Taking Responsibility in Your Leadership Role at American Income Life
As the SGA or manager of your American Income Life team, you’re the CEO/Leader of your agency, and the day to day responsibilities can sometimes seem overwhelming. You are no longer simply in charge of meeting plans and targets. The reality is that you are pulled in many different directions, and people are constantly asking for your time and help. As a leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that your organization does the right things and that things get done right. You are now responsible for ensuring the success of your organization and that the people within it are successful. You have the great power to change lives.
That’s a lot to be accountable for. That’s a lot of responsibility!!!
What is Responsibility?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines being responsible as being “liable to be called to account”.
As a leader, you’re responsible for everything that happens in your organization, and you’ll be held accountable for everything that happens, good or bad.
You need to look at and even question the decisions and processes that hold your organization together. It’s no excuse to say that you didn’t know what was going on or that you weren’t personally involved – the buck stops with you.
All leaders are vulnerable to being caught out by difficult situations. You may have or developed dysfunctional structures and procedures, or you simply may not know what to question. This is particularly true of new leaders: they may make assumptions about their organization based on their previous roles, they may feel loyal to previous leaders’ decisions, and they may fail to see the “bigger picture” that a leader needs.
Full responsibility is an enormous challenge to take on. However, leaders who plan for this responsibility right from the start (that is, when they accept the job) have a far greater chance of success than those who take a more “laissez-faire” approach.
How to Take Responsibility
To fulfill your obligations as a leader and to be fully responsible for your organization’s actions, you need to build an accurate understanding of the organization and of what’s going on within it.
1. Understand and Confirm Your Organization’s Goal
Your first step is to examine what your organization aims to do. What is the ultimate purpose, and do I have a course of action to get there? Have I shared my vision? Does everyone understand the big picture? Is there a sense of urgency? Is it likely to motivate people to behave in the right way? Does it send the right message and create the culture that you are looking to achieve? If you have doubts, then you need to clarify these.
2. Understand that there are Risks
Once you understand what you’re trying to achieve, you need to think about what could go wrong. How could your organization let people down and what would the consequences be?
Identify potential problems and their consequences. By considering all levels of risk, you’ll also gain a good grasp of the many different roles and processes within your organization, as well as the potential risks involved in each.
If possible, spend time with the others in your organization, and have an honest conversation about both their role and the organization. This will give you a good understanding of problems that have already happened, the ways that crises have been averted, and the pressures on different colleagues.
Do your best to forge meaningful connections with these people early on. Ask “why” they want to achieve what they want and what is their true motivation. Know what pushes their buttons. Call or meet them and ask for an open conversation. What is their experience with your organization, and what issues are they most concerned about? What problems are they facing? What’s working well? These early conversations will help you identify problems that you may need to address quickly.
3. Understand Processes, Values, Culture, and Management Structure
Conduct a thorough review of your organization. Your aim is to get a full picture of how your organization’s processes, people, culture, values, and management structure help or hinder its ability to deliver what is expected.
Look at roles and responsibilities, information and management processes. Look for evidence that procedures are being followed – and that they’re working. Be courageous enough to enact change when necessary, but not change just for the sake of change. It must be meaningful and make a positive impact.
Culture and values also play a huge part of how your organization serves everyone. Look at how these affect processes, and at how they may need to change to make your organization more successful.
4. Inspect your systems
You need to ensure that the information you rely on is correct and comprehensive. This means that you can monitor your organization effectively to ensure that it’s doing what it should do.
Are goals and targets appropriate, and are they likely to motivate the behaviors that you want?
5. Be Constantly Curious
Your work doesn’t stop once you’ve made sure that current procedures are working. You must continue to scan for new problems and prevent them from escalating. Build time into your schedule to do this.
Look for the right balance between managing and staying informed about people, events, and trends.
Also, it’s likely that you’ll have additional responsibilities, so prioritize these demands carefully so that you can respond to sudden demands on your time.
And remember the idea of management by wandering around. This is an effective way of gathering information from your colleagues and getting feedback on processes. Visiting all parts of your American Income Life organization also builds trust so that colleagues are more likely to report problems to you before they escalate.
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