When Insurance Agent Kate Green initially contacted me in regard to a coaching session, she had no idea what to expect from our connection or what a coaching session actually entailed. Little did Kate know that her work and her life, as she had known it, was about to change dramatically and that based on our sessions she would never look at herself or her business in the same way again. In fact, Kate was actually about to go on a journey that would prove to be a vehicle for achieving her goals, improving her personal and professional life, and making a genuine difference to her level of enthusiasm and passion for her career. Kate would ultimately discover the overall results of coaching and the bonus effect it would have on the vision she held for her career and her future.
Case History Background
In preparation of my coaching session with Kate, I started out, as I always do, by getting her to relax and asking her a few simple questions. Initially, I asked Kate what it was that prompted her to request a complimentary coaching session with me. It took her a moment or two to respond, but for the next 15 minutes, I got enough information from Kate to know where she was at in her career and what she was hoping to achieve.
I learned that Kate was in her late thirties, happily married with two children ages eight and ten years old and that she was an established agent with nearly a decade of experience in the insurance services industry. She had only represented one primary company during her career and was positioned within a successful agency, which consisted of 30 producers. So what was the reason for her call? Kate said that lately she had given thought to a suggestion made by her manager about focusing on her next production goal, but before proceeding she felt that she needed some assistance.
From what Kate shared with me, I gathered that she had received above average training and also received an adequate level of administrative support from her company. She gave credit for much of her success to her manager, company, and her associates. In her own evaluation of herself, she felt that she was a good listener, followed through with proactive responses, and always did what was asked of her. For all intents and purposes she was successful, yet although it all looked good on paper; she wasn’t feeling the same excitement, enthusiasm, and positive outlook that she felt during her first five years as a producer. She was working longer hours, but she felt that she was accomplishing less and less each day. And worst of all, her organizational and time management skills had all but vanished and her level of production for the first quarter was off track.
When evaluating a new client, I look for certain traits that tell me if a person is open to coaching. For an individual to attain her or her goals, they must be willing to take in what I suggest, plus that must have the desire to succeed. They also must have a feeling of worthiness to accomplish their goals. And that must start with building a belief from within, which helps move a person closer to attaining their dreams and aspirations. But, the journey to reaching and achieving one’s goals are never static, for we change, life changes and so do our environment and our circumstances. Some introspection is required as it acts as a catalyst by opening up many new levels of awareness that helps us reach higher levels of accomplishment. Consequently, the journey never comes to an end, for as new ideas and possibilities emerge, we begin a new page in our lives. This is precisely where Kate was at in her career.
During my conversation with Kate, I also discovered that she was eager for a new adventure in her career, as she had come to a crossroads. And I knew that in order to be of help to her as a coach, the success of our coaching relationship would depend on my ability to relate to her impasse. A lot was riding on the questions I asked and the insight I observed. Fortunately, as a long time coach, I knew that the right questions are paramount to a successful coaching relationship. And so, once presenting a few interesting inquiries, I listened carefully to Kate’s response, gleaning the information I needed to determine if I could help her. As I often do with my clients, I had to read between the lines to be sure I heard what Kate was really saying.
Based on Kate’s responses to my questions, it was clear that Kate had put her life and career on automatic pilot and had lost sight of her life’s purpose. It was obvious that she had fallen out of alignment with her core values and was no longer getting her most important needs met. When I shared my assessment with Kate regarding her situation, I could sense by her response that I hit the nail on the head. She felt heard and understood. She also felt confident that with my support and coaching strategies she could change the course of direction she was on and make the necessary changes to reach her goals. For this reason, during our first conversation and Kate’s openness to my insights, I was able to conclude that Kate and I were going to be a good match. By the end of our conversation, Kate was ready to move forward with our on-going coaching sessions.
Solution Action Steps
Since Kate’s activities were out of alignment with her needs, we started by having her put in writing exactly what she wanted to accomplish in her life. What legacy did she want to leave? What were her personal values? What were her highest priorities as a person? How did she want to live her life? What was the appropriate balance of the various life factors such as personal and spiritual growth, relationships, career and business, finance and money, play and recreation, health and physical environment? And finally, what goals did she have for each of these values? As you can see, the objectives of coaching in the “Career and Business” arena cover several key areas.
Once Kate realized that she had lost sight of her purpose and was no longer getting her most important life affirming needs and life factors met, we were able to devise a plan with specific action steps. These steps included having Kate create specific goals in each area of her life. She came to realize that her production was only a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. In addition to her establishing goals, I had her create a personal mission statement that served as the criterion for all of her decisions. The importance of a mission statement cannot be overemphasized. In fact, it should be a clear representation of a person’s purpose for existence and should focus on measurable factors that include ethics, image and expectations. It formally and concisely describes the reasons you have chosen a particular profession, sets forth your purpose and priorities, and describes the direction you want to take. The mission statement also helps determine what actions and decisions are consistent with one’s life purpose and help to gain control in deciding on future plans and actions. I always encourage the creating of a mission statement when anyone is evaluating her or her life strategies. The reason I find it so important is because the statement should ultimately answer the question of: “Why am I in this career?”
In one of the last steps of our coaching session, I had Kate create an “ideal work week,” which allowed adequate time for her to fulfill her entire life factor needs. By defining her purpose, not only did Kate become reenergized but also, her time management skills improved, her sales level increased and most important, she felt happier and more satisfied with herself and the direction she was headed.
Summary to the Coaching Session
What I have discovered as a coach is that people will most often achieve based on the level of expectations you have of them. I therefore communicate my expectations towards the person I am coaching through my words, deeds, actions, and behaviors. I never set a ceiling on someone else’s dreams, and to the degree that I sincerely believe that a person can achieve higher performance, they will. When there is trust, mutual respect, and rapport between the person I am coaching and myself, the greater the likelihood of coaching success.
I bet if you would think back to a particular time in your life, you would probably recall one very special person, whether it was a sports coach, parent, teacher, partner, friend or significant other, but it was a person who saw more in you than you saw in yourself. Do you remember how it made you feel when someone really saw you? Can you think back to how their belief in you influenced your belief in yourself and how ultimately their influence impacted on what you were able to achieve? There is nothing more satisfying than having someone see you, shear you and believe in you. And there is nothing more powerful than having a trusted coach helps you tap into your authenticity. This is what good coaching achieves.
As you might well imagine, Kate’s results did not occur overnight for it takes time to work through an individual’s issues. Sometimes it takes time just to be able to articulate what the key issues are, however, taking the time to do so pays off in huge benefits. Which is why I love coaching. It is in fact my personal belief that every one of us would love to have someone we trust, someone who can help us become all that we are capable of becoming, someone who can support us through our own obstacles, for nothing is more fulfilling than having a person in your corner who not only supports you, but offers constructive, positive and beneficial input that impacts on your life.
Taking Advantage of a Good Coach
For years, we have accepted the fact that professional athletes work with their coaches on a regular basis, helping them improve their performance and assisting them in reaching their goals. Actors, singers and musicians, have also always worked closely with coaches, and that too has been an accepted and expected activity. In today’s business world, it has finally become more and more obvious that everyone can and should take advantage of a coach that has the ability to see an individual clearly and help them remove any obstacles that prevent them from achieving, ultimately helping them accelerate their success. Good coaches spot talent in people, help people discover their own unique strengths, help people create, articulate and develop plans to achieve their goals, challenge people to reach higher, encourage and nurture people to clear obstacles on their path to success and hold people accountable for achieving their own desired results. In short, an excellent coach is good at building people.
In 1999, the International Coach Federation (ICF) conducted a nationwide survey asking what benefits clients receive from coaching. The respondents attributed certain benefits to coaching which include a higher level of self-awareness, smarter goal setting, lower stress levels, more self-confidence, enhanced communication skills, improved project completion, better relationships with boss or co-workers, better family relationships, increased energy, more fun and free time and more income. With such a powerful list of benefits, is it any wonder that coaching has reached tremendous popularity?
Paint a Picture in Your Mind’s Eye…Then Make it a Reality
Just as actors follow scripts, so too do we have inner scripts or thought patterns that determine our actions, affect our feelings and determine our levels of success. If the internal script isn’t creating a life of joy and success, paint a new picture in your mind’s eye and then make it reality. Old patterns and habits take a long time to form so naturally, it will take some time to replace them with a new script. Which is where coaching comes in. Working with a coach allows an individual to more quickly form new beliefs and generate new actions, feelings and behaviors that are consistent with new possibilities.
Having a Tune-Up
Whether you are new to the insurance industry or if you are a seasoned professional, we all go through changes in our lives and careers and often simply need a tune-up to put the sparkle back in our careers. Agents usually start out by having a vision, but all too often, they neglect to revisit those visions or forget to keep pace with how they, as professionals, have changed or grown. It is a fact that one of the hardest things for people to master is setting clear goals. They either don’t know what a clear goal is, or they think it has to be precise and accomplished within a certain time frame.
Setting New Goals
When setting new goals, keep in mind that goal setting is not a "to do" list. Goals must be relevant and meaningful and they must support you in getting closer to the attainment of your dreams. But before starting on a new goal setting activity, review what you accomplished in a previous year. Look at everything you’ve achieved including volunteer activities, personal involvements, and participation with family or friends. In short, keeping the bigger picture in mind is a powerful motivator. Did you finish a book you always wanted to read? Did you join in on a class that you always wanted to take? Did you volunteer your time to a program that meant a great deal to you? To achieve new goals, it’s important to give yourself credit for what makes you feel proud. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep a success journal. Write down even the smallest successes and watch how they grow. If you continue to remember accomplishments and then reflect upon those accomplishments, you’ll develop the capacity to relive your successes rather than your disappointments. Earl Nightingale is quoted as saying, “You become what you think about most of the time.” What that means is that your brain acts as a non-judgmental computer that hears the input you feed it and then says, “Okay, if that’s what you want, we’ll make it happen. Which is why writing positive thoughts and repeating them daily is so successful.
Achieving Your Goals
Most professionals, I speak with tell me they want to achieve more and more each year. Their stated goals include increased sales, hiring an assistant, achieving a designation, qualifying for industry or company top production clubs, enhanced vacations and more time with families. Whether or not they achieve these goals depends upon a few key concepts, which includes a commitment to achieving these goals. All of us possess our own unconscious “area of the possible.” All of our actions, feelings, behaviors and abilities are consistent with our belief of what is possible for us to achieve. When you have an unwavering commitment to your career goals, and a belief that they can be achieved, you must take action by moving closer to attaining each goal. By doing so, your resilience and your spirits remain high and you receive abundant energy, enthusiasm, and hope for the future.
Is this an easy process? No, not initially. But mastering any new skill takes time. Just as athletes and musicians use coaches to guide them, so too should any businessperson partner with a coach that is trustworthy, holds you accountable to the achievement of your goals and encourages you to practice and persist until you reach your goals. After all, the key factor in successfully attaining our goals stems from first recognizing what they are, believing they can be achieved and then going after them with full force. And with a good coach in your corner, you will be guided, inspired and empowered to recognize those goals in addition to developing your full potential.
Good luck on your journey to success.