By Jason Levine, MSM-RMI
Vice President, Operations
Harry Levine Insurance
Perhaps the biggest challenge for a young agent in a management position or a young producer who relies upon support staff is gaining and maintaining their co-workers’ respect. Office dynamics can often be tricky, but they become even more complex when the holder of greater responsibility may be only half the age of those they’re relying on for results. It makes sense too. First glance logic says that an elder will be wiser as the result of their tenure and years of experience. Deeper study disproves this. The critical importance of these relationships is evidenced by the most forward question I was asked very early in my career when interviewing for a fast-track captive agency program: “How are you going manage a staff that may be 30–40 years your senior in some cases? How and why will they have any respect and/or loyalty to one who they see as their children’s peer?”
The answer to this challenge is actually quite simple. It’s consistently implementing and maintaining the characteristics and styles necessary that can be challenging. First, you always need to be learning. Note that I did not say that you need to know more/better than anyone else. However, if you can establish yourself as a bank of knowledge regarding product, the regulatory environment, and the practical implications of the seemingly mundane every day procedural tasks, you will set yourself apart as engaged, smart, and deserving of your station. Second, you must be firm, fair, and unflinchingly confident. Confidence exudes competence. The former traits simply follow the Golden Rule coupled with sound management technique. Treat others how you would want to be treated, though remember that you are the lead and results depend upon your adherence to sound company policy. Third, and most importantly, make sure to stay sharp on how to successfully do all of the jobs for which you are responsible for managing. I have more than once overcome the direct challenges of skeptical staff by being consistently able to perform every task over which I manage to the highest of standards. Finally, maintain congenial relationships, but really understand that your staff cannot be your friends. They may be your office family and it’s crucial to support them in their times of need and in their day to day dealings, but do not blur the business/home line with your subordinates.
Sure, it’s easier said than done to manage a staff that mirrors the generation of your parents, but it can be done effectively and successfully. Just keep your head high, think before you act, and make sure you are the most learned and best performing professional that you can be. Such traits make teams want to work together and leaders want to be followed.