Many agents used some time in November and December to re-cast their Strategic Plans (5-Yr Long Term Goals and Expectations) and to evolve a Tactical Plan and budget for 2013. If you created a Plan for 2013, CONGRATULATIONS! You have just put yourself ahead of 95% of the insurance agents in the country. They hope for the best. You are doing something about it!

Now you’re facing the first monthly meeting coming up within the next few weeks and many of you are dreading facing your team or your managers and finding out whether a) they understood their own objectives, action plans and benchmarks sufficiently to implement them, b) their action plans were adequate to accomplish their (and your agency’s) goals for the year, and c) whether their benchmarks for January was both monitored properly and were achieved.

The agency owners who have done this more than a few times know that the work effort to assure a good Monthly Meeting in February for January’s results is done in the period between the creation of the Plan and the reporting of the first month’s results, not in the few days before the meeting when everyone is scurrying to get their reports done. Between the Planning session, itself, and the first meeting you (or your operations manager, if you’re lucky enough to have one) should spend time with each participant making sure a) that the staff and/or managers understand their Objectives (what is to be accomplished by year-end), are clear about the execution of their Action Plans (activities that would logically result in the achievement of the Objectives) and have scheduled a series of Monthly Benchmarks (monthly markers the achievement of which prove whether or not the action plans are working).

By the time February rolls around the agency owner and/or operations manager has spent time assuring the execution of the Plan by the staff or managers. The Monthly Management Meeting is the public reporting structure that allows the managers and/or staff members responsible for the objectives, actions plans and benchmarks to report the results compared to expectations (the benchmarks).

Remember, the Monthly Management meeting is NOT the place for criticism, admonishments or explanations of why and/or how things worked or didn’t work. It should be managed to one hour if possible. Go ahead and pile on the praise for jobs well done. We always follow the mantra, “PUBLIC PRAISE / PRIVATE CRITICISM.” The Management Meeting is simply a place for the responsible parties to report the results of every benchmark, action plan and objective. The Management Meeting proves that the participants who are responsible for Objectives are doing their jobs (or not) before you, the owner, and before their peers. Believe it or not, the fact that they must report results is one of the prime motivators for staff members and managers (all of whom have plenty to keep them busy in their daily schedules) to actually pay attention to the management side of the business and to do those things that are often outside of their normal daily activities but will make growth occur in their departments.

In preparation for the Monthly Management Meeting, have private conferences with each manager or staff participant and have them explain their Plan activities and results in a rehearsal. This gives you time to coach and counsel them if their numbers are not accurate or if they haven’t activated their Action Plans (probably the greatest issue early in a planning year). It may not change the results at the meeting, but it will avoid nasty little surprises that often cause a business meeting to deteriorate into an emotional confrontation.

Remember, it’s BUSINESS, not personal. YOU set the tone for the meetings. It should never be treated like a fairy tale in which reality is suspended for the hour of the meeting and everyone returns to the real world after the meeting. But neither should it be filled with threats, projections of gloom and doom and threats. Everyone will participate in the Plan if you ask them to do so. However, many will not understand that they actually have to do something different than their daily activities if the Plan is expected to work. We see many Action Plans and Benchmarks that are overly aggressive. That’s o.k. and sounds reasonable in a vacuum during a planning meeting, but may become unreasonable added to the mix of everyday activities within the agency. Be aware that this can happen and don’t eliminate the Objective, Action Plan or Benchmarks, but adjust them (prior to the meeting, if necessary) and convince the participating parties that the activities can be done reasonably within their work year, but they must manage it. Unfortunately, everyone is in favor of positive change as long as they don’t have to change what they do in order to accomplish it.

Manage your staff to move forward on every Objective, Action Plan and Benchmark. Adjustments are not made at monthly meetings – they are made during one of the first two Quarterly Management Meetings. This will be the subject of another article next month.