By Jack Bobo
The job of a field manager is a lot more difficult than is often realized. Whether as a general agent or managing partner, the job requires multiple skills, a mountain of patience, and, perhaps most of all, good judgment. Is it any wonder that good ones are so hard to come by?
The job starts with the selection process of finding viable candidates and recognizing that there are exceptions to virtually every rule. That is where judgment comes in, because, despite all the testing, successful candidates do not fit a standard pattern. Lifting a neophyte to success requires individual consideration and direction in finding just the right path to success and sustaining it over the long pull.
One of the more difficult aspects of field management is that of properly managing the failure, and the judgment to know when it is best for all parties concerned to pull the plug. It is not helpful to our business to have a lot of bitter ex-agents bad-mouthing the companies and our products as an excuse for their failure. Properly managed, such people can leave with the feeling that they tried, but this is just not their cup of tea.
I recall an agent in our office who was hired from a men’s clothing store and who after two years concluded the business was not for him. I ran into him some months later where he was working as the manager of the men’s department of one of our largest department stores. He seemed very happy in his new job and I said to him that he was fortunate to have a background in men’s clothing to qualify him in his new position. He replied, “I was not hired because of my clothing experience. I was hired because of my experience as an insurance agent.” A happy ending for one who didn’t make it with us and a testimony to the respect his new employer had for insurance agent training as opposed to the training of retail salespeople.
As difficult as managing those who grow normally and those who do not make it is perhaps the most vexing of all–managing the instant success. A couple of examples will illustrate my point.