What Your Staff Wishes You Knew

By Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Did you know that what makes you so successful is exactly what is driving your associate bonkers??

In working with many Northwestern Mutual teams, the number one mistake I observe is FRs trying to apply how they do things to how their staff or SET team should do things. What makes highly successful AFRs and SET teams so brilliant is they tend to be a meticulous, analytical and slower style. These traits make them highly effective at processing applications, working on PPAs, collecting paperwork and prepping.

From the outside, you may find this process to be similar to sitting in a waiting room full of outdated magazines and no cellular reception. No matter how many times you check, no, the reception has not improved! And, no, there is no way to know how long the wait is as you watch the door, waiting for it to open! Isn’t it understandable then, that you want to “pop over” and “check” on how things are going?

This urgency that you bring to bear on your work is what makes you both so brilliant and also terribly aggravating! Ironically, your energetic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style is what helps you easily face rejection, get in front of people and thrive in this business. Your fast style is just what you need--but, trust me, you do NOT want this style in an AFR.  Top speed is something that you value in yourself, but don’t make the mistake in desiring it in your staff and hiring for it. So…how do you meet in the middle?

Here are ten tips to create harmony and increase your AFR’s productivity all at the same time:

1) If your AFR is in a high-traffic area of the office, move them to a quiet area or, better yet, get them an office with a door.

2) Minimize how many times you interrupt your staff by batching your questions together, scheduling a time to check in and sending your list in advance for their review. Even though this may strain your style, the payoff in terms of their accuracy, quantity of work and happiness is huge. Long term, this will aid in the retention of quality talent.

3) Do not put your AFR on the spot or ask this person to make decisions off the top of his or her head. As best you can, save your questions up to be addressed at a future time and provide as much advance notice as you can (even an hour!).

4) Even though your energetic style likes to get out and “say hi” this may not be helpful. Try to establish a routine such as greeting your staff in the morning. Do not hover around and ask lots of questions about various cases.

5) Communicate to your staff that they can interrupt you with questions. Most AFRs will assume that you do not want this. 

6) Encourage your staff to set “office hours” so you know times when it is okay to stop by. AFRs like to start and complete projects one at a time without interruption.

7) When you speak, recognize that your energetic style sounds very “right now!” Temper that by adding in a more accurate deadline such as “next Tuesday by COB."

8) When you are brainstorming, reduce anxiety in those around you by adding in “at some point this fall” or “next week” or even “eventually."

9) Place the value on quality, not speed. Recognize quality achievements or your AFR accommodating your improvisational  style privately with a written note.

10) Do not try to motivate your AFR with a sense of urgency. They would far prefer to be asked how to improve the system or research new options.

By observing these differences and allowing them, both you and your AFR will complement each other. You will still build your wings on the way down--but this method will ensure there is always a safety net!