Are You Caught in the Trap of Achievement Followed by Collapse?

by Certified Life Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Operation Issue is closing in. What are you feeling about your practice right now as Agent’s Year is ending? Take a moment to jot down your thoughts. Stressed? Excited? Energized? Pumped? Tired? Irritable? Motivated?

As a coach, I observe a strong trend in the majority of my clients. Most have their best months occur every May and November/December (depending on the region) due to the deadline of Awards Year. After a spike in Lives, New Clients, production and investments there is a rapid plummet as my clients curl into the fetal position and recover during the next month (June and January) drooling and mumbling “it’s a J month…it would happen anyway…". Does this ring true for you?

This will tend to occur most frequently for Financial Representatives (FRs) who are the Kolbe style Quick Start. Quick Starts are brought to action by urgency. They are energized by deadlines and will spring into action when they perceive a time crunch. If something doesn’t feel urgent, then they tend to put it off in favor of doing things that feel more urgent to them. This is hardwired instinct which is why the pattern repeats. Since 90% of FRs industry-wide are Quick Starts, is this pattern one that cannot be broken? I know for a fact that it can after working with hundreds of Northwestern Mutual Quick Start FRs for years. Many are exhausted by the roller coaster and eager to find a more peaceful way to stabilize their cash flow, lifestyle, team quality of life, and their own mental states.

It takes a village to break this cycle. I find that there are deeply held beliefs that most FRs around the country have:

  • J months are bad (January, June, July).
  • Spring break is a tough time.
  • The holidays are slow.
  • Summer vacations get in the way.
  • I still have plenty of time to make my goal. I’ll do better next month.
  • I will just run and gun at the end to make it. That’s when I do my best work.

Frankly, that wipes out most of the year! Is this all really true?

The good news is that the clients I work with who are willing to question these beliefs are pleasantly surprised that they are just excuses that can be challenged. You can level out your production, avoid Operation Issue stress and make your goals happen slowly over time. The reason that this takes a village is that this is not necessarily the most natural approach for a Quick Start. Quick Starts may enjoy the adrenaline-fueled race to the end, the challenge of conquering a goal in the eleventh hour and the built-in breaks made acceptable by the widespread beliefs that collapsing in the J months, disappearing over the summer months and the holidays is normal and necessary. If you are tired of the highs and lows, here are some ways to start to run your practice from a place of calm:

1) Plan at least one true day off every month and really disengage for a full day from your practice. Go to your calendar right now and block those dates. Set tee times, schedule spa reservations and ask your friends to lunch. Mentally give yourself more regular relief that has nothing to do with collapsing from a major run at a goal.

2) Choose your own deadlines. You can follow the patterns that are set by awards years, contests, bonuses and other external motivators, but you and your staff can have some say, too! What deadlines work best for you and your team? Many FRs break their years down into quarters by using “The Twelve Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Get Done in 12 Months” by Brian Moran. Start by creating your weekly plan as the author describes.

3) Take the Twelve Week Year even further! “Long-term results are created by the actions you take every day,” writes Moran. What does the “Twelve Week” DAY look like in terms of activity? What consistent things can you do day-in-day-out that help you maintain production? For example:

Every day set 2 new seens/Fact Finders (and do however many dials that takes)

-Prospect in every meeting (as appropriate)

-Prospect collaboratively with the nominator to tee-up referrals so phoning is easier

-Do case notes the same day the appointment occurs

4) Set your own daily goals. Use positive reinforcement to make dreaded, but necessary tasks more pleasant.

5) Ask your mentor, race coach, SET team or your own team to help you create accountability and help you set up a simple system for you to follow.

6) Really question what you believe about business cycles. If instead of believing the holidays are impossible, what if you acted as if people are reminded more of family, are off work more and may be more open to meeting with you? Many of my clients have surprised themselves by having a strong December once they shifted their own thinking.

7) Work with your innate strengths. If you are like most FRs, you do enjoy working within the urgency of the last minute. Can that be redefined? Can you set up your own competitions, goals and games to make each day feel like a little race? For example: I want to race myself to see if I can get these case notes done before my next client arrives…go! Challenge your fellow Quick Starts to a phoning contest or a short term game (no more than a week long). Have fun with it!

8) Respect that your team is not made up of Quick Starts! Keep them in mind as you commit to pacing yourself Quick-Start style. Most Associate FRs are initiating Follow Thrus and preventative Quick Starts. Your patterns are killing them!

After the close of this awards year, take some time to reflect not only on your production goals, but your work style goals! What do you want to feel about your practice this time next year?