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Fearless, Focused and More Qualities for Success in Insurance

eagle focused and hunting

When you think of the eagle—our national symbol of courage, strength, and freedom—what comes to mind? Do you immediately think, “independent insurance agency?” 

Although that’s unlikely, it occurs to me that eagles have a lot in common with the leaders of top-performing agencies. For one thing, they come in all sizes, boast special skills, and thrive world-wide. More important, the most successful independent agency leaders and team members exhibit what I consider the top seven eagle-like traits.

Focused

If you have ever seen an eagle hunt, no doubt you’ve marveled at their brilliant eyesight and laser focus. Because their vision is up to five times sharper than a human’s, they can spot prey almost three miles away.

Further, their angled eyes give them a great field of view, which enhances their ability to home in on their targets. With their precision and element of surprise, they rarely lose.

Similarly, outstanding agency leaders and their teams see more and before others. They just seem to have a broader, longer vision than most people in their field. Accordingly, they continuously prepare for any opportunities that may arise in the future.

Above all, they have the clarity to make decisions. Whether they’re making choices for an agency of 1 or 100, they know:

  • Where they and their agency stand
  • Where they want to go
  • How to get there

With eagle-eyed precision, great agency leaders aggressively pursue what they envision for themselves and their agency. They know how they want their agency to look in 90 days/3 years/10 years and paint a compelling picture of the future that team members will embrace. They also have an action plan to keep them accountable and aligned with their objectives.

They may encounter ups and downs along the way, but their focus never wavers; their destination is always in sight.

Fearless

Known for being fearless, eagles will fly through and above strong thunderstorms to take advantage of the updraft despite the danger. The turbulence lifts them higher, ultimately allowing them to conserve energy once they’re above the storm.

Also, eagles are bold hunters. Although they typically pursue chicken-sized birds, rabbits, fish and similarly sized prey, some species will feed on much larger mammals, such as monkeys, sloths and even antelope.

Obviously, eagles aren’t afraid to take on a challenge and go after the big guys! They don’t do it because it’s easy, but because their skills and experience tell them they can.

We’ve all experienced fear. Whether experiencing fear helps or hinders us often depends on how we approach it. Using fear as an acronym, do you perceive it as FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) or FEAR (Face Everything And Rise)?

As courageous anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela noted, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” The most successful agency leaders realize that to conquer fear, they and their team members must move out of their comfort zone.

Agencies that exist in the comfort zone never change their way of conducting business because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Everyone knows what to do and what to expect, and outcomes are consistent. It’s a nice place to live if you’re content being semi-successful, but there’s no opportunity for growth.

Those who want more must leave their comfort zone and enter the fear zone.

Great leaders set aside their fears to get what they want. They don’t let difficulties deter them and they don’t dwell on hazards that may or may not lie ahead. Like the eagle flying into a storm, top agency leaders aren’t afraid to push themselves and their team members out of their comfort zone.

For example, most people dread role-playing and practicing in front of their peers because they’re afraid of looking stupid. While they may circumvent their fears by avoiding low-risk practice, they end up looking stupid in front of potential clients instead. Had they only ventured out of their comfort zone by rehearsing and role-playing, they’d have conquered their fears and polished their presentation skills at the same time.

The most successful leaders in our business exude conviction and confidence rather than confusion and doubt. They’re willing to set aside their fears and have honest conversations about performance with team members, carriers, and clients, among others.

Tenacious

Often described as graceful and majestic, eagles are also known as fierce and relentless aerial apex predators. When their talons lock onto prey, they don’t release until they are ready. Because they never let go or give up, they are considered one of the most tenacious species on earth.

The best agency leaders can be equally tenacious when they are committed to playing the long game. The long game involves a long-term mindset and great tenacity because it is a process, not an event. In agencies, tenacity applies to various areas, including development and training. 

Too often, training is an infrequent event. Anyone can attend a single workshop or watch a video once and say they’ve been through training when, in fact, they’ve simply attended a one-and-done training session. Occasional participation does not require tenacity.

On the other hand, meaningful training typically is a long-term process whose value lies in the tenacity of both agency and trainee. For the process to be worthwhile, all involved must be committed to the agency’s culture and willing to demonstrate agreed-upon behaviors consistently. Consistency takes tenacity.

The most successful agency leaders know that consistency beats intensity. Although it’s easy to get excited about a new idea, the intensity usually wears off quickly. People soon lose interest and turn their attention to something else (like the next new idea).

Just remember that agency culture isn’t built over a single meeting or a new idea, but stems from tenacious consistency.

Discriminating 

Unlike vultures, which eagerly feast on necrotic scraps, eagles don’t eat roadkill or leftovers, and they never scrounge for food. They select and hunt live prey only. They know what they like and they want it fresh.

The best agencies take a similar approach to getting what they want. Just as eagles don’t hunt for dead animals, elite agencies don’t scrounge for people. They’re proactive, not reactive. They make things happen. That’s why leaders of the top agencies recruit the best talent.

The ability to discern applies to producers, as well. A highly successful producer won’t call on random suspects or rely on what I call a “database of hope” when seeking new business.

Do quail hunters just randomly shoot at any bird that’s flying by? Of course not! They’re hunting specifically for quail. Do you have clarity about what you’re hunting for (a certain size or demographic, for instance)? Are you sufficiently prepared and equipped?

The eagles in our business are strategic and specific about getting the clients they want. For starters, they have a targeted account strategy plan and are fully prepared to execute it. They’ve compiled a list of their future ideal clients (who they want and why) and they know how to connect with them (client referrals and introductions through key influential contacts).

They don’t just show up and hope for the best. They’re well-rehearsed and thoroughly prepared. They make their own “luck.” As a result, they rarely go hungry.

Vital

One of the most fascinating things about eagles is their extraordinary vitality. As they age, eagles shed their older “parts” (things like feathers). Apparently, this helps them live longer and better.  This is also true with the best agencies.

To remain at the top of the insurance food chain, successful agencies know when to lose old habits and behaviors that have outlived their usefulness. It’s a gradual process that begins when an agency and/or team members reach a certain point and stop growing. They plateau. That’s when leaders must decide whether to make changes in the agency to help it grow or allow it to wither and die.

Assuming you want your agency to prosper, you’ll need to take a hard look at what’s enhancing your growth and what needs to be shed. That’s where the 80/20 Rule is key. What are the 20% of things you’re doing that yield 80% of your results? This will tell you what you should be doing to help your agency grow and evolve. What do you need to give up so that you can go up? 

What got you here won’t get you there. Yes, you worked hard to reach million-dollar agency status, but now that you’re there, how will you get to the next level—the $2 million-plus tier?

Are you hanging on to clients that require 80% of your time and energy but produce no more than 20% of your revenues? Besides hanging on to the wrong clients, do you also cling to old habits that weigh you down? Do you polish and update your skills regularly or do you keep doing what you’ve always done?

It’s tempting to reach a comfortable plateau and stay there. But agencies that don’t continually improve and grow inevitably stagnate and die unless they are willing to shed the feathers that are weighing them down.

The most successful agencies grow vertically, building on what they’ve created. While they don’t change the foundation, they make adjustments to help them improve as they grow. They know what to give up in order to go up.

High-flying

Were you aware that eagles can fly up to 11,000 feet above sea level? This exclusive group is built to not only withstand high-altitude pressure and turbulence, but to use it to their advantage. That’s why you won’t see them in the company of the ducks, pigeons, and vultures. You’ll see eagles only with other high-flyers.

The idea that birds of a feather flock together also applies to high-flying agency leaders and their teams. There just aren’t that many people on their level, and so they gravitate towards those who are even smarter and more accomplished.

If you’ve ever competed in sports, you know that the only way to improve is to play against athletes with more talent. You’ll never get to the next level of play if you consistently outperform the competition.

In our business, one of the best ways to enhance your knowledge and skills is to hang out with the high-flyers. These are the people who inspire everyone around them to think bigger and do more. They discuss solutions over problems and challenge others to do the same. At the same time, they encourage one another and celebrate the success of others.

Are you surrounding yourself with turkeys or with eagles? Do you want to fly high and become your best version possible? If so, spend time with the high-flyers. You’ll never get off the ground if you hang out with turkeys.

Nurturing

Although eagles can be fierce, they also can be nurturing. Despite their predatory nature, they do an exemplary job of caring for their young and preparing them for life outside the nest. To me, the job of an agency leader isn’t much different.

In a leadership position, I believe that your number one responsibility is to grow and develop your people. It’s one thing to have all the eagle characteristics, but how will you make more eagles? If you’re the only person on the team, how will you play the game?

At Sitkins, our mission is to educate, empower and equip. As an agency leader, you probably have similar goals for your team members. What are you doing to accomplish them? For example, what are you doing to educate your team (and yourself)? In what areas do you need to give team members power so they can grow and develop? Agencies prosper and expand when they cultivate new leaders. What tools and resources do you need to provide to facilitate that? 

The author

Brent Kelly, president of Sitkins Group, Inc., is a motivating influencer, coach and speaker who has a passion for helping insurance agencies maximize their performance. He spent 15 years in the insurance industry as a successful commercial lines producer and was named one of the top 12 young agents in the country in 2012. To help your agency gain clarity, build confidence, and improve culture, please contact him at [email protected] or visit sitkins.com

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