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Jack Burke Jack Burke , 12/31/2013
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We human beings are fear-based creatures.  Most of our motivation, especially in business, comes from the fear of not getting something we want (more business) or losing something we have (existing business).  Rare is the happy soul who enjoys the comfort of wanting what they have, rather than having what they want.

One of the greatest instigators of fear is change!  The symptoms are many.  We’re afraid to try something new. We’re fearful of breaking old habits.  We’re afraid that people won’t like us.  We’re simply scared about changing a comfortable pattern.

Yet once we break through the fear and make the change, we wonder why it took us so long to work through it.  We’re often happier with the new changes.  We frequently exult in them and brag to others.

I had a friend who bought a new car every three years.  He loved the smell of the interior, the thrill of new ownership, the joy of a new toy.  Yet, about a month before making the change he would begin stressing over the purchase, wondering about the finances and whether he would pick the right car.  When the day came to go to the dealer, he would finally make the deal and immediately head for the bathroom.  After a bout of heaving, he would and take delivery of the new car.  The fear that he has to walk through to buy a new car has been a consistent pattern for more than 30 years – it’s that strong!  The only thing that motivates him to endure such discomfort is the knowledge of how much he will enjoy his purchase afterward.  A lesser man would be immobilized.

What fears are immobilizing you?  Fear of firing a bad employee?  Fear of hiring a new producer?  Fear of going paper-free in the office?  Fear of losing clients or markets?  Fear of growing your business?  Fear of developing a succession plan for your children?  Fear of joining an alliance of agencies?  Fear of losing your independence?  Fear of changing the operational aspects of your back office?  Fear of promoting or demoting someone?  Fear of success/failure?  Fear of cold calling?  Fear of asking for referrals?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of numerous and varied fears that I’ve heard agency owners share over the years.

You have a choice.  You can give in to your fears or begin to overcome them.  As is often said – no pain, no gain; no risk, no reward.  Here are some steps you can take to begin building a healthier outlook and business for our agency:

Step 1 – Schedule a “change” meeting with your entire staff.  Explain that this is a “hold harmless” gathering where anybody can say anything without fear of reprisal.

Step 2 – Open the meeting by explaining that you’re looking for ways to change the agency for the better.  Tell them that no change is too small or too big to contemplate.  Let them know that this is a team effort, and you (the boss) are just another team member.

Step 3 – Ask each person to write down three changes that he or she believes would improve the agency.  Gather their input and begin writing them down on a flip chart.  When you run into identical or similar “changes,” place a hash mark next to the original entry.  Once the changes are on the chart, start a fresh page and rank the top three suggestions.  (This can be done by counting hash marks or by voting.)  

Step 4 – Have a general discussion of these suggestions for change.  Ensure that they would be worthwhile and flesh out how to accomplish them.

Step 5 – Assign a team leader and members to implement the changes that everyone feels will be most valuable.  Develop a timeframe for implementation and stick to it.

If every agency held a “change” meeting like this at least twice a year, your corporate “change muscle” would become stronger and stronger.  The fear of such changes will simultaneously decrease on a proportionate basis.  You will become a more empowered agency with motivated employees who believe that they are an integral part of the organization.