A recent Harvard Business Review Article covered some hurdles to organizational change. The article entitled: Organizations Can’t Change If Leaders Can’t Change with Them, sparked some thoughts about the great changes happening in the financial services discipline, especially in our Life Insurance Wholesale market.
The leadership of an organization is responsible for the direction their company takes, and when we are looking to do something difficult, like change, it makes sense that change has to start with us. With such disruptive change happening in the financial services world, with our specialty focus in Life Insurance Wholesaling, we at MRI Cedar Rapids have had to make changes in our practice to continue serving our insurance wholesale hiring managers at the high level that we expect of ourselves.
The daunting frequency of failure to make organizational changes shouldn’t be minimized. Being aware of the challenges that we face can help prepare us to take on challenges head on and persevere to make real change both for ourselves and our companies. The points that Ron Carucci makes in the article, along with the case studies he uses to illustrate those points (emotional transference, awareness of personal narratives, and even writing practices) can be used to help us hone our own personal ability to change as well as not be one of the hurdles to change in our own organizations.
As MRI Cedar Rapids has changed over the years, I have had the opportunity to change quite a bit myself. I became the owner of the organization, and the Life Insurance Wholesale job market has certainly changed over the years as well. When thinking about how to apply the effective strategies of the article to the changing organizational landscape of many Life Insurance Wholesale companies, the idea of my awareness of personal narratives was a novel one. It’s more than just saying “ok, what used to work may not work any more”, it’s about really getting down to the fundamentals.
If you have to write it out, then write it out- what are you doing now in your business that’s actually working? What’s obviously not working, and why? Getting beyond the knee jerk reaction- Life Insurance Wholesale positions are difficult to fill because of X, Y and Z- and really digging into, why is this change so hard? Am I standing in the way of the change that needs to happen for my organizations’ good? The article mentions taking notes, being aware of our own practices, and the motivations behind those practices, as well as soliciting feedback from others. One way that I’ve found to effect necessary change is asking my team to help brainstorm what strategies we can use to stay effective recruiting partners as the markets shift. In the Life Insurance Wholesaling Market our recruiters feel the pulse of the industry, and are often able to make great suggestions of new strategies to keep offer the best talent. Once everyone’s shared their ideas, I ask “what do you need from me?”. As a good leader I need to give my team the tools to change and adapt to their markets as they change- often letting the organization inform me of how things are changing, and allowing them to make suggestions for how we can continue to succeed as a group, helps me to be a better leader.
The difficulties of effecting major change are no small hurdle, and the frequency of success is small- 25-30% according to the HBR article. As a leader it’s my responsibility to ensure that I’m not another hurdle to my team. I want to help their progress, rather than hinder it, and to do that I need to listen to them, be aware of my own motivations, challenges, and weaknesses to make sure that my company weathers and succeeds through whatever changes are coming in the uncertain future.
Michael Brown is a devoted, pragmatic leader and has been with MRI Cedar Rapids since 2001. Since joining the company, Michael has consistently led the team’s success. Now the owner of the practice, Mike still works a full, active desk, serving the life insurance and annuity industries nationally.