2 tips to increase confidence in a strategic planning meeting

Uncategorized Feb 20, 2020

In a prior post, I asked you to pay attention to a critical number and that email generated a lot of conversation. #TTFR

What triggered the most feedback? 

You might be too light on thinking time if...

You haven't factored in the team's (yours and the client's) experience levels and mindset. Industry veterans don't realize how their desire to protect the benefits program from disruption is a roadblock to progress. How will this impact your client, if at all? #blindspot

I don't have a magic wand and we can't give ourselves brain transplants. We CAN try a few tactics to get unstuck.

Be honest

Don't pretend you're comfortable if you're not. You can acknowledge to colleagues, benefits solutions and even (gasp) the client, that some aspects of innovation push you into an atypical sandbox.

You're a protector, after all, committed to steering your client away from risk. It's not a surprise that introducing unproven (at least to you and your firm)...

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1 critical number to monitor before a strategic planning meeting

firm operations growth Feb 13, 2020

Next up? Strategic Planning

Did you catch Bill Murray's Super Bowl commercial? The movie Groundhog Day reminds me of the Employee Benefits lifecycle. We recover from the "busy season" and launch into the "strategic planning" cycle with clients. Rinse and repeat.

Didn't we just update that PowerPoint deck? Erg. Here we go again.

There's a number I'd like you to pay attention to as you're collaborating with your team for this next phase in the Benefits cycle.

What is your thinking to formatting ratio?

I've noticed that some teams spend more time formatting their PowerPoint to look strategic than thinking strategically about their client's priorities.

Where would your clients fall on the chart?

It's important to present ideas in a modern and professional format. However...

Clients don't hire you to create PowerPoints. They want your guidance and PowerPoint (or whatever you use) is simply a tool to support a strategic conversation.

You might be too light on thinking time if:

  • Someone...
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Are you the firefighter or the arsonist? 🔥🧯

firm operations growth Feb 04, 2020

Most employee benefits professionals report spending their week putting out fires. In my 30-year accidental career, I’ve been a carrier rep, broker, managed brokers and now consult to carriers & brokers. I’m empathetic to your competing priorities.

I usually include a firefighter slide in my presentations to illustrate how this phenomena impacts our business. 

It’s hard to get the right solutions to the right customers at the right time if your hair, and business, is on fire.

Last week I spent time in Phoenix with a carrier’s sales team. As I was organizing my thoughts, I couldn’t help but think of Lady Gaga. And her former fiancé who is on Chicago Fire. 

BTW, in addition to Tito’s and weeknight Sauvignon Blanc, my guilty pleasures include too much tv and my weekly subscription (print - I’m old school) of US Weekly. I know these things.

If you’re a fan, you know he’s obsessed with what’s causing the...

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Something to consider as you plan for 2020

growth operations sales Nov 13, 2019

A perk of being a high school football team mom? I get to observe teen boys in their natural habitat (without being TOO embarrassing) while handing out Gatorade and cheeseburgers.

It's also a great way to get to know parents. Another team mom and I compare notes about selling professional services (she's in legal) while doing our team hospitality gig. Industries that sell expertise share a lot of the same challenges (and upside) if they can modernize.

At the banquet Friday night, she used a term I'd never heard when talking about her new team. She said they'd usually relied upon "anecdata" and were stressed as she pushed for detailed analytics.

Anec-what? Anecdata = Anecdote + Data

Am I the only one who hasn't been using this term? I love it. Apologies in advance to my clients who are going to hear this term a lot in upcoming strategy sessions.

It's defined as "information that is presented as if it is based on serious research, but is...

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3 Things I Noticed Watching A Team In A Slump

operations sales Nov 06, 2019

I went to the Warriors game Monday night and stayed out a bit too late. Oops.

The game got me thinking, though...

How do you show up when you (or your team) are in a slump?

I'd been warned that the highlight of the night was probably experiencing the new Chase Center and that the Warriors were going to lose (again) since they've been plagued by injuries.

But, the rookies didn't get the memo that they were underresourced and going to be outplayed. We were treated to a high energy experience and saw their first home win of the season. 

Do this career "thing" long enough and eventually, you'll have a losing season. It's hard to get your juju back and I was thinking about what behaviors I look for to have confidence that a team is taking steps to shift momentum. 

Recruiting & Coaching - We know it's critical to have a strong bench, yet few invest (money, time and energy) to develop a sustainable and measurable process to find and onboard talent....

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Take the "Feedback 5" Challenge

Warning. There's no turning back. Once this is on your radar, you'll be like two of my original foster puppies. You won't be able to look away.


 

5 words are routinely used to give feedback that are useless (at best) and destructive (at worst) without context and follow up. 

"They need to be more/less _______________."

More (or less) what? I'm glad you asked.

She needs to be more approachable, assertive, creative, collaborative, confident, engaged, independent, open-minded, present, sales-focused, strategic or technical. Or she needs to be less aggressive, conservative or negative. You get the point.

I don't know what someone really means when they say these things. And most of us are not great guessers.

Worse yet, the person on the receiving end of the "feedback 5" usually has zero idea what happened, how to fix it or when they'll have done "it" the right way, enough times, to change perception. 

The "Feedback 5" may be part of a...

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Pay attention for the mic drop moment. 🎤💥

firm operations growth Oct 15, 2019

I'm an optimistic skeptic. Or a practical visionary. Or a grounded dreamer. Does that make sense? The blessing (and burden) of being in the 30-year club is that I know some "things" and there's a risk that experience is an obstacle instead of simply informative as I work with teams to modernize how they work.

I'm constantly balancing the healthy tension that exists when you've been at this for a while. Can you relate?

As a part of the onboarding process for the Account Executive Academy we just launched, I've done 1:1 interviews with 20 Benefits Account Executives over the past 10 days. We'll be working (and learning) together over the next 6 months. The headline?

Your key talent is ready. They want more and have ideas about what you might do more of (and less of) to continue doing great work.  They're up for a challenge and eager to connect with industry peers. I can't wait to see what breakthroughs occur with these key stakeholders...

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Clients hire you (and fire you) because they want to be led.

Are you too slammed to consider new solutions because it's 4th quarter in the benefits business? Are you deferring new ideas until Q1?

Do your clients know? Would your prospects care? Don't forget that clients hire you (and fire you) because they want to be led. 

If you're a benefits solution, raise your hand if you've been pushed off to the mystical time known as "after-the-busy-season." Makes you wish for a lunch & learn, right?

I see a pattern at firms at all levels (sales, service, platform resources, and leadership) of completely putting off investing time to think, learn and plan because it's "the busy season."

I understand the demands of competing priorities and am concerned about what those delays will cost you. If you don't revisit an idea until Q1, it's unlikely you'll execute and capitalize on it until mid-2020. That may not be quick enough in a dynamic market.

I've been thinking about this quote from Jason Fried, the CEO of...

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Sure, you're ethical. But do you tell the truth? 🙄

sales Sep 17, 2019
 

Most employee benefits professionals are ethical. [Dramatic pause] But, they don't always tell the truth.

Getting the right employee benefits solutions to the right customers (at the right time) isn't easy. It's further complicated by the fact that many brokers don't tell the truth to sales reps who've pitched solutions for their clients.

I'm not talking about dropping waivers off a census or forgetting to disclose large claims. Those are rare, sleazy moves that should be dealt with swiftly and surgically.

I'm concerned about the hundreds of times a day companies believe they've received feedback on a proposal when it may not even have been evaluated by the broker, let alone their customer. Sometimes there's no feedback at all.

I recently met with a national sales team to discuss how to get actionable feedback about their position from a broker. 

Their minds were blown at my suggestion that sometimes a broker's polite way of breaking...

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Wake up! Speak French! Originally published in Leaders Edge Magazine

firm operations growth Jun 01, 2019

My parents, sisters and I were on a month-long trip through Europe in 1987 in a bright orange Volkswagen van that Dad still claims he didn’t choose. It was a mechanism for international embarrassment—European Vacation, Teen Daughter edition.

We’d arrived at a toll booth and didn’t have correct change. The “middle sister” was proficient in rudimentary French, but she was asleep. Desperate times. We were blocking traffic, so we screamed at her to “wake up and speak French.” Dazed and confused, she conversed with the toll taker; it’s unclear whether it was her translation skills or his sympathy (or irritation) that allowed us free passage.

This family classic comes to mind as I contemplate the employee benefits industry and impediments to innovation. We are asking the same people who have been successful in this industry because they like process, certainty, contracts and an annual “cycle of things” to now be flexible,...

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