It All Starts with Trust at American Income Life

American Income Life Regional Director of Sales Chris Selejan

American Income Life Regional Director of Sales Chris Selejan

The recruiting process in our business first and foremost starts with trust – trust that the hiring manager, agency, and American Income Life can deliver on the promises communicated to the individual joining our agency. As such, I felt compelled to write on the topic of trust, and the significant role “trust” has played in so many successful careers. First and foremost, the definition of trust: reliance on the character, ability, strength, of someone or something. Dovetailing with a question on the definition of trust, “you can depend on me and the agency because we have character, ability, and strength to deliver on the promise made” is what we are really saying to the new person that just joined American Income Life, isn’t it? In some shape or form, we communicate such a message because we hire people across the country every single day. Consequently, it is fundamentally important in the healthy functioning of all of our relationships with others to establish trust. This article outlines some key points to developing and maintaining trust.

There’s a widely-known psychological study, conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s, which explored delayed gratification in four-year-olds. One at a time, children were seated in front of a marshmallow and the researcher told them that they could eat the marshmallow right then, but if they waited for the researcher to return from a brief errand, they would receive a second marshmallow.

Some kids ate the marshmallow within seconds, but others waited up to 20 minutes for the researcher to return. 14 years later, the researchers found that the children who had delayed gratification were more trustworthy, more dependable, more self-reliant and more confident than the children who had not controlled their impulses. So much of American Income Life and our business is revolved around delayed-gratification, thus highlighting the importance of establishing trust early and often.

On the other hand, in the real world we understand that trust is not always part of the equation, unfortunately, as all too many of us have ample examples of leaders who have eroded their trust on a personal and professional level. Being trustworthy in someone’s eyes is based on their own perceptions, and it may be strongly influenced by the fracture of trust in the world around them. Indeed, people don’t automatically trust leaders these days. Trust needs to be earned through diligence and applied effort.

If lack of trust is an issue, what can you do as a leader to manage perceptions of trust? Here are a few quick tips:

Be careful and monitor your use of “I” in your daily communications. Do an audit of your emails, for example, and see how frequently you use “I” as opposed to “we”. Peter Drucker said: “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we‘; they think ‘team’.”
View your promises as an unpaid debt.
Keep talking about what matters. 60% of respondents in the Edelman Barometer of Trust said they need to hear a company message three to five times before they believe it. Is your message that you are communicating on a daily basis consistent or inconsistent in nature?
Your reputation is like a brand. Manage your brand; what do you want to be known for? Brand is trust. We recruit to our respective brand on a daily basis, drive consistency with your message(s) and results.
Be known as telling the truth in your organization. This preserves trust, as your people know that you did not lie and/or will not lie. They can trust that as a leader you will always be up-front and truthful about any situation.
Earn the trust of your agents and managers by keeping your promise, and be willing to help. Though it may sound simplistic in nature, it is the cornerstone of trust.
As much as this is hard to do, don’t try to lead through email. Get out from beneath your desk periodically, and have “face time” with people. The more time you spend with people, the more the level of trust increases.
Take inventory of your moods. Are you managing the numbers or are you managing by emotion?
Are the corporate and agency stories you tell consistent or do they vary depending on who you are speaking to? It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and exaggerate claims. Even though your intentions may be harmless, these little slips chip away at trust, because people don’t judge us by our intentions.

In closing, trust is power. It is the power to inspire and influence. In many ways it’s the glue that bonds us to each other, strengthening relationships and essentially our business. It has been said that we at American Income Life are in business for ourselves but not by ourselves. Like four-year-olds trusting that there will be a second marshmallow, can your people trust that your word is your bond?

As George Washington said, “I can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into effect, fidelity and diligence.”

About Chris Selejan

Chris Selejan is a Regional Director of Sales at American Income Life Insurance Company. Find him on Google+

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