Agency Performance Partners


Posted on February 6, 2023 by Kelly Donahue Piro

When I have the pleasure of speaking with agencies interested in the Agency Performance Partners Programs, I always ask one question: How good is your agency at holding people accountable? You may be thinking, why that question? 

That one question will tell me where the biggest pain points are in the agency. Accountability is a big and difficult word.

As we all get older and more comfortable, it can be challenging to hold ourselves accountable – let alone a team, a team you pay to do a specific job. 

Accountability is hard. However, top agencies who go through the transformation (often with APP) come out better, stronger, and with a team that ultimately holds each other accountable. When an agency lacks accountability, everything is hard. 

In this blog, I want your agency to pick your hard: hard in getting things done or the hard challenge of moving toward a culture of accountability. I can tell you from my perspective, moving toward a culture of accountability has temporary pain. Living in an agency without accountability will be lifelong pain. 

In this blog, we will review
  • Top signs your agency is lacking accountability 
  • 6 Baby Steps Toward Accountability 
  • How to Become Mentality Ready For Team Pushback

Top Signs Your Agency Is Lacking Accountability

In all of my work with insurance agencies, one thing becomes clear. All of our agency growth strategies include accountability, and this is one of the main reasons agencies look to us for our agency assessment program.  

To drive accountability and execute agency growth strategies, you need to have something to hold people accountable to. Here are the top signs that an agency struggles to hold people accountable.

  • Clear Agency Job Descriptions: job descriptions are the perfect place to start in building your culture of accountability. The job description gives you a document to hold people accountable to. The job description should be clear on your expectations, the mission of the role, and what items the team should be handing off. The job description starts allowing you to address anything that people are or are not doing.
  • Clear Metrics For Each Job: many agencies struggle with metrics. Agency metrics boil down to 4 major items: 
    • Processes and Procedures – does your agency have clear processes that ensure reporting will be accurate. Garbage in, garbage spreads. 
    • Accurate Reporting Set Up – your agency needs to spend the time to understand your system’s reporting
    • Download issues – the download can skew your numbers if it’s not set up properly
    • Understanding the report – many agencies will say the data is wrong, but you need to understand what it’s telling you. A common example is a new business, and if your tracking off of binder date vs. effective date, you will see different numbers. 

The bottom line is this – if you want accountability, you must invest the time in getting clear metrics for each role. 

  • Transparency In Metrics: Too many insurance agencies keep data to themselves. This can be because they don’t trust the data, they don’t understand it themselves, or they don’t have the time to review the data. Every team member should have routine access to the metrics to see if they are on track to perform. 
  • Accountability Strategy: When someone is not performing, agencies often delay addressing subpar performance. What ends up happening is the agency’s leadership team talks about the issue and justifies not addressing it. We recommend having a written accountability plan that is published, and everyone knows. 

This way, when a challenge comes up, it’s not what to do; it’s when to do it. 

  • All Carrots No Sticks: A common challenge insurance agencies have is how to discipline the team. This often stems mainly from decades of not addressing less-than-stellar performance. So any level of accountability seems so very foreign. I have seen agencies have a robust bonus, incentive, and or commission plan and give out lots of money to people who are still only doing part of their job. You need to have a stick. 
  • No Routine 1:1 Meetings With Team Members:  Sometimes, the hardest part of holding people accountable is calling the meeting. It feels like getting called to the principal’s office. Fear and dread start – the entire ordeal becomes bigger than it needs to be. We recommend that managers have a 1:1 meeting with their team routinely. At APP, we do weekly. It’s the team members’ check-in time and my time to address things when they start to go off track. The meeting is driven by an agenda, and it makes it so much easier to have check-in calls to keep people on track. When there is an issue, we can connect on it weekly to make sure things turn around. 
  • Agency Ownership and Leadership Team Is Not Modeling Accountability: This is a big one. When the agency’s leadership team is not executing and modeling accountability, you can’t ask your team to do the same. So look in the mirror is your leadership team being held accountable to their mission?

If your agency is missing these components, you most likely need to keep reading to ensure you can keep on track with your agency’s growth strategies. 
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6 Baby Steps Toward Agency Accountability

When I mention accountability with agencies, the air leaves the room, and the team turns ghost white. We know exactly what’s happening – the leadership team is underwriting the risk of accountability. 

I’m here to tell you things will get harder, and then they will get easier. This is where you get to pick your hard. You can choose – but choosing not to hold people accountable will stifle your growth, fun, and opportunity. Temporary hard is always better than long-term hard. 

Ask yourself – are you a little too comfortable with your team not flawlessly executing?

Here are the common reasons insurance agencies overthink accountability:

  • Everyone will leave – my job will be harder if we hold people accountable
  • Finding people is hard – yes, keeping the wrong people is hard
  • Addressing poor performance is difficult – yes, but just like anything when you do it 10x it gets easier it’s hard because it’s been avoided for so long
  • If I address it I have to be willing to execute the consequence – this is true but addressing may also get the person back on track
  • Is the poor performance really that bad they do other things well – the team member has to do their whole complete job, or we are picking and choosing
  • This other employee doesn’t do it either – focus on the team you are responsible for if everyone focuses on their job and their team the world works better

Pretty much everyone thinks you hold people accountable and everyone will walk out and leave the agency high and dry. But let’s be honest, we are getting to the worst case scenario pretty darn fast. 

For this reason, we want to give you 6 Accountability baby steps to make sure your agency can still focus on insurance agency growth strategies. 

Step #1: Build Insurance Agency Job Descriptions With Metrics

Insurance agency job descriptions are the perfect place to start. Everyone expects to have one, and oftentimes, the agency job descriptions in existence are either less than outstanding or just inaccurate. Here is how you can address insurance agency job descriptions:

  1. Purchase the APP Job Description Process Pack – get 12 job description templates to get you started. Why recreate the wheel starts with our templates? 
  2. Identity which job descriptions you want to work on first and get your priority list
  3. Customize the job descriptions for each role
  4. Identify the metrics you can get – start easy and small. On the road to accountability, you will be able to keep adding, but 
    1. Plan to roll it out to each department and then meet with each individual
    2. Set up the reports to be reviewed at least monthly
  5. Understand the first 3 months may just be getting familiar with the numbers after that, people understand this is not going away, and they begin to understand what needs to be done to change the number

Step #2: Start Having 1:1 Meetings

Yes, this will take time out of the day, but it takes far more time to keep beating the dead horse of accountability in leadership team meetings. Setting up routine 1:1s may be awkward initially, but it burns off! It’s what we call the Freaking First Times. 

Instead of making it a burden, make it an opportunity to review the team member’s metrics and celebrate. Not everything will be bad! In our 1:1s, we try to do the following:

  • Win for the week
  • Lesson for the week
  • Review metrics
  • Open item list (things I want to address, things they want to address)
  • Close with a meeting grade

The key is you need to do it consistently. Don’t be shocked if your team isn’t elated to have a meeting with their manager. 

Shocking right? However, after the first 5-7, you may be surprised that both you and the team member look forward to the meeting. 

Remember, 1:1 meetings are your vehicle for open dialog; they are worth the time investment. 

Step #3: Start Sharing Metrics

Ok, by now, you should feel more comfortable with the metrics. Don’t expect them to be perfect, but it is time to share everyone’s metrics. I know this may feel vulnerable. 

Showing that Sally has 47 overdue activities may seem overwhelming, but teams that practice accountability share the data. After a few weeks of Sally seeing her metrics there, they may start to change, or the team may start to change around Sally and doesn’t push as much work on her. 

Don’t again expect everyone to be jumping for joy for metrics sharing. Most people want to hide (like not weighing themselves after Christmas). 

Remind the team you are not using metrics as weapons you are using them for transparency. Transparency is a positive word that everyone wants. Currently, at this step, there is no stick, only carrots, so there is no consequence (yet). Again give this 4 – 6 weeks, and the numbers may naturally change. 

Step #4: The Leadership Team Is Accountable

You may be curious, shouldn’t this happen first? I may be optimistic that the agency’s leadership team is decent at accountability. Now is your time to really pump up the volume. As the data is being shown, the job descriptions are out. We want to ensure you are impeccable with your words to the team. 

If you say something, you need to show up and do it. No one likes a hypocrite. To ensure you are holding ourselves accountable as a leadership team or agency owner, you need to do the following:

  • Run the reports for each team member to see their metrics on time
  • Have 1:1 accountability meetings on point (if you need to reschedule do but make sure you reschedule)
  • Share the metrics on time
  • When someone comes to you with an issue be upfront and clear on a timeline to review it and respond – everything has a by when you will get then do that
  • Don’t sugar coat things be real upfront and transparent
  • If you have a part of the goal – hit the goal
  • Follow up and follow through with anything that comes up in 1:1 or team meeting agendas
  • Starting following up with the team on your requests – have open tasks for yourself

Bottom line: you want to model your behavior to what you want them to do. This is a two-way street. 

Step #5: Carrots and Sticks

By now, people sense something is different but not dramatically different, just different. That’s ok! The next step is to set some agency minimum standards. The team has been seeing the numbers they know their performance and are clear on their role. 

We now want to set the lowest performance bar for anything below that you’re not considered in good standing. This is the biggest step in the process. We recommend setting your bar completely obtainable to get people used to it. 

Many agencies now ask well what not in good standing looks like. It’s funny you ask; we have a plan for that!

  • There is a meeting with the team leader to review and identify how to improve – this is added to the 1:1
  • 3 Months leads to a meeting with the leadership team 
  • Any incentives or bonuses the team member does not qualify for 

Basically this process starts to say you have to contribute to get the carrots. The goal will be so low that everyone won’t mind it. Once they see their progress, you can start working the goal up. 

Your key to success here is to start accountability. If someone doesn’t hit the minimum, you do not have to pay the bonus. No matter how hard it is. This is the message you need everyone to see and understand we are in a new environment, and expectations are reasonable. 

Step #6: Accountability Plan 

An accountability plan falls under our clarity is kind philosophy. This plan clearly outlines the steps the agency will take in the event there is a failure to perform. Here is the APP Accountability process in case you need some guidance.

Agency Performance Partners Accountability Process

As a company that’s purpose is to create ridiculously amazing insurance agencies and hold our clients accountable to excellence, it is critical that we hold ourselves and each other to our values, standards, and processes.

We have created this accountability strategy, so it is clear how we communicate any failures in performance and steps associated with improvement. When a team member has not shown improvement, we want to be kind and share with everyone upfront the remediation steps that will be taken.
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Desired Outcome of the APP Accountability Strategy

Every APP team member is clear on their role and the importance of personal excellence. We hold ourselves accountable for being impressive every day. This means making sure our work is excellent, we honor our values, and when we do not understand something, we communicate to get clarity. When we need help or request someone to double-check our work for excellence, the team understands that we support this. Feedback is essential to excellence, so everyone accepts feedback and works to improve their performance. 

Unacceptable Actions For the APP Accountability Strategy

  • Getting defensive when accountability feedback is provided – Listen to listen
  • Not taking the feedback to heart and continuing to have subpar performance
  • Not proactively communicating when you are struggling, need clarity, getting backlogged or would like a second set of eyes to check something
  • Keeping ideas for clarity or improvement to yourself
  • People hide underperformance because they don’t want to tattle or get someone in trouble. We are here to serve our clients first and each other second. Allowing for underperformance is hurting the entire team and team members. 
  • If you are being addressed for accountability, it is important that you also think about ways APP can support you in your improvement, training, change in process, workload, etc. 

APP Accountability Strategy

APP Accountability Strategy by Kelly Donahue-Piro

Note: We believe in a culture of accountability and transparency. 

We have to be able to talk about challenges in a professional and kind way. This means directly to each other as well as to the leadership involved. 

We believe in a great deal of communication so everyone is clear on their performance.  

How to Become Mentally Ready For Team Pushback

Much of the hang-up around accountability has to do with the uncomfortable moments associated with accountability. What you know in advance you can prepare for in advance. Let me outline some things that will happen on this journey so it’s not a surprise:

  • Your top team members will love it and perform harder
  • Your bottom team members will resist it
  • Some of the team will challenge you to see if you really will do what you say you are going to do
  • You will have to write people up or put them on performance plans
  • You will lose some of your worst team members 
  • You will get stronger in your delivery and conviction to hold people accountable
  • You will get better at it 
  • Substandard performance will start to drive you nuts and you won’t just accept it any longer
  • You will end with a bigger stronger and better team

This all may seem very overwhelming because it is. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone the APP Agency Assessment or 2-Year Program can help you get started to hit your insurance agency growth strategies.
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