I really want." I said, "Here's the problem is I'm not sure how to do it all and I would really love your input."

One of her good friends said, "Gosh." She goes, "I love throwing parties. It's one of my favorite things to do. It gets me excited to put that together and do it."

I'm like, "Oh my gosh."

Her other friend says, "I love to create memorable gifts." In fact, she has a gift basket company, but she says, "I love to create memorable gifts and to do this."

My daughters are like, "Hey, we love to help out with this stuff. We want to help mom."

I'm like, "Great. Here is the vision. This is what I want to accomplish with this gift and here's kind of my big overall picture and theme. Can you help me out and do it?"

They said, "Yes, we'd love to." Then I empowered them and I equipped them to go do it. I said, "Listen, I trust all of you. You're great at this," provided them some funding, certainly to go do it. By the way, it was a great birthday party. It was a great experience. In fact, I just got back from the second thing that I'm going to get to the Leadership Institute.

My wife said, "Hey, I just want to tell you again, that birthday party was really memorable. I want to thank you again for doing it."

I thought, "Woo, thank goodness for a good team." All right? That's the first part, I just want to paint the picture.

The second part was the Agency Leadership Institute that I was part of in Cincinnati, which was right after the birthday this following week, and had a great opportunity. This was our second session. This is hosted by Cincinnati Insurance Company. Do a great job in relationships with their partners, just really excited to see a company, and I know there's a lot of carriers that really do care about their agents at a high level. But Cincinnati, to see that in action, was really, really, it was really cool. It really was. To have these agency leaders that come there to learn, to grow, to mastermind, to share, and also be fed a little bit in different ways was really neat.

As I got done and I was debriefing the Agency Leadership Institute, a session that I was part of, it hit me. I was like, "Of all the things and all my notes of what was shared and discussed," I said, "What some of the best agency leaders are doing is that they're very clear on the vision, that their team can not only just hear it, but they see it and they feel it. Number two is they're empowering their best people and sort of the people with unique skill sets to carry these things out and then they're always fine tuning, looking for feedback to how to get a little bit better."

This is what I'm getting to, This was the correlation between my wife's birthday, and again, this is not to give, it really isn't to give kudos to myself because quite frankly, I mentioned I'm a terrible gift giver, but for the first time in a long time, I took my own leadership lesson and created a compelling vision and empowered other people and equipped them to go do it and then got some feedback. Although the feedback thing, I'm not as worried about for the birthday party, but the Agency Leadership Institute absolutely is the case.

What can you take from this? Hopefully you're already hearing some of these themes for you as an agency leader. I just have questions for you as an agency leader. Is your vision of your agency compelling enough that the right people and the best people are fully attracted to it, want to be a part of it, and are motivated to take action around it?

That to me is the first principle I want to share with you is do I have a compelling vision that other people would want to follow or they're attracted to? What's my compelling vision? Now, a lot of people could say, "Well, in two years I want to do this, or three years or five years." This is something I really want you to take heart as an agency leader because at the Agency Leadership Institute as well, again, and none of us have this perfect, but the top leaders there and some of the success stories that they had in different areas, and it might even be different pockets of the agency, but they were very clear and compelling on their mission, where they were going, why it was important, the impact that they would have in others, whether it's their community, their clients, their team, of what that meant.

Number one is what is your clear and compelling vision? If you don't have one, well what does it need to be? If you have a decent one, how can I make it even better? People are emotionally engaged with those things. As much as we do need to give tactics and processes, we've got to have a compelling vision that people emotionally go, "I want to be part of that."

By the way, this is critical too for attracting and retaining the best talent. There's this emotional connection. It isn't just about the money. Yeah, it's part of it, but it really is about this emotional connection of a bigger, brighter future. That's number one. The other part of that, if I wanted to associate that with number one, it's also understanding that you have, as Dan Sullivan talks about, a unique ability in what you do as an agency leader, which means there's certain things that you do really, really well and there's certain things that you're not very good at. I mentioned on my own component, I'm really bad at planning and gifts and that kind of stuff.

This comes back where we see agencies struggle with this too, is the fact that their heart, their intention is good, but because it becomes difficult or challenging or not in their unique skill set, and maybe they've done it in the past and because they've done it themselves, it hasn't worked very well, they just kind of lose sight of it, forget about it and go, "Oh, whatever, it's not worth it." A big part of the compelling vision is then to attract and then recruit the people with those unique abilities, as Dan Sullivan says, or other strengths, God-given abilities that they have to utilize those at the highest capacity they can. That to me is just the whole idea of this first thing and it's so powerful.

I think sometimes it gets missed in agencies because you can do a lot of things as an agency leader. You have a lot of talent and skills or you wouldn't be in that position, but are you deploying the right people to do some of the things that maybe you're a bit inefficient with or ineffective with versus saying, "Well, I can still do it at 40%." Yeah, somebody can do it at 85 or 90% and you've got to be able to share that vision, which they want to be part of it.

Which leads me to number two. I know those first were kind of like one A, one B, but number two is this. You've got to empower and equip them to actually do it. You've got to empower and equip other people on your team as a leader to actually do it. One of the things I heard so much at the Agency Leadership Institute is the fact that yes, they would have an idea or a vision that they're sharing or a direction they were going or a goal they were looking to attain, but what would sometimes get them stuck in the past, I hear these stories is, "I was never able to fully give it up or empower other people to carry it through. I always had to have my hands in it," versus saying, "Listen, if you're on this team, you're on this team for a reason and I want to empower you and equip you with tools and resources to make sure that you can fulfill that responsibility at the highest level that you can."

In fact, one of the things I heard this years ago, responsibility without authority is a version of hell on earth. Responsibility without authority, meaning, "Well, you're responsible for this stuff, but I'm not going to give you authority to actually do it," and that could be authority and actually transfer of power, that could be authority and financial, equipping, having the resources or tools to get it actually done, we're not going to invest in that, but I expect you to get it done. You as an agents leader, ask yourself, "Am I empowering and equipping the key people around me to fulfill the responsibilities so they can carry it through?" Just take some time to think about that.

In fact, go to the key people around you and say, "Listen, what else do you need as far as resources or tools or what can I do," even empowering could be given your voice to them meaning that you go in front of the entire team and say, "Listen, Susan or Joe is in charge of this. They're number one. If you have questions or problems, you go to them because I am fully empowering them to get this done." That happens a lot in agencies too, and this happens for any organization is that we say, "Hey, listen, go out and do it," but the team is still looking to you or me because we haven't officially empowered them.

Part of that is communication, part of that is funding, resources, tools to say, "Listen, do you have everything you need?" Have an honest conversation around it. I know sometimes people get worried because, like, "Well, they always are looking for more. They need more, they need more." Yes, there's got to be a conversation, accountability around what it really takes to execute something but don't leave people short. Don't just say, "Good luck. Go do it." that's not really empowering. That's certainly not equipping. That's number two.

The number three is this. This is this constant improvement and this to me is true of anything. Then when you go get a result, then it's how do we improve that result? By improving the result doesn't necessarily mean that, "Well now next time I do it," unless it really goes bad and you learn lesson that way, but typically what the results you improve is, "Hey listen, this was the vision. This is what we were empowered and equipped to go do, this is what you did, what did you learn? What's going to be better next time? How can I help you more?" All these questions what we're constantly looking for feedback. That's one of the things that so often could happen, organizations, certainly insurance agencies, is that we go and do something, but we don't fully learn from what we just did.

I had a great mentor I love, they said, "You can't improve a result until you go get a result." Go get the result and then look for ways to improve upon. Again, as I was talking to agencies at the Agency Leadership Institute, that was one of the things that really came to light was the fact that, "Hey, listen, I have a vision of the future, I've done that best to empower and equip key people and then part of this is now I want to become a mentor and a coach. I want to be able to help my next level of leaders to say, 'What did you learn from this? What was the impact? How could you improve? What worked? What didn't? Why?'" You asked these questions, guess what? They're going to think through, now they've got the experience.

By the way, I love this quote, I heard this from John Maxwell. He said, "People say that experience is the best teacher." He said, "No, I believe that evaluated experience is the best teacher." We got to evaluate the experience in what it means.

So these are the three lessons I tied together. Again, kind of strange, but I was thinking about this, my wife's 40th birthday party, and I'm like, "Wow. I think I was able to share a pretty compelling vision of what it is that I really wanted." I know this is the different it's pretty simple, in essence to share that kind of vision, but then to empower and equip people to do it. Again, the feedback thing, the bottom line was just my wife loved it so she's not going to have another 40th birthday party, but there are lessons to learn even in my own life around what are some other areas or things that I could do to be able to set visions even in my own household as a family leader that would be able to empower, equip, and then of course continue to get better in different areas.

Certainly with the Agency Leadership Institute that I was part of, and those agencies and agencies we work with as our private client members or members of our all inclusive model. Again, the Sitkins Network members, it's that same thing. The idea of have a vision that's worth following or being compelling, empower and equip people, and continually get feedback to improve that result, to get better and better and better.

Listen, this is my conversation from my heart to yours. Hope you gain value and just take a few ideas as a leader of how you can do that. My passion around leadership continues to grow. I've always known the impact or continue to learn the impact of leadership, but the more I'm around agencies and agency leaders, there's some great responsibility. It's going to sound like Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. There is great responsibility there but the opportunity that you have as an agency leader to certainly impact your own life, but I think what we see with great agency leaders, what they really love to do and what fires them up is how can I impact the lives of my team members? How can I impact the lives of future leaders? How can I impact the lives of my community? How can I impact the lives of my clients? What kind of, not even a legacy for me, but something that goes beyond me in the term of good to the world, how can I do that?

I think these three things are going to be steps for you to do that at a higher level. Figure out that true compelling vision, empower and equip people, and continually improve and upgrade the experience by getting feedback and evaluating what worked and what did. Listen, it's always a pleasure to be with you. At this podcast, whether this episode or others, I've got some great guests. In fact, I've got a whole list of people I'm going to be inviting to this podcast that I know will come on, share their leadership wisdom with you, the agency leader, give you more tips and ideas to grow and succeed in this very challenging but very amazing business that we all live and which is the independent insurance agency. I can't wait to bring them on. With that, wish you all the best in your success. Thanks for listening.


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