How to Create & Reward Exceptional Agency Leaders

It’s always difficult to admit not being good at something — especially when you are the agency owner and leader of an insurance agency. But knowing a person’s weaknesses is extremely important. Leaders who understand their own weaknesses can find employees to fill that talent void.

Humans are best when they specialize. Look no further than to Henry Ford, who increased factory output dramatically by having workers who were trained to be exceptionally great in one facet of his company. Ford was never seen installing parts on his cars. This isn’t because he wasn’t capable, but because it was not the best use of his time. Besides, he had valuable employees to do tasks he couldn’t or didn’t want to do. Knowing what is going on within a company is part of being a CEO, but you don’t actually have to be good or even capable of doing that task.

Play To and Identify Strengths

Leaders of small companies often get too deep in more mundane parts of their business when a problem arises. While this can be acceptable for larger issues, small ones can easily distract the owner/leader from more important work. When agency owners have issues with this, we tell them to write themselves a personal job description, considering areas of both their strengths and weaknesses. Putting pen to paper and evaluating personal weaknesses can be uncomfortable to look at — weaknesses such as analytical savvy, computer skills, training salespeople, etc. It is an important exercise because those weak traits can usually be found in new hires or in existing employees.

Those working to positively improve workflows and provide new ideas should be given rewards and credit for these improvements.

The best-run company is one where the head owner could disappear for an extended period of time and come back to an agency that is still well-functioning. The first step in this is to hire and train the best employees one can find. New hires need to be viewed as future leadership replacements, not just task completers.

Many owners will balk at the costs of hiring top talent, and instead settle for new, inexperienced or even marginal workers. This becomes a self-fulfilling cycle because then owners will lack trust in those employees.

With lackluster staff, the agency owner will delegate tasks instead of independence, the latter being critical for growth. In businesses where owners continually micromanage with top-down control, efficiency is capped and stagnation can result. Growth only comes from the proper delegation of authority to the firm’s talent.

Steps to Improve Leadership

To foster leadership within, start by getting those recent excellent hires inspired with an optimistic and forward-looking vision. This can be based off of what is unique to the company, such as excellent customer service, special programs or things like valued services.

Then using this vision as a template, and identify potential leaders that exemplify said traits. Be sure to occasionally test them through challenging tasks. Give them independence on these overwhelming tasks and see how they respond to it and problems that steam from those decisions.

Independence is huge when trying to create leaders. How can your work truly be your own if you are constantly being corrected or guided? Let employees have the power to take their own creative route, and be responsible for the results.

If leaders have confidence in staff, this helps them take on new challenges. New employees must be reminded that it’s OK to improve long-standing company processes and procedures. Too often during mergers or acquisitions, Oak & Associates will see two different competing processes that both owners see as the best. A balance of these processes is needed with the best ideas winning.

This same concept can also be applied to hires from other agencies who have been exposed to other ways of doing things. Their experience can be a possible gold mine of insider knowledge that can make a company much more refined and innovative, if new employees are tapped for better ways to do things.

Provide a Variety of Rewards

Sometimes leaders are blind to their own mistakes. What’s important is creating a work culture where new hires believe it’s OK to critique and improve the status quo. Those working to positively improve workflows and provide new ideas should be given rewards and credit for these improvements.

There are lots of ways to reward employees. In addition to monetary rewards, many employees today are also focused on time off, providing increased authority, and offering health club memberships, childcare, working from home to save commuting time, four-day work weeks, insurance company trips, dinners out, etc.

Asking employees what rewards most important to them, such as during performance reviews, can help management provide rewards that individual employees feel are the most valuable or best for them. This can also improve morale.

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