Copyright 2009 ProQuest Information and LearningAll Rights ReservedCopyright 2009 Rough Notes Co., Inc. Rough Notes
WINNING STRATEGIES; Pg. 12 Vol. 152 No. 12 ISSN: 0035-8525
FINDING YOUR “WHY”
Linne, Larry G
Many people want to slow down to enjoy what they have accomplished. Nothing wrong with that! This article addresses people who still want to grow but don’t know why they can’t. Many business entrepreneurs start out with a high level of motivation — but something kicks in that causes them to lose their “why.” Most people believe that because they are already successful, they will continue to enjoy success. But without the motivation required to accomplish greater things, they will stagnate. In the property/casualty business, many producers and agency owners posted terrific results when the markets were hard. They rode the success of the hard market or capitalized on a unique product edge that no longer exists. Many successful people reach self-actualization. Then they find that this is not enough to keep them motivated to continue driving as hard as they once did. FULL TEXT
Do you stili want to grow but don’t know why you can’t?
Why do producers slow down when their book reaches a certain size? Why do leaders pursue a less stringent work ethic when the company’s results are acceptable? Why do talented people stop performing at high levels?
Most people will say it is because they make enough money. They don’t really need any more money, so they become satisfied and a little lazy.
I don’t agree. Based on my research and observation, it isn’t the money that satisfies them! It’s the “why.”
I have studied dozens of talented producers, successful business owners, and top-performing executives. All of them have had very successful careers, but all of them are performing at a growth level well below what they were doing earlier in their career. This is not always a bad thing. Many people want to slow down to enjoy what they have accomplished. Nothing wrong with that! I am not going to address those people in this article. The people I am going to address are the ones who still want to grow but don’t know why they can’t.
Some examples of these people are: the producer who still has to meet a quota and is expected to grow but can’t seem to close enough accounts; the agency president who isn’t able to accomplish the tough things like she did early in her career; and the commercial lines manager who doesn’t have the energy to fight the battles he once tackled so enthusiastically.
What has happened to these people? Why can’t they perform like they did in the good old days?
Why? Because they have lost their “why.”
If you haven’t seen “The Pursuit of Happyness,” I highly recommend it. Based on a true story, this movie is about a man down on his luck, played by Will Smith. He loses his girlfriend, job, apartment, and everything but his son and the clothes on his back. At one point he even loses a shoe. He finds a job as a stockbroker that requires an extended period of time in training with no income. This man’s drive and motivation exceed those of any individual I have ever seen. He does whatever it takes to achieve success. His “why” is so big that he can’t be stopped. I won’t tell you the end of the movie. You’ll have to watch it yourself.
Many business entrepreneurs start out with a similar level of motivation – but something kicks in that causes them to lose their “why.”
Finding the “why”
You may be familiar with the Hierarchy of Needs concept introduced in 1943 by psychologist Abraham Maslow. The hierarchy is depicted as a pyramid (see the illustration above), with five levels of need, beginning with physiological needs – food, water, sleep, and so on. Once these basic needs have been met, an individual may be motivated to pursue the higher-level needs shown in the pyramid: safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem and achievement, and self-actualization.
People who seek to meet these higher-level needs often are motivated by desires such as:
* Accomplishing a goal, whether it be personal or professional, material or spiritual
* Achieving a lifestyle equal to or better than that enjoyed by their parents
* Building a profitable business
* Validating themselves as a producer
Each of the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy can be thought of as a “why.” People who seek to meet higher-level needs are willing to work late hours, make tough calls, and do whatever it takes to reach their goals. Their “why” is so big that they will go to almost any lengths to achieve it. But what happens when that “why” is accomplished?
After achieving the “why,” an individual takes one of two paths. The first path is to maintain the status that was reached by the first “why.” The person on this path will do what it takes to keep what he or she accomplished in the first round but nothing more.
The second path is to create a new “why.” This is the path less traveled. Not many people realize they need to create a new “why.” Most people believe that because they are already successful, they will continue to enjoy success. But without the motivation required to accomplish greater things, they will stagnate.
In the property/casualty business, many producers and agency owners posted terrific results when the markets were hard. They rode the success of the hard market or capitalized on a unique product edge that no longer exists. Now that we’ve been in a soft market for the last several years, their results have been either flat or negative. They are far removed from the behaviors required to be highly successful, and they don’t have the motivation to find them again.
This is a frustrating place to be.
Getting your “why” back
So how do you get your “why” back?
Let’s look at Maslow again. As a young person, or early in a career, the Hierarchy of Needs that Maslow describes keeps one motivated and driven to succeed. Many successful people reach self-actualization. Then they find that this is not enough to keep them motivated to continue driving as hard as they once did.
Recently I worked with a producer who is verv successful but had lost the motivation to grow his book. He said he wanted to grow. He had a big quota. He thought nothing had changed. But he hadn’t sold any new business to speak of for more than two years. I asked him why he needed to meet his quota. He gave me all the basic answers you would expect: “Because I am a leader. I have always met my quota. I am the best.” I looked him in the eye and said, “That isn’t good enough, or you would be meeting your quota.” His head dropped.
I took the “why” questions and went deeper. “Why is being a leader important, and why do you have to be the best?” He answered that he wanted to have more money and wanted to continue being the top producer. I asked him why. He said that he had to set a good example for his kids and that he wanted his kids to be able to travel and experience Ufe differently than he had. He felt the need to show bis kids a good work ethic that was based on results.
You know what came next, don’t you? I asked him why that was important to him. He sat up a little higher and, with frustration showing on his face, he said, “When are you going to quit asking me why?” I answered, “When you get a sense of urgency that motivates you to take it to the next level of success.”
Over the next few hours, we worked out this producer’s new “why.” He discovered that his new “why” was based on helping others: his wife, his children, and people in need. The producer realized that, having met the first four needs identified by Maslow, he needed this new purpose to achieve his highest potential. The producer left our meeting with a strong sense of urgency because he saw a higher purpose and had identified a “why” that for him was non-negotiable.
Maslow’s physiological needs are non-negotiable and essential to survival, but I believe that all of the needs in the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid are non-negotiable motivators until you reach the top one: self-actualization.
Have you reached a plateau in your life? Are you wondering why you aren’t accomplishing the great things you accomplished when you were in your 20s and 30s? It may be as simple as asking why, and why, and why. You will know you are there when the “why” you identify gives you a sense of urgency that drives you to act. That will be your motivation to get to the next level. As an agency principal, I would make sure that all of my producers and leaders understood their “why”! SIDEBAR
Sense of belonging
You will know you are there when the “why” you identify gives you a sense of urgency that drives you to act.
December 24, 2009