Accountability In An American Income Life Mentoring Relationship
This week’s Weekly Leadership Message is from Kevin Dunn, American Income Life’s Director of New SGA Development. Kevin explains how accountability fits into the mentor/mentee relationship, particularly as it pertains to American Income Life leaders and agents.
Accountability in a mentoring relationship directly affects the amount of learning that can take place within the relationship. As learning is the primary purpose of mentoring, accountability must be a major part of the relationship. Building this accountability into the mentoring relationship takes some time, but is certainly worth the payoff. Accountability is a way of living and doing business that recognizes that we perform our best when held to high standards.
When mentoring future American Income Life leaders both parties should not only be held accountable, but should have a complete buy-in to the concept of accountability, recognizing that it brings with it high performance and effectiveness in the relationship. In the American Income Life mentoring relationship, each party plays an important role by focusing on four primary areas; goals and expectations, progress monitoring, and measurement and feedback. By working on each of these areas, both mentor and mentee will maximize the effectiveness of the relationship, providing each with a high level of satisfaction.
Goals and Expectations
When mentoring American Income Life agents it is important to clearly establish the goals and expectations as well as a specific timeline. In doing so, both the mentor and the mentee understand what is expected from the relationship. A few ideas for setting goals and expectations are:
- Concentrate on learning as the primary goal of the relationship. The AIL agent should realize that his/her goals may be more specific, however, given his life experiences. While the mentor drives this part of the process, he/she should make sure the mentee both understands and agrees with the goals.
- Be clear with one another about what each is trying to accomplish. Lack of clarity at this stage will cause expectations to be unclear and most likely not met.
- Don’t worry about covering everything at this point. Goals and expectations will be readdressed at every stage of the relationship as each discovers what does and does not work.
Progress monitoring is crucial to an effective, and accountable, American Income Life mentoring relationship. As the business of life takes up much of your daily routine, it is important that both parties monitor progress at predetermined times. Some ways to make sure progress is being properly monitored is to:
- Have specific outcomes to accomplish by specific dates. This takes some thought up front, but is worth the investment. Be specific, but don’t be hard on your agents when they fail to meet these deadlines. These deadlines need to be fluid and should only be used to guide them. This does not mean, however, that the timeline should not be taken seriously. These dates are for the mutual benefit of you and the American Income Life agent. Sticking as close to them as possible will help you both get the most, and give the most, from your mentoring relationship.
- Have a pre-determined time to meet. This can be weekly, monthly etc, but should be consistent. Make sure it is a time that works for all concerned and is unlikely to be cancelled because of schedule conflicts. Have a backup time set for those inevitable conflicts.
- Always be honest with one another about how things are going. Remember, this is a relationship that requires time, dedication and a certain amount of work.
There is an old adage: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. When mentoring American Income Life leaders this is certainly the case. To insure you are able to measure (and therefore manage) the outcomes of your mentoring relationship you should:
- Use the goals and timelines established at an earlier date to measure where your American Income Life agents are compared to where you thought they would be. Don’t let them get discouraged if things are moving more slowly than you both anticipated. Keep the focus on the end goal. This mentoring relationship should be organic and move at a pace that works for everyone.
- Ask your agents to keep a journal of progress. This will keep them motivated when things seem as though they are not going as well as they had hoped.
- Revisit timelines and measured outcomes to reflect on the progress of the American Income Life agent. Keep things fluid enough to be flexible, but not so fluid as to allow poor performance to go unchecked.
Communication is key to a successful relationship – whether it is marriage or mentoring – so don’t be afraid to share what things are not working. Nobody has 20/20 foresight, so don’t be surprised when goals need some tweaking.
Remember, the end goal is for you to teach (mentor) your agents to have a successful and rewarding career with American Income Life. If you find the specific short-term goals are not meeting that end goal, then make the change and make it quickly. If you fail to make changes, you will find yourself dreading meetings and ultimately falling away from the relationship.
Communication and feedback also include sharing what things are working well. Positive reinforcement is healthy for both mentor and mentee and gives energy to the relationship. Below are some ways to reinforce the relationship in this feedback period:
- Show appreciation by sharing recent successes. This works on both sides of the relationship. The American Income Life agent should share how he/she is learning from the mentor, and vice versa. These shared experiences strengthen the trust between the parties and make for a much more effective relationship.
- Keep a journal of daily challenges and successes. Sharing daily thoughts is a great way for the mentor and mentee to see how they are doing emotionally.
- Keep in touch by telephone, e-mail, texting etc. Frequent communication builds familiarity and in turn builds trust. One caution, however, is to not let the relationship get too informal too quickly. Mentoring relationships require mutual respect with the mentee looking-up to the mentor. Being overly casual, which can sometimes happen in e-mails and texting, may lead to more of a friendship than a mentor relationship. This is not to say that this is always bad, but you should act with caution. Remember, the end goal is to learn.
- Bounce ideas off one another. An idea session is a great way to learn how your American Income Life agents are growing and progressing. Make sure these don’t get unproductive, however, as idea sessions can get out of hand very quickly. The concept that there are no stupid ideas is flawed. Given enough time in a session, ideas can get silly and will no longer be an asset to your growth.
Whether you are an experienced mentor or an inexperienced mentee, putting accountability into your mentoring relationship will make it effective and produce an end product that is worthwhile for all parties. As you set goals and expectations, measure your progress and get feedback, you are investing in a mentoring relationship that will pay great dividends. The partnership of mentoring with accountability will maximize learning, providing a positive experience for all concerned.
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