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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 11, 2014, 5:30 am

Achieve collective goals fast by being a line leader

By Lynne L. Wallace

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    (Vantreo Insurance Brokerage is offering two leadership workshops on Aug. 14 and 20. To find out more, go to www.vantreo.com.)

    As exhausted as I was when I left the office, I now find myself walking down a neighborhood street with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. How in the world did that happen? I should be sitting with my feet up reading a book. Rewind the tape five minutes and the 4-year-old is pleading “Please come with us …” Her big blue eyes spark, “I’ll let you be the line leader.”  The line leader? … I look over at her mom. “That’s a preschool privilege related to recess,” she explains.  OK, I’m in … it must be really important if she is going to give up such a coveted position. Besides, it’s a beautiful California evening with a temperature of about 75 degrees and everything in bloom.

    Of course her decision was not cleared with her 2-year-old brother who is totally offended at being positioned at the end of the line. He throws himself on the ground in tears. His mom quickly picks him up and distracts him with the puppy on a leash passing by.  So now there are only the two of us left in this line. The 4-year-old steps in front and takes the lead. “Hey!” I say with a splash of offense, “I thought I was the line leader?”  “You are,” she replies without looking back, “but I’m the teacher!”

    In the business world, I think there tends to be misunderstanding about who the “line leader” is at any given point in time. The salesperson makes a sale so he or she must be the line leader and everyone else must be working for him or her. The service rep knows the salesperson would be lost without his or her fine work so certainly the service rep is the line leader.  Then of course, there is the business owner who creates the opportunity for all of them, so for sure the business owner is the line leader.  And while the debate goes on, people on the team are throwing themselves on the ground in tears under the pressure of things that feel “unfair.”

    The secret is in knowing that we are not running a series of individual sprints, but rather a relay race where each team member, operating in his or her own unique ability, makes sure the baton is passed safely to the next team member. Let’s call it “high performance leadership”… everyone watching out for the person in front and the person behind which builds trust and results in a strong team that achieves collective goals fast.

    So, how can we help each team member develop his or her own unique ability in order to be the “line leader” in their specialty and excel at passing the baton to others on the team?

    We all know that a lot of effort goes into performance management. The challenge is that most managers are ill equipped to help team members become line leaders and generate high value for the organization and themselves.

    For example, last week at lunch I asked an insurance agency owner what his response would be if one of his account managers asked him for a 50% raise. His immediate reaction sounded something like “No way…I would think she lost her mind.”. I followed up with, “What if she told you that she could double the book revenue she was servicing, maintain the service quality, and direct an additional $100,000 to the agency bottom-line?”  His next immediate response, “Well if she could do that I would be crazy to pass it up.”

    This example may or may not be an exaggeration. The reality is that people are more willing than you think. It is critical that everyone on the team recognize that;

    1. To make more money you have to create more value.
    2. We can only do what we think we can. If you believe that no matter what you do you will never achieve your goals in your current circumstances, then change your circumstances.
    3. You can’t hit a target you don’t have. You need a goal and a plan.

    However, I caution you not to give up on your current situation too quickly.  One thing I learned from Steve Jobs in the “One Last Thing” video about his life is that the world as we know it was created by people no smarter than you … and you can change it. 

    I am convinced that the shortest path to more profit is in developing leadership ability. This can be summed up in one simple formula…one that when applied not only reduces costs but increases trust — which makes things go faster.

    Every dollar an organization invests in educating executives, managers, and supervisors to be better leaders will drive profit right to the bottom line. And when leaders are able to coax, encourage, and inspire people to do better work, the results are pure magic.

    Lynne L. Wallace, CPCU, President of VANTREO.com, corporate culture strategist, ardent promoter of the “healthy organization,” national speaker and business innovator featured in Success magazine.  VANTREO is focused on keeping people and organizations protected and profitable. They are highly committed to the business community and support clients through a unique combination of insurance, leadership education, and HR services, with an ongoing investment in the next generation.   

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