Unlocking Agency Success with Accountability


One of the biggest reasons why independent insurance agencies typically struggle with the A word - accountability - is because they're often doing it backwards. I'm going to talk about that on today's Agent Leader podcast. Welcome to the Agent Leader podcast. My name is Brent Kelly. I'm your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this very impactful, this very important episode where I'm going to share with you a different approach, a different way, maybe to look at the word accountability. More importantly, the actions associated with accountability. Now, let me start with this. One of the best things about independent insurance agencies, and when I talk to independent insurance agencies, I say this is that you are independent. You have some freedom and flexibility to do the things that you want to do. Very cool. In fact, the latest studies say there are around 40,000 - 40,000! independent insurance agencies.

And I can tell you, although there's many similarities, there are vast differences. Why? Because they're independent. Now, here's the challenge. The difficult part, the most challenging part for many independent insurance agencies is you are independent, right? There often is a lack of structure or process based around your agency. So this all stems from the A word accountability. How do we get more accountability? And we talk about accountability. Are we approaching it from the right perspective? Today, I'm going to share with you again, a unique, a different approach. I think a simplified approach to accountability. Now, we go much deeper in this and have more resources and tools for our agency partners, our members. Hint, hint, if you want to check that out, go to sitkins.com to learn more about us, some of the tools and resources we provide, and of course, how we work with independent insurance agencies like you.

Go to sitkins.com. If you want to check out our book, which is titled Best Version Possible, it is the blueprint for greater impact for greater profit, all with less effort. Go to sitkins.com/bvp, which by the way, in our book, Best Version Possible, we talk about aspects of this accountability and what it looks like. So let me get into the content today, because again, in my view, in my work with independent insurance agencies and coaching and training and consulting with agencies and agency leaders, I know that some agencies have a decent grasp on this. Some agencies are very sporadic and some agencies just avoid it, right? I don't even want to deal with some of this stuff. Let the people do what they need to do and we'll clean up the rest later. Now, I don't know where you are as an independent insurance agency leader in this whole scope where you're at.

You might be right at the top, you may be at the very bottom, but wherever you are, there is opportunity to. And I think one of the challenges that we see with agencies, accountability is I think they start at the end. And what I mean by this is that they go, gosh, why aren't my people? Why isn't this person more accountable? Give you a generic example. Maybe it's a sales leader and a producer. And the conversation at the end of the year if a producer didn't hit their goals is, gosh, you didn't quite hit your goals this year. And the producer says, yeah, I didn't quite hit my goals this year. And the leader says, next year you need to hit your goals. And the producer says, yeah, next year I'm going to hit my goals. Okay, good conversation. I'm glad we got this solved.

Go out there and be accountable. Obviously, that's a bit of a farfetched story, although maybe a few of you are listening and you're going, that hits a little bit close to home. So we like the idea of accountability, but we don't really approach it in the right way. So what I want to do with you, obviously accountability, we joke, is this A word, the A word, accountability. I think there are three other A's that need to come before accountability to make it truly work, right? So here's the good news about this podcast, and maybe this is from my perspective, I like to keep things as simple, and I love a whole approach. It starts with the same letter. So if you're taking notes at home, get your pen and paper out. We're going to go through these four A's. And the first A is Alignment.

Alignment. Now, you may take this A for granted. I will tell you at the Sitkins Group and with our Sitkins Network and how we approach agencies, this is our first phase. This is in fact, the first phase of our Best Version Possible model is alignment. Now, in the perfect world and what we teach and what we provide is we provide complete coaching, training, and consulting based around leadership, sales, and service. Three critical aspects of every independent insurance agency that do we have the same goal, which typically is something based around retain and obtain your ideal clients to grow the agency, retain and obtain ideal clients, understanding there's appreciation, there's respect, and there's trust. Big part of accountability in the different roles, right? So same goal, different roles. And again, the way we approach it is that if we're going to have true accountability, we need to understand, appreciate, respect, and trust the different roles within the agency.

So to me, it starts with aligning the values, the purpose, the mission, the model, the vision, things you've heard. Before we do anything else, because if we don't have alignment upfront, all we're going to have is sporadic activity at the end. It all starts with alignment. Now, a big part of alignment is defining specifically what are the things in my role that I need do that I need to be aware of that are most important and impactful? And I will tell you this, and this would be a great question to ask anybody on your team, Hey, what are your specific roles within this agency? Whether you're talking to a producer, a service professional, someone on your leadership team. Now, I know especially with agencies with not a huge amount of people on your staff that there's going to be hybrid. There's going to be some crossover.

But what you'll often find when you ask this question to define your role is that either some people don't really know or they can't define or describe it, or they have a list of 28 different things. Now, why is this important? Well, it's really hard to be accountable to something that you haven't defined. It just is, right? Well, how do I know if I'm even doing the right things or are the things that I'm doing, the things that I should be doing most often? So it does start with alignment, and everything that we talk about at Sitkins and working with agencies is that if we don't get this part right, if we don't have that understanding, I'll say it again, the appreciation, the respect, the trust, and then I'll add onto this, knowing our specific roles within the entire agency unit, accountability is just a buzzword that's never going to work.

So it definitely starts with alignment. The next part is obviously once we understand we have alignment and we have a better grasp on our roles, it's taking the proper actions that we need to take. These are the specific things that I'm going to do. Now, why this is important is this, oftentimes I see it comes with accountability, that we try to manage numbers. You didn't hit this number, you didn't do this. Now that's the outcome. And I'm not saying not to look at numbers. I think we all could agree that numbers pretty important for agency success. The metrics that we need, the KPIs, whatever terms you want to use, those are obviously critically important. But again, I'll say this one more time. You can't manage numbers, and we say at the Kins group, you only can manage the behaviors. To go back to the silly example of the sales leader and the producer, right?

Well, you didn't hit your numbers. You hit your numbers, yes, but what are the behaviors the producer should have been doing that they weren't, that caused the outcome of a lack of hitting the numbers? What is that? So you have to be very intentional about the actions that we take. So this is why I want to bring this up, is if you went going back to your team and ask your team, okay, what are your roles specifically within those roles? What are the behaviors that are most critical to know that we are on the right path to achieving success? What are the behaviors? I will give you a very tangible example because this is forefront with things that we teach at the Sitkins Group for producers is getting producers in the green zone at a very simplified level. We'd say, well, the critical things are how many appointments? Your sales conversations, your pipeline development, your proactive relationship deposits, and we talk about continuations, leading continuations correctly. Those are critical things that we know

If doing those things, you're doing the right behaviors. In fact, we actually go a step deeper on this and have a Best Version Possible habit tracker. We look at specific trackers, things that you could check off as far as behaviors. In fact, you can rate yourself, and we don't expect producers or teams to be perfect, but it does give them what? It gives them action steps that they know they can and should take. It's not just a big nebulous of things that you might do, could do, should I do? When will I do it? How will I do it? These are the non-optional behaviors that I know are most critically important. So now I have an action plan versus just a general idea or thought. Now, by the way, this next one, these two go together is awareness. You have an action plan. In fact, to give an example of having this tracker, whatever it is, or these are my three most core or critical functions that I do my actions.

Now I have a level of awareness if I'm doing them or not, and maybe that sounds like trite. Oh, come on. No, I'm serious. I will tell you, in many agencies, whether I talk to teams or leaders, the problem isn't so much of the fact that they know they should be doing stuff. They're committed to the team. They want to get success, they want to get results. They really do. But if they haven't defined the action, they're not even aware if they're doing it right. A quote that I share all the time, running the wrong direction, enthusiastically is stupid. Running the wrong direction enthusiastically is stupid. And if we don't have awareness on the specific things we should do, we oftentimes will find ourself moving a million miles an hour, but unfortunately, we're going in the wrong direction. So awareness is, Hey, there are some things here that I need to consider that I need to be able to be aware of. And by the way, here's the most powerful point of awareness and action. These two kind of middle steps here of a awareness and action, it allows you as a leader to coach your team to excellent, not chase them on things that we don't even know if is the most impactful things.

Did you do that? Did you do that? Well? I don't know. Yeah, kind of, right? And you get frustrated. Having awareness and having actions defined based on alignment, which is the first step, will allow you to say things like, gosh, Joe or Jill, help me understand. Which by the way, are three really powerful words in accountability. Help me understand why you're not doing these three or four things that we both agreed together are most important for your success. I thought we agreed upon this. So help me understand right now, that's one way you can phrase this, but bottom line is, as a leader, your number one responsibility as a leader, your number one responsibility is to grow and develop your number one asset, which is your people. And I am not saying that is easy, that is hard. It is challenging. People move. Producers are like Jello on a tree.

We know there's a lot of moving parts to this, but if we don't get the alignment right, if we don't establish the proper actions and have awareness on what those actions are, it is almost impossible because guess what? You're managing or leading air. But if you have these other things in place upfront, you now have a place where you truly can provide value as a coach and a mentor and a leader. Hey, listen, this one thing here, it looks like it's the one piece that we're missing, that you're not doing, that you haven't been doing. We both agreed is important. How can I help you achieve that? How do we modify that behavior? For example, what are some things we could do to empower you, to equip you in different ways to help you get that done? There's a different type of conversation that is had around accountability.

When we get these first three things established, and I'll say them again, alignment, same goal, different roles, establishing what those roles truly are, right? Actions, being able to identify specific, not obscure, but specific behaviors that we can agree upon are going to be most important and effective, and that person being successful in the organization. And of course then of the awareness to say, here's what I did. Here's what I didn't do. We have some form of a, and don't take this the wrong way, a scorecard, but something that we can look at, that we can agree upon together to review where there might be weak links to allow you to be, again, a more effective leader and coach ultimately to get the accountability that we want. That's why I said at the beginning of this podcast, I think we often do things backwards. Well, we need these people to be accountable.

Could you imagine if all these people just did the things they said they were going to do? But the truth of it is we may not even know specifically what those things are. We haven't aligned, we haven't defined the proper actions, and we don't have any tools around awareness to be able to have conversations that lead to improvement in growth. And that's why oftentimes just so people are like, why are they always on my back? Why are they always chasing me? Why are they always asking? Oftentimes, we're both guessing. We want results. We want the outcome. I mean, at least the best people do, right? We want the outcome and results. We're just not quite sure how to go about it. So I hope something here that I shared with you today, there's one or two, three things that you go, ha, we could make a fine tune adjustment in this area or look at different ways of getting better at this.

And I mentioned in the beginning, we have resources and tools. We have reverse performance agreements. We have a two-way promise agreements. We have lots of things that agencies modify and use with us because we want to help empower and equip you the independent insurance agency leader to be able to do these things at a higher level. Because without accountability, you don't have much. You certainly can't get consistency if we don't have accountability and there's never perfect accountability, but there's always ways we can improve accountability. And by the way, the best agencies, the best producers, the best service professionals, the best leaders, they seek and desire accountability, not because they want to be chased or followed. It's because they know there's that best version of them. And that without a roadmap and route, without other people to help you in that journey, you're never going to get it on your own.

The most talented performers in the world, the most talented athletes in the world, they all have coaches. Why? Well, they're already good, Brent, why would they need coaches? Because success leaves clues, because they know there's always a higher level of them. They never want to look back at the end of their life and say, I just kind of floated through that, and I guess I got to here. And these are the type of agencies that we desire to work with. We know as an organization, some of the stuff I'm talking about today that many agencies go, I don't really want that. I like things the way they are. And that is fine. But if you're an agency that seeks a higher level that wants to be encouraged and challenged, that wants to have processes and structure and truly that alignment, true alignment that we've talked about, I've talked about in this podcast, then I'd love to have a conversation with you.

We would love to have a conversation with you, learn more about your goals, your vision, some challenges, and see if there's an opportunity that we can help you take your agency to break through any stagnation or plateaus or frustrations that you're having to truly become that best version possible. Again, you can learn more about us at sitkins.com. For right now, in today's podcast, I want you to consider this, what weak links do you have in your accountability? Which one of these A's whether it's alignment, awareness, action, of course, leading to the actual accountability, are there opportunities for improvement in your agency? And what would it look like? Imagine if you achieved a higher level of accountability. What's possible? What does that best version look like? I wish you all the best and your success. Thanks for listening.


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