Two Impact Items from the 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'm so excited to share some content that's fresh in my mind. And the reason why it's so fresh in my mind now, of course, this release might be later, but it's fresh in my mind as I record, this is, I just got back yesterday from a three-day Leadership Institute. It was the Agency Leadership Institute hosted by Cincinnati Insurance and man, I'll first of all, give credit to Cincinnati. They truly, they don't just say they love their agencies, they walk the walk, right. They really pour into their agencies, really develop that partnership. So Kudos to Cincinnati Insurance for putting this together. And this is led by Reagan Consulting our great friends at Reagan Consulting who obviously know so much of the important ideas and details and numbers and metrics and just great consultants in the industry to help agencies achieve more.

So they led the event and I've been fortunate now over the last two years to be able to provide some sales and leadership perspective from the Sitkins Group and so together, we were surrounded by great agencies from across the country. We had great discussions, we had breakouts, we had fantastic presentations that were given throughout, and of course, just a lot of fun together. But what I want to do today on this podcast again, why it's fresh in my mind and share with you the two biggest things that came from this session. You know, I'm a believer in being able to learn something, digest it a bit, and then be able to share it back with this audience, right?

I know you as an agency leader, regardless of your specific role, title or position are always looking for something that you can take with you to go out and use. And so what I wanna do is share with you the two biggest impact items and then give it some tangible references, things that you can actually do around these two big items. And it was, it was fun. This came about, you know, we had had some great discussion and I and some other of the Reagan leaders went out in the hallway and they asked us of all the things that we talked about, it was kind of a Family Feud style, it was fun of all the things that were on the board, so to speak, what do we believe would be the top impact items for these agencies. Two thirds of the room, if you put number one and number two together, have these as their top item.

So I want to share this with you because I know that if it's two-thirds of this room are certainly an important thing with all agencies, we know it's important to you, the agent leader listener. So I want to share these two items with you today. Now, before I get into the specifics of this, uh I always want to mention the purpose of this podcast, and this is to help you the agent leader gain clarity, build consistency and make a commitment to become your best version possible. And I do wanna mention I had in the last couple of podcasts, we have launched a brand new product. In fact, I would call it a plan. In fact, I would probably call it a process because as it is, it is a product planning process to help you the agency leader get on the fast track for success. And the reason why it's so powerful is that we combine all client-facing team members of your agency, your producers, your sales leaders, and your account managers all through a 90-day transformational journey.

And I will tell you, we just got finished with our programs this past week, the ratings, the reviews, the feedback, the culture, the conversation is at such a high level and we would allow more agencies to have this opportunity. So if you want to learn more, go to to learn more about this. And we'll make sure we have it in the show notes as well. 

So let's get into the two impact items. And again, as I mentioned, I'm going to share these two impact items and then I'm gonna give it some tangible perspectives. Now, I realized when I put some bullet points together, there's more than this. But if I had to look at these two items and say, what are a few critical things you could begin to think about and actually do as an agency leader, what would they be? So the first thing that came up through our discussions that we got, we predicted and the agencies at the tables aligned upon was this developing a culture of accountability. Are we developing a culture of accountability? Now, we first Sitkins, let's give our perspective, define culture as the language and behaviors that are normal in your agency. The language and behaviors that are normal. What are people saying? What are people doing? And I know culture is a bit of a buzzword, but it's so important. That's why it was one of the top two items, a culture of accountability.

Now, of course, accountability is simply, are people doing what they said they were going to do? In some cases, maybe we haven't agreed upon anything in some cases we've asked and they haven't done it. Right? So, what I want to share with you are some things that you could do as a leader to help build that culture of accountability in your agency. Here's the first one. Do you as an agency leader in your leadership team, have you painted a clear and compelling vision of the future? Have you painted a clear and compelling vision of the future?

Now, before you say, well, that's, you know, that's just high level thought stuff. I'll tell you a couple of things in the conversations we have with agencies and continue to have with agencies. And we talked to the team member specifically if they're not clear on where the agency is going. And by the way, this doesn't mean you have every answer, right? We know things change, markets change. But to say this is the path, this is where we're headed. This is what it looks like. Here are a few of the non-optional things, the way that we do business, this is clear and we're providing you clarity, right? That is so important. So are you doing that as an agency leader? And the second part of the vision is, is it compelling? You know, one thing that agency leaders have, in fact, many agency leaders, not all, either currently have a book of business or they had a book of business. What that means is they were able to transfer ideas to other people. They could sell, right?

You as an agency leader need to be able to sell to your team a compelling vision of the future. I remember years ago when I was talking to one of my mentors, fantastic mentor. I said, you know, I keep talking to people and they say they're not interested. Now again, this isn't more of a sales conversation, but you as an agency leader are consistently selling a message to your team. And he said, are they not interested, Brent or are you not interesting? Are you not interesting? So part of this is, is your message to your team interesting? Would they care? And I know you've got different personalities on your team. So not everyone is going to react the same. But if you were telling the story of your agency, is it a good story? Is it an exciting story or is it I don't really have one or if it is, it makes me fall asleep, right? So paint a clear and compelling vision.

The second bullet point about a culture of accountability is this, you can't manage or lead air, right? You can't manage or lead air. What do I mean by this? You have a lot of conversations, right? Certainly with your team members. We should do this, we could do this. Are you doing this? Those happen frequently. The problem is they're spontaneous conversations, they're not defined and documented. And if you are trying to manage or as I believe, lead with influence just random conversations, you're going to be consistently frustrated because the person that you think should be doing something probably doesn't even know in some cases or doesn't remember or it's easy to forget in that vantage point. Or you might forget what you said. I don't really remember. It was important to get to the end of the year, and now you're both frustrated. "I thought you said this, I thought you were gonna do this. I misunderstood this." So let's have it clear that it's defined and documented that we're not managing or leading air.

And the last thing I want to share in this particular area of culture of accountability is understanding that there are the vital few versus trivial many. Now we talk a lot, in fact, during the ALI session, one of my presentations, I talked about the power of 80/20. You've heard me talk about this on this podcast before. If you were a longtime listener, right? We know that 80/20 is real, it can be applied in so many areas including leadership, right? There is 20% of the things that you talk about as a leader that you communicate as a leader that's going to give you 80% of the impact results that you want.

So often though, as agency leaders, we think we need to talk about everything all the time to everyone and what happens, it all gets washed out, it all gets drowned out. There's too much to process too much information, too much, at least too sporadic communication. So be able to say these are the vital few things that our agency is going to be working on, right? That we're gonna be doing, that are the key behaviors, the key processes, whatever you want to call them. But this is our core, right? This is what we're about and you know, here's what happens. And I talked about this at my table when we all had a chuckle about it because it's true. I know that I personally struggle with this. I know it, I'm aware of it. I'm working on it, but I struggle with it because there's always another idea, there's always another shiny object. There's always another thing that we could do. I heard this, I read this, I saw this now, you could use that maybe to enhance the core focus but not to divert the attention to what really matters, right? What we're really trying to accomplish.

And the story I told at the table is this. So often as agency leaders, you'll have a new idea, a new flavor of the month, whatever you want to call it. And after a period of time, your team knows that you're going to forget about it. So they wait until you leave the room and they look around each other and they say this, "don't worry, this too shall pass." And they go back to doing whatever they want to do. So we never get that culture of accountability because they don't need to be accountable because you're just going to forget and change your mind anyway.

So the three things here again is, do you have a clear and compelling vision? Do you have the roles and responsibilities defined and documented or are they just random conversations? And number three is, do you have too many things to think about? Is it the trivial many or do you have a vital few things that are consistently communicated in your agency?

By the way, one more mentorship lesson that I heard, and I love this, is that oftentimes one of the problems when we have the vital few is that we feel like we say it too much. We've said it too often. I had a mentor years ago who said this as a leader. "The minute you think you've over-communicated something that's important, you're probably getting close." You're probably getting close, because we need to reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.

The second item I want to get into that we talked about was this the biggest frustration or area of impact was recruiting, training and leading new producers, and I would say existing producers as well. But recruiting training and leading new producers. Now, three areas that I want to talk about here. One thing that we've mentioned on this podcast before, but I want to reinforce right now is that it starts with the current agency culture.

So I'll go back to number one, but it starts with the current agency culture of, are your current producers producing? Are your current producers in the green zone? As we talk about the Green Zone, the four money-making activities, sales relationship management, proactive continuations or if you've never heard of proactive renewals, right? We're reaching out proactive, that's the keyword and pipeline development, right? Those are the four things that producers should be doing 80% of the week. And oftentimes we have producers that are doing 20, 30, 40% of what they should be doing every week. And we're looking at bringing new producers in because we're not producing enough. Well, you might get lucky, right? You might find a producer that hops in and does great. But are you bringing other new producers into a culture that already doesn't produce, and guess what they're going to see, guess what they're going to model, guess what they're going to reinforce? Probably a similar culture that you've already established in your agency, right?

So again, these two tie together with the first and the second, but it does start with the Green Zone. The greatest producer recruiting method is to get your current producers to start doing what they should have been doing in the first place, to produce. It starts with that. So that's the first part. The second thing is this and, I kind of go back to what I mentioned in the first bullet point about managing or leading air. But I do think this is important too. Are we managing producers or leading producers?

Now, I think both can be important. I think management is certainly important, but we do lack oftentimes leadership. And I've said this many times that the number one role or number one goal of an agency leader is to develop your people. Is your agency a culture, back to that word again, of development, right? If you want to recruit, you want to train, you want to lead and I'm going to add, you want to retain producers.

Do you have a development program? Do you have a developmental plan for your producers in particular? This is true for your entire team, but certainly for your producers, right? I think a great example of this analogy I like to use is college sports. Now, college sports is crazy with recruiting and now we have nil money and all this kind of stuff going on, right? You can transfer, and there's no waiting anymore that creates issues. It also creates opportunities. What do I mean by that? Well, maybe you're not a college, that's the highest level blue blood, so to speak, right? You don't have all the cachet, but you're trying to grow and get the right people. One of the things that a lot of college athletes, not all but we understand and resonate with us. Hey, listen, we may not be the biggest today. But what we do is we have a specific development program that you're going to leave this program, a far higher level athlete, more opportunities, more options than when you got here. And if you're able to tell that story and of course, back it up, you will better be able to recruit and lead and I'll add the word, retain the best talent, right? So that's important. So, recruiting, training, and leading new producers.

Here's the third one, this one kind of came up at the end of our discussion is, does your agency have a set offense or a sales playbook? Now, why would this be that big deal for recruiting training and leading new producers? Well, I think it's pretty important when it comes to training into leading, because we have a playbook that we can go off of. It's really hard to train and develop people when there's no defined playbook. It's just, well, everybody figures it out. Good luck. Here's a phone, here's a computer, here's, you know, go get in your car, go talk to people. Now, this is our set offense and of course, there's always going to be some flexibility around that, but we need a defined set offense that we can rally around. And here's the caveat, which is really important to a set offense and a sales playbook, you're also much easier to recruit great talent because they know there's something there that they can apply to their life and their business, right?

It gives you as an agency, a competitive advantage in the marketplace. When you're trying to solve this issue, how do I find better people? How do I train my people better? How do I lead my people better? And again, my fourth one I'm at is "how do I retain the best talent?" Well, a set offense or playbook gives you more tools and resources and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

So those are my three: green zone focus, making sure we're leading with excellence just like we see colleges recruiting, and obviously having a sales process or plan that can be reinforced. Now, I said this earlier, I'll say it again to put a bow on this and also to truly from the bottom of my heart, ask you as an agency leader in a team if you really want to develop your people and you're struggling with how to do that, right? I have good intention. I want to develop my team. I want to have a better culture of accountability. I want to recruit and train and lead and retain the best people at a higher level. I know it's important. I just don't know how or the highest level of doing it.

We have created the best version, possible, fast track to do just that, to make it a way for you as an agent leader to go, finally. I have ability to get my team members involved. In fact, I'm gonna have some podcast episodes coming up where I'm going to be interviewing some people who went through that. The reason why is I want them to share how they've been able to get better communication with their team, better reinforcements with their team, more excitement with their team, more momentum with their team as they move forward because that's what we desire for you. So again, go to to learn more about that and how it will enhance your agency moving forward. As always, I want to thank you for being a listener. If this added value, leave a rating or review, share with your agency, friends who want to help more people get great results. And I wish you, I wish your agency all the best and your success. Thanks for listening.

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