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How to put the Count into Accountability for Yourself and your Team

By September 22, 2020June 17th, 2021Agency Management Moments

Let’s put the count into accountability for yourself and your team. If you need an extra boost of energy in your office, to say nothing of an accountability partner, listen in to this week’s podcast. Sheldon Snodgrass, owner of joins the Trusted Advisor to share his five-piece, accountability toolkit for any growth journey. We cover how to avoid analysis paralysis as well as how to manage accountability for personal and professional goals alike. For access to Sheldon’s class click here.

Sheldon Sondgrass, accountability partner from

Edwin K. Morris (5s):
Welcome to the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. I am Edwin K Morris. This week on the podcast, we have Sheldon Snodgrass of He has coached hundreds of insurance agencies and thousands of CSRs in collaboration with national and regional carriers, state associations, and industry partners. Sheldon’s blend of behavioral science book smarts alongside industry specific street smarts helps insurance professionals sell more while serving better. So we’re talking about how to make accountability a key component of independent agencies’ strategy, but that must be quite a journey.

Edwin K. Morris (53s):
Can you detail that?

Sheldon Snodgrass (55s):
Yeah, let me start with a word that people often confuse for accountability and it’s discipline. People say, I need more discipline. And if I just had more discipline, I would do this thing, right? And that thing can be agency related, like develop some systems, improve your sales, improve your marketing, or it can be personal, right? I’m going to lose five pounds. I’m going to run a marathon. I’m going to start reading more uplifting literature. Right? So we talk about this absence of discipline, and I don’t think it’s more discipline that we need. We all have that. What we need is structure to enable discipline. And then when you think about structure, you can begin to think about accountability. And if I could just peel that back, one more layer, accountability Isn’t a thing in and of itself really it’s, it’s made up of component pieces.

Sheldon Snodgrass (1m 43s):
And very often we get stuck at the very end of the chain of these pieces that we think is accountability. And that is counting. I count the outcomes. I count the end results. I count whether I lost my five pounds or sold X number of units, but that’s not where accountability needs to lie. Accountability is a process of incremental measurement in my experience, right? We, and we all know that intuitively, but what happens is we lose sight of the small steps that we have to accomplish in order to get to the end game, which is what, what, what we’re focused on counting. So that’s kind of my deep philosophy on accountability.

Edwin K. Morris (2m 20s):
I hear what you’re saying is that in my view of strategic plans, some organizations spend a lot of heavy lifting building a strategic plan, and then it sits on a shelf because there’s no operational component that drives measurements through the strategy to prove yay or nay, or if they’re within the limits, the responsibility and the commitment and the dedication to perform, to do something, is something that takes a fair amount of energy. So where’s the energy in an organization come from?

Sheldon Snodgrass (2m 55s):
Hm. Well, believe it or not, you just presented a profound paradox, right? Because you, you described the challenge of, of coming up with a strategy and we can, there’s lots of words that people use interchangeably, right? You might call it a vision. You might call it long-term goals. And the truth of the matter. It doesn’t really, it’s not that important, what we call it, but we have some forward vision of where we want to be. Right. And we could quibble about whether it’s five months or five years, but let’s just agree that there’s some distant target that we want to hit or something that we want to, that we want to manifest right. And the paradox, is that at one, at one level, many of us proceed without that, right?

Sheldon Snodgrass (3m 36s):
We, it it’s ready, fire, aim. But on the other hand, we, it’s easy to get lost in grand visioning and high, ambitious undertakings, right, that we take. And we articulate it, we go off on retreat and we come up with this stuff. But as you said, fall apart when it comes to the daily execution, right? So I think it’s in the balance of those two things. And it reminds me of one of the, the, the core principles that I always come back to in my coaching work. When clients approach me about getting support for sales behavior change in the agency, I say, look, there’s always four things that we have to have. And you just touched on the very first one, I call it buy-in. You could call it willingness. You can call it desire.

Sheldon Snodgrass (4m 16s):
You can call it belief. You can call it commitment, but it is to some thing, right? It is to some distant vision of what we want for ourselves. And again, whether that distance is one week, one month, one year down range, it doesn’t matter. Again, I people get, people get lost in the detail as well. Is this a strategy, or is this a tactic? Is this a goal? Or is this an objective? Is this long range or short range? Just forget that. Right? It’s having a vision of something ahead of you that you don’t quite where you haven’t arrived yet, a place that you haven’t arrived. Right? So that’s, buy-in, you’ve got to want to do it. And then there’s the focus, practice, measure. Those are the other three components that we can talk about those as you wish.

Edwin K. Morris (4m 57s):
In the agency, who’s the golden person that that should be who’s, who’s holding the reins on that.

Sheldon Snodgrass (5m 3s):
The reins of buy-in?

Edwin K. Morris (5m 5s):
Well, of doing the whole push forward to get to the future.

Sheldon Snodgrass (5m 8s):
Well, let’s just say that if that future involves a team, so you could say, in fact, I just had a vision of, of a, of a team of draft horses, right? Everyone’s pulling, but someone’s guiding the wagon, right? Someone’s at the reins. But that person at the reins is, is going to have a frustrating experience to say the least, really will go nowhere without everybody on the team pulling, what is it that we’re pulling towards? And so when you say whose job is it, I forget what your word was to, to, to kind of hold this, this notion of buy-in. I think that goes to fundamentally shared belief in the need to move towards this thing. So let’s say this thing is improved sales outcomes.

Sheldon Snodgrass (5m 49s):
I’m, I’m coaching an agency right now. And the agency owner is sort of beating his heads against, up against the wall saying, why are, I pay them so well, get all this extra bonus, if they would just begin to sell more, like, why aren’t they more incented to sell when I pay them so much more? That is insufficient for them to change their behavior. They’re satisfied with their $45,000 a year base salary as a CSR plus another five or 10 in some bonus at the end of the year. And they’re feeling like I don’t need 70, 80, 90, a hundred grand. To me, there’s, there’s no shared vision around why we should be doing this, right? So the conversation needs to shift towards, well, any number of angles in my experience, one that’s super helpful for inspiring service people is when you talk about holistic protection, like we owe it to customers to improve the protection.

Sheldon Snodgrass (6m 42s):
They have to educate them about protection that they may be missing. And when we couch things in those terms, it becomes easier for customarily, a service oriented person to say, Oh, I need to ask you this conversation. It happens to have a sales impact, right? But I need to ask you about this missing line of coverage. Not because I’m going to get paid $50 bonus for selling you an umbrella, but because that’s part of my job as an advisor to present to you, this, this particular option,

Edwin K. Morris (7m 9s):
There’s gotta be a balance between the two pieces of future and measurement, right? So if you set the, if you set the benchmark with this strategy, this, this is what we say, we’re going, it’s going to happen. And this is the how, this is how we’re going to get there. So who keeps the account of if we’re on track or off track, and it goes back to your description. I love the, the vision of the horses. And because the majority of the work is not from the person driving the reins or steering the, the direction. It’s the frontline folks that are pulling the weight of all of that.

Edwin K. Morris (7m 50s):
You know, once you create that strategy, say you do a five-year strategy a strategic plan with strategic goals and aligned to the verticals in the organization to get there. But I know who’s responsible, but who keeps check, who keeps making those incremental changes. Yeah,

Sheldon Snodgrass (8m 8s):
That, that, that’s a great question. So let’s just drill down. So you have this five-year strategy or one-year strategy, right? And someone listened to this, my comment about how we’re not doing a good job defining strategy. All right. And we could have that argument all day long, but let’s just call it an ambition to achieve X amount of growth. Right. Let’s just say it. And then the strategy becomes like, how are we gonna get to this growth? Right. And so we have various ways to, you now. Let’s just say one of those strategies is the amount of rounding that we do from our commercial, do our personal lines, right? Let’s just say half of our commercial book doesn’t write personal. So one of our strategies is to get 75% of our commercial line book to write in personal insurance with us, that’s a strategic element.

Sheldon Snodgrass (8m 51s):
And then we drill down even further. And I’m going to get to your question about who’s responsible for. Very often, in fact, it would probably be defensible for an agency owner to say, look, I have defined the strategic objective. We will cross sell from our commercial to our personal lines. Now it is up to the team to when they are in the point of service, I’m going to do all this outreach. I’m going to do marketing automation. I’m going to ping them with my messaging. But the CSRs, when they’re talking to a commercial line, it’s their job to bridge from their commercial service tasks to a sales ask for personal lines, what that language is and how they bridge is a separate discussion. But let’s just say, that’s one of the tactics.

Sheldon Snodgrass (9m 32s):
When you serve a commercial client and give them a certificate of insurance. At the end of that call, you will bridge to a transition. You will transition to a sales ask about personal lines. That’s the tactic. Now, when it comes down to measurement, the owners, God bless them, are consumed with measuring the uptick in personal lines, policies written, but there’s no way to judge whether or not the behavior is changing. If all that one looks at is outcome, without looking at the little steps that drive the outcome, then those outcomes will never advance. And it’s a great paradox. Let me restate it. Here’s the grand paradox. When you focus on outcomes, in fact, the more you focus on outcomes, the less you’re able to influence them.

Sheldon Snodgrass (10m 15s):
How do I make that a reality? And the example we just gave? All right. Let us, instead of measuring the outcome, how much commercial, how much personal line business did we write? Let’s measure you. I’ll just pretend that Edwin, you’re a CSR. I want to know how many commercial accounts did you talk to this week? Phone call or email. Let’s just say it’s 10 a day. That’s 50 a week. You had 50 contacts. Now you’re not going to ask all of them. So let’s just say you ask half right. That’s 25. So you spoke to a 50, 25 of them you were able to have a conversation cause everything was right. And of those 25, how many agreed to talk to your personal lines colleague, Kelsey, right next door.

Sheldon Snodgrass (10m 57s):
That’s what we begin to measure. I call it the three major metrics. The number of touches, the number of asks and the number of acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that policy bound, acceptance means that someone agreed to talk to Kelsey. It agreed, they agreed to get a proposal to take some next step, to summarize your question about, or my answer to your question about measurement. Who’s responsible for measurement. I would say an owner’s responsible for saying Edwin Kelsey, I’m going to count how many people you talked to this week and of those, how many people you ask. And we’re going to analyze that on a regular basis. And that’s how you build muscle memory. And then the end results take care of themselves.

Edwin K. Morris (11m 36s):
I love that example because I translated it automatically to a garden. So if I plant an acre of carrots and my only count is how many pounds of carrots did I get out of my one acre? It doesn’t really look at all the factors that go to create that one acre of production. So you have to look at how much did it rain, how much did I lose to the rabbits or woodchucks, if you don’t look at all the pieces of the puzzle, it really is hard to see the grand picture.

Sheldon Snodgrass (12m 7s):
I love it. That’s a, that’s a great metaphor. Now there’s a risk in that, in that you can get paralysis, analysis paralysis, right? And, and, and I always warn folks about that. That’s why I come down to just three basic metrics. And I use a simple tracking sheet. It’s a tick mark sheet. When an inbound call comes and it’s an inbound service touch from a customer, not an underwriter, not a mortgage originator, not a banker, not a carrier rep, none of those calls just customers count it. And then at the end of the week, you’ll say, wow. I talked to 50 customers this week. And of those, how many times do I hear myself asking? And just for giggles, you want to know what the national average is at agencies, large and small across the country.

Edwin K. Morris (12m 48s):
Also 26%

Sheldon Snodgrass (12m 51s):
Less 7%, 7% make a transition from a task to an ask. So let’s round that up to 10. That means 90% of the time when a CSR in most agencies is talking to a customer, they end with a very friendly, Hey, Edwin, is there anything else I can help you with? Hey, Edwin, do you have any other questions about your insurance that I can help you with? No. Okay. Goodbye. Right. That’s 10% of them say, Hey, Edwin, while I’ve got you on the phone, I see that we don’t write your life insurance with us. Do you mind if I ask you about that? That’s the ask

Edwin K. Morris (13m 24s):
You don’t give them the option to say yes or no. You get, you go into the deeper question.

Sheldon Snodgrass (13m 28s):
Well, Hey, now you’re now you just created a whole nother podcast, cause we’re going to run out of time. Well, when you talk about the sorts of sales questions, and again, I, as a coach, I’m to simplifying things so that we can get the reps. I’m all about the reps, right? Repetition wins the day, no matter what it is that we’re doing, and that’s how we change habits. That’s how we build muscle memory. And that’s how we’re able to teach other people what you just described as, as the ask, the appropriate ask. That again, that’s a whole nother layer of, of, of coaching that we could have on a different podcast.

Edwin K. Morris (14m 2s):
Let’s save that for another day. Then I’ll ask what’s your final words before we check out. Yeah.

Sheldon Snodgrass (14m 8s):
You get an infinite number of do overs. Life and sales growth at an agency are no different. We try and try and try again. We get up, we fall down, we learn, we do it again. So if you’re trying to rally your sales team, if you’re trying to launch a campaign and for the umpteenth time, if you’re trying to, to sink your teeth into something that’s gonna help you grow the agency, and you feel foiled or frustrated, the good news is you’re not alone. And you get an infinite number of do overs. That’s what I have to say.

Edwin K. Morris (14m 43s):
That’s perfect. Thanks for being here, Sheldon.

Sheldon Snodgrass (14m 46s):
Very welcome. It is an honor to be here. I’m grateful for the invitation.

Edwin K. Morris (14m 50s):
Thanks for listening to this of the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois, your trusted advisor for all things insurance, and remember get out of the office and sell. I am Edwin K. Morris, and I invite you to join me for the next edition of the trusted advisor podcast.