It's important for agencies to develop resources to help producers thrive, minimize the risk of producer underperformance and protect the investment made with each new hire.
To help producers in an agency succeed, there are various roles that can be brought in for guidance. While these roles are frequently intermingled, it is important to understand what each role brings separately. This will ensure producers benefit from the support and agencies develop and align resources to help producers thrive, minimize the risk of producer underperformance and protect the significant investment made with each new hire or acquisition.
Here are four roles that can help producers and agencies succeed:
1) Manager. Think of this role as the general manager of a baseball team, responsible for providing strategic direction and ensuring vital resources are made available to the organization. The manager's understanding of payroll and investments helps create a profitable winning team.
Managers evaluate performance, ensuring producer performance is ultimately in alignment with the goals and objectives of the agency. With input and support from others, they initiate the hiring process, make hiring decisions, gauge if a producer is a fit organizationally, conduct performance management and are the final authority about retention or termination.
In addition, they coordinate program structure, ensuring that foundational activities such as licensing, systems training and annual planning activities are executed. Managers are directional strategists who inform coaches, mentors and trainers so that their actions can support the goals of the agency.
2) Mentor. Mentors fill a unique space and often wear multiple hats. As both confidant and teacher, a mentor's role is largely designed to provide personal and professional direction and insights to mentees in their charge. They evaluate the skills, desires and goals of the mentee, and through regular engagements, help build confidence and progress towards their goals.
Mentors often naturally model the behavior the organization is seeking from leaders and have a genuine desire to see others succeed. True mentors prioritize the needs of the mentee, often facilitate hard-truth conversations, and help their mentees make difficult decisions that will lead them toward their goals. This can include helping them discover they are in a role that may not be a good fit, that their skills may need to be refined, or even help them self-select out of a role or opportunity that conflicts with their aspirations. As a confidant, they often address personal issues that are creating professional barriers.
Professionally, mentors tend to be seasoned and have had experiences that allow them to be relatable, as well as insightful. It's also important they lack a personal agenda for their mentorship.
3) Trainer. In many cases, the trainer is the most undervalued member of the producer's support system. Trainers are critical in the development of a functional and successful production team. Trainers share information and help producers convert it to knowledge. They are responsible for imparting accurate, relevant and actionable learnings that build skills, help producers compete, reduce client risks and protect the agency from errors & omissions events.
They are often undervalued because the insurance industry has commoditized training by focusing on continuing education credits instead of building technical acumen.
4) Coach. While you're not likely to hear “put me in, coach" in an agency, coaches play an important role in ensuring producers are leveraging resources effectively to compete and win deals. As deal strategists, coaches provide perspective and support. They help control emotions when deals become complicated and stressful.
Typically, coaches have been in the producer role and are equipped to empathize while remaining clear-headed in their advice. Because of their experience, they are excellent at helping producers avoid landmines such as commoditization. They also excel at leveraging technical and sales acumen to outplay competitors.
Importantly, the coach's advice should align with the trainer's teachings and the strategic direction provided by management to minimize conflict, which could create producer confusion.
Understanding these roles, how they work together and, more importantly, how they can drive successful outcomes is critical for producer success and ensuring agency resources are appropriately leveraged and deployed.
Susan Toussaint is vice president, growth solutions with ReSource Pro. For more than a decade, Susan has been training, coaching and developing programs to help insurance professionals overcome barriers to organic growth.