LAS VEGAS — The leaders of GAMA International hope they can help fill what they see as a void in efforts to develop the next generation of financial services industry leaders.
National Underwriter Life & Health Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch sat down here with the leaders of GAMA, Falls Church, Va., at the 2010 Leadership & Management Program.
Those leaders – Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Hughes, President Linda Witham, President-elect John Baier and Vice President Kenneth Gallacher – talked about the need to do more with less, and to help other industry groups meet their objectives.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
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HERSCH: How would you assess attendance at this year’s LAMP conference?
HUGHES: This year, we had nearly 2,600 attendees. And a record 31 companies held managerial meetings in conjunction with LAMP. This is recognition of [the important work we do] to support field leaders.
Through our main platform session and workshops focused around sourcing, recruiting, training, development and accountability, we’re providing proven results from practitioners to help people improve the quality of their organizations. Many of our sessions now have a more strategic and leadership focus, like how to build a diverse business organization and be more effective at coaching.
WITHAM: This year, some 600 people were here as part of a team. Among them were recruiters who were in their first year of management. These folks compose part of LOTT–Leaders of Today and Tomorrow–individuals who are under 40 or have less than 5 years of management. They make up about one-third of our domestic membership.
HUGHES: We’re helping to develop the next generation of field leaders with the introduction of our new GAMA Foundation research program, Elements of Leadership: Achieving Excellence in Frontline Management, which aims to help to help agents become competent sales manager and front-line leaders. We have aspirations and capabilities to help the industry reinvent itself with a new generation of field leaders.
HERSCH: What challenges do companies face in transitioning young advisors to field leaders?
WITHAM: Gen X and Gen Y people will often tell us during exit interviews that they found the work too hard. When we ask what challenges they faced in life, many say, ‘nothing.’ They’ve never had anything to overcome.
GALLACHER: I’ve found, too, that they’re resistant to accountability.
WITHAM: At my company, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, we’ve changed the interview selection process to identify people who have had enough life experience, people who will persevere and overcome life’s challenges.
HUGHES: It is more difficult to find qualified candidates among the younger generation. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be sensitive to what motivates them to do the work. But, to Linda’s point, people who have faced and overcome adversity are better suited for this business than those who have never had to surmount obstacles.
HERSCH: What distinguishes the new Elements of Leadership program from other initiatives funded by the GAMA Foundation?
HUGHES: Elements of Leadership teaches the fundamental skills of recruiting, selection, training and development, accountability, plus support and culture. Two sections also focus on what it means to be a manager and a leader. The program thus addresses both the skills and behaviors needed to be effective as a leader.
Our Systems for Success suite of products, which the Foundation has developed over the last 6 years, allows leaders to explore more deeply these core skills. Our Essentials of Leadership & Management program helps them to refine those skills and to develop and carry out a vision for their organizations. And we’re delivering all of these solutions for pennies on the dollar as compared to what any one company would have to invest to replicate these processes and best practices.
WITHAM: The programs are all activity- or experienced-based. The real learning takes place by going out and doing.
GALLACHER: Training departments have shrunk drastically since the 1980s, when I came into the business. The Elements of Leadership program fills an urgent need because the companies no longer have the manpower to do the [leadership development work] all on their own.
HERSCH: What other initiatives is GAMA pursuing?