As you read this summary, you may not learn a single new concept. However, please don’t be too quick to dismiss a concept just because you have “heard that one before.” Sometimes, we need to be reminded of something many times before we actually begin to apply it. Also, just because something sounds like common sense, doesn’t mean it’s common practice.
It is important for me to provide value to my customers: insurance agents. You, the insurance agent, probably want to provide value to your customer, the people who buy the insurance you provide.
I partially wrote this summary because teaching something allows one to learn that content much better than just learning it. As it was said so well by Joseph Joubert, “to teach is to learn twice.”
I’d also like to highlight something I have trouble with: Try to stay focused on what matters the most. To be a jack of all trades and a master of none normally leads to burn-out and less success than staying focused on one or a few good pursuits. It’s true that in life you can do anything. However, you cannot do everything.
I hope you enjoy my overview.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Don’t be reactive. When a situation is not ideal, rather than talk about what is wrong, only talk about what you plan to do about it. Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Don’t be negative. Use positive words to describe the situation. For example, rather than say, “I don’t make enough money,” talk about how you are going to increase your income over time.
You decide how you feel. Others can say things to and about you, but how that makes you feel is up to you. Don’t waste your time worrying or talking about what others say and do. Think and talk about what you want, not what you don’t want. Don’t complain about people you work with being difficult, but rather offer solutions to improve that situation, even if that sometimes means to avoid someone.
Examples at Jenesis
Sometimes, when our developers work with third-party partners, they can become frustrated with a lack of cooperation, poor documentation, and slow turn-around times. It’s easy to spend a lot of time talking about the details of these frustrations, but what good does that do? You will make great progress to think and talk about solutions to these problems, and if you can’t impact that at all, it may be best to move on to another project for the moment.
Examples in an Agency
Sometimes a customer leaves or hangs up, and the agent or CSR goes on and on about how much trouble the customer is.
Or the agent complains about how XYZ carrier rejects all submissions. “They are just too selective,” the agent may say. A positive solution would be to consider which carrier would be a better fit for the risk, and if you don’t have one, it could be time to find a carrier that has an appetite for that type of business. Also, consider if you really want that type of business in your agency.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Divide this one up into Personal, Work, Friends, and Community. What will people say when you are gone? What do you want them to say? When you know that, you can then map out the plan to make that happen. Do you want to be known for your intelligence, wit, caring, giving, etc?
Examples at Jenesis
What type of business do I want to have? How many employees? How much do I want to pay those employees? How many customers? What culture do I want in the team I work with? What will the path look like that will lead to that end?
Examples in an Agency
How much premium? How many locations? How many employees? How many insureds? What type of products? Culture? Turnover?
Habit 3: Put First Things First
This is all about Priorities! What’s the most important task today? Do the most important thing first. To have a not-to-do list is as important, if not more so, than a to-do list.
- Do the hard things first
- Do the important things first
- Do things early in the morning before you get tired
Getting the most important, most dreaded task done first is sometimes referred to as Eating the Frog or Slaying the Dragon.
The book talks about 4 quadrants. They are:
- Urgent & Important
- Not Urgent but Important
- Urgent but Not Important
- Not Urgent and Not Important
Put each of your to-do items in a quadrant. If something is not urgent AND not important, add it to your do not do list.
If it is urgent but not important, be wary to add it to your to-do list as well. It’s hard to imagine anything that’s urgent but not important that needs to be done.
If a task is not urgent but important, that’s fine. As long as you don’t procrastinate, you can accomplish great work when not rushed.
When something is urgent and important, it stands in the way of quality and planned work that improves your future. It’s the emergency that pops up every day having you “putting out fires” more than spending the time on big-picture projects. It is critical you come up with a plan to minimize quadrant 1 or you will forever spin your wheels.
The next time you get behind at work, take a few minutes to write out the four quadrants and put all of your to-do tasks in the quadrant they belong in. Then, disregard quadrants 3 and 4 and focus on quadrant 1 from the standpoint of figuring out why it became urgent and how to prevent that in the future. Then, plan your time to work on quadrant 2 and watch things stabilize like never before.
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Creating a win-win situation means that both parties win rather than one being the winner and the other being the loser.
Examples in an Agency
The agent represents the carrier. The carrier wins when the agent writes a lot of profitable business. The agent wins when the carrier provides them with a quality product, coupled with competitive pricing, dependable claims, and great sales as well as service support. So, it’s a win-win for both the agency and the carrier.
The agency owner wins when their team is reliable, dependable, knowledgeable, talented, and really good with customers, carriers, and the agency team. The employee wins when they are respected, trusted, complimented by the management, and compensated fairly. Thus, it’s a win-win.
Think of examples in your past when you were part of a win-win. Also, think about times when you were on either side of a win-lose and what could have been done to turn it into a win-win?
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
We see this ALL THE TIME in agencies. An upset insured calls and begins to explain their frustration to the agent. The agenct, who has many years of insurance experience, quickly sees where this is going and what the problem is, so they “interrupt” the insured to explain the situation. The agent, who has good intentions, has no idea that by interrupting the insured, they have completely disrespected them. At least, that’s how the insured probably feels.
It’s far better to just relax and let the insured tell their story. Who knows, they may be going somewhere totally different from where the agent first believes they are heading. Then, after the insured has completely finished, it’s a good idea to say something like, “I am SORRY that happened to you. I know that’s frustrating, and I would not have wanted that to happen to me either”. Then, it may be a good idea to say something like, “Let me make sure I completely understand”, and then repeat back to them what you understand the be the problem. This is called Active Listening and sometimes when you do this, it gives the insured a chance to further explain or correct any possible misunderstanding.
After all of this, your reply may not be what the other person wants to hear. But, they will at least feel like you cared enough to listen to them.
There is one last thing I want to mention: Please listen when it’s your turn to listen. DO NOT be planning your reply the entire time they are talking.
Habit 6: Synergize
When we work together as a team, we are FAR more effective than the simple sum of our individual contributions. To Synergize means 1+1=3 rather than 1+1=2.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
This is my favorite. The concept here is that many of us feel that it takes too long to sharpen the saw because we have to stop sawing to do it. So, we keep sawing with a dull saw. When we realize that if we stop sawing to invest a little time in sharpening our saw, it will perform so much better and we will get the job done much faster and with less effort than with a dull saw.
While I owned an insurance agency for 28 years, it was important to me that our entire team invested in learning more about insurance products and coverage, our carrier partners, marketing, selling, and communicating better with customers and within our own team.
There are so many options for this: online courses, industry courses, books, content on the internet, etc.
The important things are to …
- Start now.
- Find what works because people learn differently and this should not be painful.
Thank you for reading my book review of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and how I see its principles applied to Insurance Agents. I hope it’s been helpful. If you would like to contact me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I love talking about all aspects of the insurance business, so please reach out to me anytime.