In any business, effective leadership is critical for an agency’s success. As the insurance market evolves, insurance leaders need to be visionary and adaptable. The prevalence of small businesses in the industry, however, requires a different approach to the traditional leadership model.
Although there are exceptions to the rule, as some agencies have sophisticated business models, many small agencies lack structure.
“Ours is a small business industry, which typically signifies a business with little structure,” said Tom Barrett, president of the Midwest and Southeast regions of SIAA, Inc. “These agencies do not have detailed marketing and business plans, do not follow sales processes, have not created business budgets and take orders rather than selling products … These agencies provide what the customer asked for rather than selling additional value.”
With the shifting market, however, strong leadership is critical for navigating the changes within the industry. No matter what size the business may be, an effective leader can guide the agency toward success, profitability and higher employee morale.
1. Leadership requires effort. Being in a leadership role does not necessarily make someone a leader. Leadership is earned. Where management may control and direct people, leadership requires motivation and coaching. Leaders must have a clear understanding of the goals for the future of the agency, but also knowing how the agency can achieve them. They also must develop plans and budgets that follow a relatable sales process, creating a roadmap for their agency for guidance. At the same time, however, the leadership role is not autonomous. Good leaders need to seek the skills, knowledge, effort and resources needed to accomplish the agency’s goals.
2. Leadership requires followers. Leadership cannot be an assumed role; rather, it is earned through proper selection of key positions in the agency. While criteria exist for determining competent CSRs, these criteria do not necessarily match the traits and characteristics of top producers in the industry. Strong leaders need to know how to choose the best personnel for their agency, orchestrating the mission and the process. If there is a level of mutual respect between employees and the leadership, they will trust the leader’s decisions. The opposite, however, is also true.
3. Leadership is being a maestro. Understanding how employees’ unique traits contribute to the work environment and job description are important for leaders to coach and motivate their employees. Employees need to fit within the framework of cooperation between leadership and team members. As a maestro, the leader needs to learn and understand individual employees’ unique skills and work habits to encourage productivity, effectively manage conflicts and foster growth and improvement among employees.
4. Leadership demands accountability. Leaders must create benchmarks for employee performance, instilling employees with satisfaction and company loyalty. At the same time, setting annual goals and objectives help employees constantly provide feedback, which creates an environment of accountability for all agency employees and develops a strong, collaborative environment.