Lou Holtz is widely known as a legendary college football coach and mentor — but it wasn’t 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?”

I’m 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 wasn’t very excited about listening to some guy who I had never heard of. In fact, I didn’t have the most positive, winning attitude while I started listening to his talk. Here’s the crazy thing though: Holtz’s 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 Holtz’s 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.

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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 Holtz’s 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; It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts.

I interpret Weaver’s 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.

WEAC

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 agency’s 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.

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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 don’t 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, don’t always start every game and they don’t make every highlight reel on ESPN, but they’re more than above average ballplayers who consistently get their job done at a very high level and prove clutch throughout the season.

I’d 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 don’t always play nicely in the sandbox. If you’re 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:

Work Ethic

Never confuse time spent at work with time being productive. Easy to say, but proves beyond challenging for most, to say the least.

Attitude

Both the ‘positive’ and ‘can-do’ varieties. It’s one thing to possess a positive attitude every day, but it’s 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 didn’t want to do, weren’t 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 wouldn’t and haven’t done themselves and that hasn’t proven successful many times over. There’s 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.

Coachability

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 I’ve had sales agents tell me that they’re 99% coachable but they just don’t 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 don’t want to do? The typical responses I get are simply the opposite of what they said about everything else. They don’t like it, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make them money, it doesn’t work most of the time, and isn’t very comfortable for them.

What I find is that these sales agents aren’t 99% coachable and 1% un-coachable. In fact, that doesn’t even exist because it’s impossible to have those percentages. You’re 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, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

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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 don’t want to do the things that are the hardest, the things that don’t come natural and that aren’t 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 It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts: An autobiography by Earl Weaver. Reach him at (443) 676-0340, esilverman@silvermanbenefits.com, on LinkedIn, on Twitter @SilvermanSBG, or through his business Facebook page; facebook.com/SilvermanBenefits.

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