Like a general in a battlefield who knows all about warfare but not in how to handle a bayonet—and who perhaps has never used it—I am perhaps the wrong person to give advice. But I’m of the thought that the best trainers are not the ones who have done it—done the job they’re training others to do—but who have seen other people do it. The guy from the mountain sees better than the one on the turf below.
I remember the days when people used to call me Bobby Fisher, partly because I beat the unbeatables, players who never lost and were reportedly better than me—even a grandmaster three times in a row, who lost with such a charm and grace that I wished I’d let him win once; but trying to lose deliberately would have insulted him.
But more than a few times, I had the pleasure of beating arrogant greats—starting with a German rated at 2010–usually by continuing a game that others had resigned. I indirectly challenged the masters by telling the person leaving his chair, “You can win this game!” The master would always point to the chair and invite me to prove it. There was no shortage of 2000+ raters wanting to throw the board at me without taking off the pieces first after I did.
They always said, “You just got in in the middle of the game,”—by which they meant I had had an unfair advantage. Maybe so, and it is highly likely, because I’d already seen the mistakes they were making before I entered the battlefield. Pat Riley might have never shot a sky-hook, but he made the Lakers into stars of the basketball sport.
I know if you paid me $100,000 right now, I could make your team of novice insurance agents a success in only a month, and I could make your office win any competition within the larger company. Have I ever proved my leadership like that? No, because no one has given me $100,000 to prove it. Hell, I’d do it for $50,000, that’s how desperate I am for money. But if you give me the keys, I’ll open the doors for you.
Now, could I do this with anything? Of course not. I could not lead a group of scientists in a quest to find brown dwarfs, and yet I’d be a big improvement on anyone else that might have attempted to lead them in that direction—not by knowing more science than they do, but by knowing how success is built from my failures—because when you know your failures, you often know what can fix them.
To be effective, one must gather data. After data has been gathered, the novice agent must be willing to keep it. It’s all about data and will. After that, it is about Know-Hows. A trainer must show an employee a way to accomplish a task almost without thinking, so that an agent will speak to clients during times of personal stress with the same ease he would add two plus two. You will have a lousy team, or one with average returns, if you force new team members to ask questions everywhere just to fill that which is causing their confusion.
What took a manager years to learn through hard work, his team must learn to do with all the keys already acquired. A manager cannot be arrogant, and tell his failing employee, “you want me to hand feed you on a silver platter what I worked hard to learn because you won’t work hard for it?” Well, yeah. Writers spend years on a book to have a reader enjoy it in one afternoon.
Some companies attempt to improve their team by motivational contests, speeches—“your family matters, right?”—and by flashing their bonuses on a board. This doesn’t work for new employees who have to convince others to buy something. New employees need data and know-how on how to transmit it. Knowing these two things, you could be having a bad day, but you’ll be able to accomplish your work like you can count two plus two even after a breakup, and feel a lot better when you make that sale.
Would you rather miss a month training a soon-to-be great team that would make your company a star, or would you have the same secure year you had last time? Of course, an insurance agency is different from a school’s classroom. In a classroom you’re not leading a team, but trying to fill minds with complicated lives some information. You cannot fire them—unless they misbehave—and must deal with them as they are.
New employees lack knowledge, they lack every information and a lot of it regarding the company they’ve come to work for. If a new employee in a new agency has to prove his or her mettle by asking questions from the whole world on every floor on how to do one thing or the other, and finding out relevant information they might have to communicate to their clients, your agency’s growth is going to be predictable. The old salespeople will still be the stars, but you will be having a lot of comings and goings from new employees.
If you expect to have a stellar year like that, well, good luck. You might have a good year, and I don’t know what your idea of “stellar” is, but trust me, you will not have it as good as you could have had it had you regarded your new employees as the future engines of your company—because in the end, old soles will leave.
This throwing of new employees—who actually are hungry for success—into the rough and tumbling waters of the insurance business—or any business—that requires communicating a product to a client does cut off the good from the bad—but what if you could make the bad good? Why would you want to keep hiring and interviewing people all year round for the same gains you had before? There’s only one reason you should be seeing to employ new people—if you’re opening a new office. That’s it.