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Lost & Never Found

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lost & Never Found?

 

There are arguments happening in dorm rooms across the country about it right now.

Spouses are yelling.

Kids are getting grounded over it.

What’s the problem?  Messiness.

But disorganization causes more than discord.  It causes profit loss.

How?

Brother (the company that makes the P-touch labeler…kinda’ experts at this organization thing) conducted a survey on the very topic.  They found that an estimated 38 hours are lost per employee every year as a result of time spent looking for misplaced items in the office. That’s a week of hide-and-seek per person!  And if you have 10 employees in your office averaging $30 an hour, that equates to over $11,000 chasing after things that shouldn’t be lost in the first place.

Interested in evaluating your personal organization skills and how they might compare?  Brother actually has a short survey to calculate your own Work Disorganization Index (admit it, you want to know).  How about setting up a friendly competition between co-workers while you’re at it—loser buys lunch.  

To get started, simply visit
http://www.brother-usa.com/ptouch/MeansBusiness/default.aspx and you can answer questions related to meeting preparation, record keeping, lost items, and the appearance of your workplace.  It’s a fun way to help you address a relatively serious issue.  The site will also help you calculate the cost of disorganization at your own company and will provide some tips for improvement from a Certified Professional Organizer (Yes, there’s designations for every field!). Of course, many ideas include P-touch labelers—it is their website after all--but if each of us were able to turn just one or two of their simple suggestions into habit, it could make a genuine difference.  Want to join me in turning over a new leaf?

Now if I could just find my pen…

 

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Back Off Boss

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Updated: Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back Off Boss

I just read an article in The Washington Post titled How helicopter parents are ruining college students.  It got me thinking…what harm results from helicopter bosses?

According to the Post article, a study published in Education + Training found that helicopter parents—those who watched their kid’s every move, fought their child’s battles and coordinated every detail of daily life—actually created more harm than good.  The study revealed that these sheltered kids “had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness…”

So, are you constantly running interference for your direct reports?  Do you tweak projects endlessly, even when it’s more about style and doesn’t really impact the potential outcome?  Are you providing a constant stream of advice, explanations or check-ins…even when no one has asked for your help?

 

If so, you might be a boss that hovers.  And that may have more to do with your own issues than any potential problems with those you supervise.  Some of your helicopter tendencies may have to do with your own insecurities—it’s my job to oversee everything…what if they fail?  If I’m not doing this, what WILL I do with my time?  Or, it may be inherent in your nature to “take care” of people.  Regardless, a little less hovering is good for everyone.  Not only will you be freed up to grow professionally yourself, but you will be doing a favor for those who need to learn their own way in the work world.  I’m not talking abandonment, just a redirection of oversight.

 

All it takes is a little refocusing of support.  Work to provide proactive training and development for your employees. If you see an issue with a project, ask for their ideas for improvement instead of offering up the solution at the get-go.  Be sure to review job performance and compensation at regular intervals and never overlook the power of public recognition.  You can even provide support by ensuring workplace comfort—the right lighting, temperature and supplies. 

 

So back off boss. Provide support without smothering. It’s the best way everyone learns to fly on their own.

 

 


Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Breaking Through Roadblocks

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Breaking Through Roadblocks 

You’ve done this before--hundreds of times, maybe more.  So how do you keep ideas fresh when you hit a roadblock at work, when you feel less than inspired?

Federico Einhorn has some excellent ideas in 5 Practical Ways to Overcome ‘No New Ideas’ Syndrome.  Although his ideas are specific to content generation, his suggestions are helpful to anyone struggling with a project at work.   

  1. Relax. If it’s time to come up with new ideas or see an issue from a new angle, stress is your enemy.  As Einhorn says about pressure: “Think of it as falling into quicksand: The more you struggle, the faster you sink.”  Focus on anything but the task at hand for a few minutes until you can “unclench your brain”—take a short walk, talk with a coworker, finish a simple item or two from your to-do list.

  2. Let ideas come to you. There’s an incredible network of experts freely sharing their own ideas out there. Take advantage of that. Take advantage of the AIMS Society!  Chances are someone else has a fresh take on things or has faced the same issue and can provide a new route to consider.

  3. Take it to the crowd. As Einhorn says, “If you’re tired of racking your brain for new ideas, talk to other people and see if they can come up with something for you.”  Pose open-ended questions, find out what they suggest. Discover what keeps them up at night. Float a few ideas of your own and see how they’re received.

  4. Recognize there’s nothing wrong with re-using old ideas. Einhorn points out something our ego may not love to hear: Not everyone was paying attention the first time around.  If it was a good idea once, it will be a good idea again. Of course, if there is something you can do to improve or change it up a bit, so much the better.

  5. Go out there and experience things for yourself. Put down the smartphone; shut down your computer. Attend conferences, take a client to lunch just to see what’s up. When you have more casual conversations, new ideas invariably bubble to the top. What you learn may be your next great idea.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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Owning Your Brand

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Updated: Monday, August 25, 2014

Owning Your Brand

In his article, Agency Models: What Defines Today’s True Independent Agency, Mark E. Ruquet said, “The conventional definition of an independent agent is an entrepreneur who owns his or her book of business and offers multiple carriers to service their clients.”

The single word that jumped out at me in that sentence was “entrepreneur,” and it left me wondering how many insurance agents truly treat their business in an entrepreneurial manner.  What does it take to do that?  Jayson DeMers is founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency and contributor to Entrepreneur magazine (which seems like a promising start for expertise on the subject).  He believes there are five important skills every successful entrepreneur should possess:

1.       Communication—whether you think you’re a natural or believe this is a personal challenge, DeMers recommends paying attention to how people react when you talk for clues about your effectiveness.  If you’re seeing puzzled looks, you know there’s work to be done.

2.       Branding (personal and business). To be effective, DeMers maintains that you must be online and active on social media.  As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, deliver relevant content that helps you connect with your audience—this isn’t the place for overt selling.  He offers these resources to help you get started if you’re still reluctant: 5 Ways to Build Your Brand in Short Chunks of Time and The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.

3.       Selling—DeMers maintains that everyone is in sales, noting that “every time you deliver your elevator pitch about your business, negotiate with a vendor, or even just persuade anyone to do anything, you’re tapping into sales skills.”  He emphasizes that most sales likely come from conversations and says, “If you focus on helping, rather than selling, you’ll feel more confident about the sales process, and make more sales, too.” 

4.       Strategy—with all the daily to-dos, it’s easy to lose sight of the long-term challenges and goals of the business.  But DeMers encourages everyone to “dedicate time to simply dream about what you want for your business–it’s the only way to grow over time and remain competitive.”  Dreaming doesn’t sound like a bad to-do list item at all!

5.       Finance—reality demands what DeMers calls a “decent understanding of your finances, profit margins, cash flow and funding.”  Knowledge equals comfort and that means better decisions.  He recommends a tool that helps you actually visualize the numbers beyond spreadsheets too. 

So even if you’re surrounded by co-workers and you see your position as a niche role within a bigger organization, treat your brand as if you are a solo entrepreneur.  It’ll surely add to your passion, help you create buy-in with others and should make even the more mundane tasks feel more relevant.  Now that’s how to own your brand!

Tags:  Insurance Journal  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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Lessons Learned

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lessons Learned

As kids head back to school, take a moment to think about your favorite teacher.  Perhaps it was an elementary teacher who seemed to appreciate your unique personality or made you believe in a talent you never thought you possessed.  Or maybe it was a high school teacher or college professor who ignited your curiosity because they were as interested in your viewpoint as they were in the subject at hand.   

Your favorite teacher likely made you feel very important.  Valued.  Relevant.  It was more about you; not so much about them.  And that’s what made them so memorable.  When’s the last time you did the same for one of your customers?  Approached the sale from their perspective and figured out what you could do to make their job easier and engage their enthusiasm?

What are other “great teacher” qualities we could all apply to our jobs?

  • Confidence:  Stellar teachers know their topic.  They teach from a deep base of knowledge, able to deftly change the lesson plan based on the audience.
  • Patience:  Sometimes a teacher has to repeat, repeat, repeat, until the student grasps the lesson.
  • Empathy:  Great teachers know their class isn’t the only show in town.  They understand that distractions come from other stresses. If they can help ease any of those stresses, the chances of success increase.
  • Flexibility:  Students learn in different ways—visually, orally, through hands-on projects etc.  Outstanding teachers match teaching style to the student and can explain a topic in different ways, from different perspectives. 
  • Pride: Memorable teachers are often great at noting a student’s success and sharing accomplishments.
  • Dedication: The bell may ring, but the best teachers stay engaged as necessary.
  • Curiosity:  Enthusiasm extends beyond their subject, leading outstanding teachers to ask questions, learn from others and understand outside viewpoints.

So yes, we’re in insurance, but there’s always more we can learn to make ourselves better salespeople.  Class dismissed!

 

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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