Lou Holtz is widely known as a legendary college football coach and mentor but it wasnt until late 2006 that I finally learned of this brilliant and extraordinary coaching icon. At a management meeting in Atlanta, I noticed that Lou Holtz had been hired to motivate all of the sales managers in attendance. The only thing that went through my mind was, Who in the world is Lou Holtz?
Im a baseball man, a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan who bleeds orange and black, raised under the belief that there were only two seasons: winter and baseball. To be perfectly honest, I wasnt very excited about listening to some guy who I had never heard of. In fact, I didnt have the most positive, winning attitude while I started listening to his talk. Heres the crazy thing though: Holtzs speech led to what became a turning point in my career that would forever change the way I approached my business in the insurance industry.
To this very day, the most significant part of Holtzs speech to me was that he considers work ethic and attitude to be the two most critical characteristics he looks for within the players he chooses to recruit, coach, develop and mentor. That was ground breaking for me, to say the least. I was 26 years old, more than six years into what was quickly becoming a very successful career in the insurance industry, and I could most certainly identify with what Holtz was saying.
I remember thinking, I recruit, I coach, I develop, I mentor perhaps I should start identifying my players (agents) using the same characteristics that Holtz uses. Then it dawned on me: I needed an acronym to remember these characteristics and be able to share them with my team. As I thought about Holtzs speech all afternoon, I realized that there was one other thing that he spoke of indirectly but yet seemed to be a very overlooked, yet crucial component to the success of the players he recruited: coachablity.
What he said about the importance of his players ability to put their ego aside and be coachable resonated with me greatly and reminded me of my favorite Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame manager: The great Earl Weaver. Weaver was famous for many things, most of which involved winning, kicking dirt on umpires, and getting thrown out of ballgames. But since I was too young to remember watching him manage, what I learned about him came from the title of his 1982 autobiography; Its What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts.
I interpret Weavers quote as what Lou describes for how players must have a sincere dedication and commitment to being coachable and how they must trust that their managers and coaches have the experience and knowledge to make each player better. There it was, my light-bulb moment, my acronym was complete. WEAC: Work Ethic. Attitude. Coachability.
The adoption of WEAC within my business was almost immediate. I shared it with everyone who would listen. I recruited with it as my office mantra and used it to create the office culture that led to consistent levels of success for my entire team. I even went so far as to give away quarterly WEAC Awards to the agents who demonstrated the highest form of Work Ethic, possessed the most terrific Attitude, and proved they were 100% Coachable at all times. The WEAC Award became my agencys highest and most prestigious honor and I always had agents and managers clamoring for this award throughout each year.
Being the most WEAC never meant that you were the top producer or even the highest earner each month. What it meant was that you had what I believed, as your sales manager, were the three most vital characteristics that one must possess in order to achieve consistent levels of greatness throughout your entire career.
Think about it; how many top producers have we all hired or met that became one or two-hit wonders? How many times have you seen someone land a large account and, because they dont have a solid foundation of core disciplines and skillsets, they end up never achieving that quintessential top producer level again? I wholeheartedly believe that the most WEAC individuals are those I call the super-utility players who, just like in a Major League baseball team, dont always start every game and they dont make every highlight reel on ESPN, but theyre more than above average ballplayers who consistently get their job done at a very high level and prove clutch throughout the season.
Id much prefer to have a team full of super-utility sales agents working in my agency than just a few top producers with the largest egos who dont always play nicely in the sandbox. If youre not WEAC with a capital C, then you risk stymieing your sales game to ranks no higher than the Little League level. Let me break down WEAC:
Never confuse time spent at work with time being productive. Easy to say, but proves beyond challenging for most, to say the least.
Both the positive and can-do varieties. Its one thing to possess a positive attitude every day, but its an entirely different thing to possess a can-do attitude at all times. I actually believe that the latter is much more difficult and even more important than the former.
Have you ever done something that you didnt want to do, werent happy about, but did it anyway? Why did you do it? Remember that great sales managers and mentors will never ask you to do something that they wouldnt and havent done themselves and that hasnt proven successful many times over. Theres a method to their madness and although you may not always agree or have the most positive attitude about what they say, just be sure to always have a can-do attitude so you can always be part of that winning team.
The ability to be coached and trained by putting ego and previously gained knowledge and experiences aside. Never confuse being logical with being coachable. All too often Ive had sales agents tell me that theyre 99% coachable but they just dont agree with me on this or that. I always ask them why they agree with me on 99% of the things I teach and share with them but not the other 1%? The typical responses I get are that 99% of what I say they actually like, makes sense, makes them money, works most of the time, and is very comfortable for them. I then ask them what is it about the 1% of the things I teach and share with them that they dont want to do? The typical responses I get are simply the opposite of what they said about everything else. They dont like it, it doesnt make sense, it doesnt make them money, it doesnt work most of the time, and isnt very comfortable for them.
What I find is that these sales agents arent 99% coachable and 1% un-coachable. In fact, that doesnt even exist because its impossible to have those percentages. Youre either 100% coachable or 100% un-coachable. These sales agents are in effect, 100% logical and 100% un-coachable at the same time. Remember, as Weaver said, Its what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Also see: "Who are the rising stars in advising?"
These sales agents, like any logical and sane, driven human beings, naturally do the things that are easiest, the things that immediately work and that are comfortable for them. This makes them 100% logical. The fact that they dont want to do the things that are the hardest, the things that dont come natural and that arent very comfortable are actually the things that will, no doubt, take them from striking out to consistently knocking the ball out of the ballpark like the greatest homerun hitters of all time.
Now set your goals high and swing for the fences!
Silverman, principal and owner of the Silverman Benefits Group, has recruited, trained, and developed more than 2,000 commission sales agents, interns, and broker partners over the last 15 years, and collectively, they have produced more than $60,000,000 in annualized revenue. He was also recently selected as a 2015 Rising Star in Advising by Employee Benefit Adviser magazine. He recommends you read Wins, Losses, and Lessons: An autobiography by Lou Holtz and Its What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts: An autobiography by Earl Weaver. Reach him at (443) 676-0340, firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn, on Twitter @SilvermanSBG, or through his business Facebook page; facebook.com/SilvermanBenefits.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access