Throughout life, uncertainty is something we all face from time to time. The COVID-19 pandemic is irrefutable proof of this. As I write this, no one is sure when businesses will fully reopen. That has made it extremely challenging, both personally and professionally, to know what to do and how to do it—or whether we should do anything at all!
For most of us, however, paralysis is not an option.
While it’s understandable to feel stymied by uncertainty, there are still things that are within our control. In fact, because of what’s going on in the world, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to succeed as never before by doing two key things. One is to make an investment in ourselves, and the second is to make an investment in others.
Investing in you
When I was 25 years old, I heard the late great business speaker and author Jim Rohn say, “Work hard on your job, make a living; work hard on yourself, make a fortune.” At the time I was really struggling at my job, so I completely got that part, but I didn’t quite understand what he meant about working hard on myself. How was I supposed to do that? How long would it take? When could I expect to see results? Obviously I didn’t quite get it.
Now I do: The greatest investment you can ever make is in your own personal and professional growth.
I can appreciate that your job is shrouded in uncertainty right now. You can’t conduct business as usual because you can’t talk to people in person as you used to. So how can you work hard at your job if you don’t know how to navigate an unfamiliar landscape?
First, don’t think of it as an out-of-control environment but as a prime opportunity for self-improvement. There may never be a better time to become your best you! It starts with investing in yourself.
Learn. How many times have you said, “I should read more books,” “I should learn a second language,” or “I should get in better shape”? The reality is that people tend to focus more on what goes into their body than their “bread for the head.” What are you feeding your mind? What books or articles have you read lately? Do you listen to informative podcasts or audio books? Learning new things is the key to improving your mental capacity and is one of the best ways to invest in yourself. Now is the perfect time to do it.
Connect. Connecting with others is something of a challenge right now. In the past month, however, I have had more conversations on a deep level than ever before with influencers and clients. Perhaps it’s because they have more time and fewer distractions and they’re not rushing off to the next appointment. Whatever the reasons, people seem more able to focus and are eager to talk. There is purposeful connecting.
Regardless of COVID-19 and whether you’re communicating in person or remotely, here are some of the key connections you should be seeking out:
What are you doing on your own to seek these people out?
Much like peer groups, the round-tables in our producer camps give participants the opportunity to share ideas and experiences, discuss problems, and come up with solutions. Similarly, the objective of our MasterMinds sessions is to bring out the collective genius of the group. It’s amazing how much you can learn and grow by sharing multiple ideas with groups of highly accomplished peers, particularly if they know more than you. Conversely, if you’re the smartest person in the room (even a Zoom room), find a new room!
Prepare. I’ve often said, “Prepare today to produce tomorrow,” and that certainly applies to the present. You may not be able to close as many sales right now, but you should be preparing as if you’re going to have that conversation tomorrow because you never know. If you wait until the opportunity arises to prepare, you’re too late. You’ve missed it.
Would you rather prepare or repair? It’s really a question of being proactive vs. reactive. For example, have you been waiting to build your pipeline? What about your future client relationship management? Or maybe you’ve been procrastinating on your story of differentiation.
If you’ve been waiting to prepare until life normalizes or begins to improve, you’ll be behind the curve when it happens. At that point it will be too late to seize the opportunity at hand or you’ll have to work harder to fix the consequences of your inaction. Now’s the perfect time to stop that! Preparing is a lot easier and more fun than repairing, plus it takes less time.
One of the best ways to prepare is to evaluate your experiences. We are all experiencing a new way of life. Take the time to review so you can learn. What’s working that you can replicate? What’s not working that you must eliminate?
Our success leaves clues, and so do our losses. While we shouldn’t live in the past, taking time to evaluate will prepare you for the future.
Investing in others
While physical isolation creates challenges in investing in your key relationships, focusing on these relationships is more important than ever.
Empathize. Before you can care about others, you must put yourself in their place. Maya Angelou may have said it best: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you consider what they may be going through as a result of the pandemic.
In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Just because you’re not sick or otherwise negatively affected by the virus doesn’t mean that a client isn’t. It’s possible they’re experiencing extreme hardship because of it, so try to understand what they’re thinking or feeling.
Stop telling and start asking. Inquire about their family or ask how and what they’ve been doing lately. Then stop talking! Listen without interrupting.
Remember that empathy is not a strategy, but rather a key to building healthy human relationships. And if ever there were a time to show our humanity, this is it!
Earn trust. Gaining and sharing knowledge is an excellent way to build trust. But first you must be prepared to have a conversation that shows you genuinely care. For example, “I was taking a look at your account and have a couple of questions I’d like to ask you.” This shows that you’ve done your homework and are interested in their needs. This is especially important when working with business owners. They don’t really care what you know about your business—it’s a given that you know your stuff. What about their stuff? That’s what matters to them, and that’s what they want to discuss.
As a risk advisor and relationship builder, you might want to ask business owners what challenges they’re experiencing in terms of profitability, client acquisition or retention, employee retention, and so on. After acknowledging their concerns, you can then offer your expertise: “Based on what we reviewed, here are some things that might be helpful to you.” Doing this demonstrates not only that you were prepared for the conversation, but also that you understand their needs and are willing to share your knowledge to help them.
The ultimate measure of trustworthiness is doing what you said you were going to do. What agreements and promises have you made? Have you followed through on your commitments? Proving that you’re reliable and accountable takes time, but it is a cornerstone of lasting relationships.
Equip. People want tangible solutions, not just pie-in-the-sky ideas. What tools and resources can you provide to help others improve? For example, we’re seeing reductions in payrolls and sales; how can we help clients with those challenges?
While it’s good to brainstorm with others and come up with a million ways to approach a problem, the solution usually boils down to an essential few—an updated plan, a risk management tool, a change in coverage. Typically, the answer lies with what’s simple and doable.
Do you have tangible solutions? Remember what Zig Ziglar said: “You can get anything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want.”
As COVID-19 has shown, there’s nothing like a pandemic to underscore the importance of being able to adapt. Fortunately, most of us have already found new ways of working (from home), meeting (via Zoom), and communicating in general (electronically).
The need to adapt also applies to our clients’ risk management plans. What has and hasn’t changed in their business over the last several months? We’ve always preached the importance of having a good risk advisor. What are you doing to proactively manage your clients’ risks? What tools, resources, and/or coaching are you providing? How are you helping them move closer to their desired results?
Despite the many challenges resulting from the global pandemic, I hope you will seize this as an opportune time to invest in yourself and others. Further, I urge you to continue investing even after the viral threat has passed.
Keep in mind, you won’t change yourself overnight by modifying a single behavior, reading one book, or putting any of the above ideas into action one time only. Like any worthwhile investment, successfully executing the ideas I’ve discussed requires consistency. But by consistently investing in yourself and others, you are building a foundation of success that is 100% in your control.
Some of our most difficult challenges provide our greatest opportunities. Don’t miss yours.
Brent Kelly, vice president at The 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 www.sitkins.com.
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