Using Agency Employees to Improve Leadership

By: Catherine Oak

In today’s business climate innovations in technology and systems have upended communication, payroll and record keeping. Even with these drastic changes one aspect of a business has yet to change, the CEO.

Every company big and small has a CEO and their decision-making ability is key to successful growth. A truly great leader should have strong values and a rock solid mission statement, which all employees understand and look to for leadership. These values, mission statement and written goals rarely change as a company grows.

Leaders must continually question their decisions. Not in a way of self-doubt, but questioning to ensure they are in line with the future vision of the company. Doing so raises the business’ standards to a new level.

A business that grows long term is one that is innovative. When Oak & Associates is asked to assist agency owners with management and growth, we first talk to the owner of the agency, and then go to the employees and ask them what they would change if they were CEO. Their insight and ideas are usually much different and often more simple to implement, from the insight of the agency’s leadership. An Employee Survey is completed by each employee anonymously before going to the firm, so the consultant and owner knows what the employees believe are the problems.

For example, if the agency owner is looking to improve process and profit one must look no further than to those who are in the trenches daily, on the phones and face-to-face with the company’s clients, day in and day out. They have a great sense of knowing what needs to be done.

An owner who isn’t looking to improve those two key aspects is not a leader and instead one just keeping the status quo. The process that a leader puts into place is as important as the growth or goal itself.

The biggest mistake that agency owners make is that they forget about how important their employees are in accomplishing future growth. Including employees when making decisions gives the leader insight as to whether or not the goals set by the leader are possible.

Employees need to be asked and not made afraid to discuss changes needed to improve the operation.

One of the most dangerous things for CEOs is if they surround themselves with employees that have nothing to say or choose not to say anything. When that happens, the owner is at fault because they never encouraged or asked their employees to contribute. The good employees end up leaving. Most of the time this isn’t because the employees are unaware of any answers or ideas. Instead it is because they feel that their opinions are not valued. Also, when new employees from other agencies join, they should be encouraged to tell management what things were done differently and better in the agency they came from so they can be implemented to improve the operation. Often this input is discouraged or put down as “that’s not the way we do it here.”

To be a great leader of any organization, including insurance agencies, the leader needs to surround themselves with employees who ask great questions and continually challenge him or her as to how things are done. Those employees can brainstorm their ideas with each other and deliver their thoughts to management to improve the organization. The manager of that department or agency owner can be

The biggest mistake that agency owners make is that they forget about how important their employees are in accomplishing future growth.

present at this meeting, but only if they get out of the way and listen and encourage, not intimidate or put down those new thoughts and ideas.

Leaders must realize that creating an environment where employees feel encouraged to give feedback on programs, processes and how to improve profit is crucial to sustaining and creating more long term growth.

Leaders/owners need to make everyone in the organization feel a part of the agency’s success and reward those efforts that do contribute. How to reward those efforts will be the content of another article in the future, as well as how to create leaders in the organization.

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