ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

FOUR CRITICAL QUESTIONS FOR LEADERS - Article #1

We are, in many ways, in the same place we have always been with respect to increasing production in industry, and no wonder. Even though we may invest (a lot of) money on sales training, or invest in costly programs, our staff often remain much the same. It’s a lot like that latest seminar, book or tape series ~ unless we choose to learn the “how to’s” of change, nothing dramatically different will ever happen. One of the things I often say is that “It is a disservice that we ask ourselves to DO something different when the way we RELATE to it is the same.”

So, how to you learn to DO something different? For the purpose of this piece, let’s start with you, the managers and principal(s). We believe that you can't improve the business without improving the principals, and you can't bring greater freedom and happiness to the principals without re-shaping the business.

First, begin by asking yourself (and each other) some thought-provoking questions. Let’s start with these four critical questions for leaders:

1. What is present?

2. What is missing?

3. How do you contribute to what is missing?

4. What are the possibilities that exist for your organization?

Now, these may seem simple on the surface, but there is a much deeper implied meaning to each.

What is present or what is missing is meant to stir up both “positive” and “negative” responses. Present/missing are the things that really challenge you; the real struggles you can never seem to overcome.

What is present can look something like:

- overall atmosphere of people who care about the firm

- skilled people

- a lot of good customers to place business with

It can also look something like:

- personality conflicts

- stress

- clients complaining that our product/service is too much and they have lost a lot of traditional customer service

The same applies to the question, “What is missing?”

Some of the responses I have heard are:

- training &education

- guidance

- communication between departments

- accountability

- an electric can opener!

What about how YOU contribute to what is MISSING?

This can be a great exercise of self-reflection vs. blame. The responses you should bring up here should be honest, objective realizations at the influence you have in the organization. For example, I have met many principals that are great producers, but not great managers of people. This one can be perplexing, but what I want you to uncover are the things that you as principals are instilling into the culture that exists. It is important to realize that things work the way they do because at some level all those involved in the day to day operations have had a hand in what is presently in place.

Your current situation did not drop from the sky on an asteroid. It was built up by the many small and some big decisions by all the people in your organization, including you as principals. The good news is that any negative consequences can be changed by the decision and the will to act in a different way and for a different purpose.

This can be done without blame shifting or making someone else “wrong”. It is the beginning of truly creating an environment build upon responsibility, accountability and self-government.

So, take some time to reflect on the way you are with your staff. Are you demanding and difficult, hence bringing a sense of overload. Or are you a passive avoider of conflict, bringing a sense that nothing ever gets brought out in the open and resolved? One of the ways to see objective feedback is to think about what they say about me when I am not in the room, and then break apart the WHYS – what has occurred, objectively, that would create the situation the way it exists. We will go into more about WHAT HAPPENED vs. THE STORY in another piece.

Lastly, what may appear as the easy one: What are the possibilities that exist? Answers to this question may be:

- An exciting future of growth and success

- More productivity from sales staff

- Greater relationships with our customers

- Opportunities for acquisition

- Better team effort from the Account Managers

We can make statements that seem lofty and full of visionary insight, but what will we do differently to compel action with the goals and objectives we have spent time creating? That should be the follow up responses to this question. Ask yourselves what you will do within the next few days, and get your management team involved to have it happen. Ask questions like, “BY WHEN” can we meet on this, “WHAT” will Kathleen report on? What will Jamie bring? HOW will we get there, BY WHEN again, and what are the OBSTACLES that may get in the way.

In the next series of articles, we will address:

- the things that stop us from doing the things we say we want most

- breaking the barriers of communication

- learning to grow your business through authentic relationships

- creating a vision for real results

- identifying red flags before they arise

- the skills needed to bring about true, lasting accountability

- avoiding failure to implement

- awareness is not change

- how to get off your duff – real motivators for change