Industry Trends

Random Thoughts: Review and Adjust to be a Big Hitter


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Baseball has always been a joy for me. I started playing organized ball when I was 5 years old and continued through college. The smell of the grass, the feel of a bat in your hands, and the mental toughness needed to compete at the highest levels were always a draw for me. My son Bobby played too, which gave me the chance to share my passion through coaching and then learn to love watching him grow as his skills out-paced my coaching ability. 

Whether playing or watching, I feel like baseball always brings out the best in me. It's a thinking man's sport where skills alone won't get you through 162 games. It's a place where "grinders" can become MVPs and bonus-babies may not have the make-up between the ears to realize their physical talents. 

Of all sports, I think it's the one that most resembles business. Unlike football, where you get a fresh start every weekend, baseball goes on and on. You need to not only have a plan that will get you through the whole season, but also a process that will allow you to adjust regularly based on the last game’s results. 

Take Adrian Gonzales of the LA Dodgers, for example. What separates Adrian from other players with similar skills is his preparedness and willingness to be a student of the game. Everyone who speaks of him marvels at his ability to know how the pitcher plans to get him out and adjust his approach accordingly. His techniques are not magic, just a lot of hard work. 

Gonzales has been known to request video clips of each opposing pitcher and the at bats against him, as well as others with similar styles. He reviews the tapes before every game and then immediately goes to the cage to work out the kinks. Don’t you think the fact that Gonzales does all this extra work reviewing his performance and making adjustments might be worth an extra few hits a week? 

Think about that in the context of what we’re trying to accomplish on our team. While we have a game plan, it's a long "season" and we're going to need to make adjustments. Those adjustments will come from me, and maybe other colleagues, but the most important ones will come from you. As you go about your daily tasks, I challenge you to be a thinker and a master of preparation and review.

In the context of our business, what can you be doing on a daily basis to get that extra hit or two a week? Think about what you can do to have an impact, and hold yourself to that standard. I'm a big proponent of personal accountability. It's not just about showing up – it's what you do with your time that counts. 

Not every day is going to be great, but you can always go back to the “cage” to figure out what went wrong and correct it. You don't have to go it alone. Your manager and peers can help. Feel free to ask me, too. This way, you'll have more good days than bad, and we'll all be better hitters. 

 

About the Author 
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

 

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Love What You Do, Just Like Steve Jobs


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Steve Jobs didn’t live long – he died in 2011 at the age of 56. But in his short time on earth, he managed to become this generation’s Thomas Edison. Whether you’re Mac person or not, it’s likely this man had an impact on your life.  

From your favorite font, to the way you listen to music, the new wave of animated movies, or the way you interact with your computer, Jobs was a creative force behind several industries for 30 years. He passionately believed computers should be adapted to work better with us, not the other way around, and he dedicated his life to making "user friendly" the rallying cry at Apple. 

In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, he talked about his life story and urged the graduates not to let anything, especially conventional wisdom, limit their dreams. "The only way to do great work is to love what you do," Jobs said. He lived that to the fullest. 

I encourage each of us to live this philosophy, both individually and as a group. Let's make it our passion and purpose to provide insurance solutions and service that is “user friendly” for everyone. Please take a few minutes to view Steve Job's speech and reflect on what it means to you. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

 

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Random Thoughts: Digging Deep


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I fashion myself an athlete (although some might add the "ex" prefix) having enjoyed sports my entire life. Like many people, I started off playing team sports at a young age. From age 5 though my high school years, it seemed every weekend of every season was taken up by a baseball, basketball or football game. 

Much of what I am today came from learning how to be a good teammate, understanding the value of physical and mental preparation, striving to win but learning to handle loss, and testing my abilities against others. I was lucky enough to continue my football and baseball careers through college but, as they say, "All good things must come to an end."

After college, I transitioned to tennis as a way to keep competing. Growing up, tennis consisted of watching Wimbledon on TV then running to the local courts with my brother to try and duplicate the exploits of Connors, McEnroe or Borg. I never took playing seriously until I decided to join a local USTA team. 

I found the "mano y mano" nature of singles tennis fascinating. Testing yourself against the guy across the net is a test of skill and will. (And does anyone else find it curious that this is the only sport where you help warm up your opponent?) Your body and your mind are constantly working to see if you win and move on. For me, a typical match would last three sets and run for two hours. It was a great workout and a test of my ability to take a shot and keep getting up. It definitely made me dig deep. 

Back in 2012, I can still recall watching DIG DEEP taken to another level at the Australian Open Men's Singles Final. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played five sets for 5 hours and 53 minutes before Novak was able to win the last set 7-5. It was the longest Grand Slam final in history and ended up finishing at 1:30 a.m. 

During the match, especially in the last two sets, there were times when it looked like both players were done. While they are physical marvels, it was their ability to stay mentally connected and competitive that made this an amazing event to watch. At one point the announcer said these two men were, “Redefining what is supposed to be humanly possible.” 

Isn’t it amazing how our minds and bodies can do more than we thought possible? We’re not all going to be professional tennis players, but we can find a way to dig deep and finish the game strong. 

 

About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

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Random Thoughts: Show Up and Be Present


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Woody Allen is credited with saying, “80 percent of life is showing up.” A few weeks ago, Suzanne and I were back at Swarthmore College, our alma mater, to see my college baseball coach Ernie Prudente inducted into the athletic hall of fame. Along with a few teammates, I had the opportunity to shake Ernie’s hand, hear a few stories about the “glory days,” and listen to an acceptance speech 40 years in the making. At 88, Ernie had slowed down a bit, but his quick wit, honest nature and engaging smile were as evident as ever. I’m glad I was able to be there and see it for myself.   

Ernie played an important role in my personal development during college, both as a baseball coach and a mentor. But, it was really my dad, Bob Sr., who demonstrated the power of showing up.

Dad spent his first career in the U.S. Army after graduating from West Point. An officer’s early career is often characterized by lots of different home addresses, and his was very typical – a tour in Germany (where yours truly was born) stops in New York, Oklahoma and Kansas, two tours in Vietnam, and a final stop in Pennsylvania. 

Along the way, we always spent significant time with family over holidays or during summer vacations. Dad was also able to carve out time to coach my baseball and basketball teams because he made my brother, my sister and me his first priority. All this effort left me feeling loved and allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the power of our personal bond. 

Once my own kids came along, dad’s personal example continued as he attended endless sporting and school events. Recently, my brother Mike gave me a special photo of dad for Christmas. He’s sitting alone in the stands at one of Bobby’s high school baseball games. Every time I look at it, I get a reality check on the kind of man I want to be – one who is present for family, friends and colleagues. 

As we think about being our best at work, and being a great spouse, parent, sibling or friend, how do these lessons apply?

"Wherever you are, be all there.”

 

  •  In this tech-driven world, this simple quote from Jim Elliott reminds us to be present. In your next meeting, close your laptop or put away your phone so you can engage directly with the other folks in the room. Turn off the TV and eat dinner together as a family. Go for a walk without headphones to just experience who or what is around you.



  • Remember this United Airlines ad? If you do, you’re old like me. Even though the boss mentions the fax machine, the central message is still valid … Ours is a face-to-face business. It’s important to manage expenses and leverage technology, but, whenever prudent, get in the car and go see your clients. Especially in the financial services business where we are selling intangibles, being there in person to read body language and eliminate communication gaps can be the difference between success and failure. You’ll also be better able to build the relationships that will lead to lasting partnerships.

  • Know your prime directives – While Trekkies will be familiar with this phrase, I’ve also found it to be a valuable tool in managing my time. For example, when our kids were still at home, one of my directives was to be present for their high school years. With this in mind, even though I was in a role that required lots of long distance travel, I was able to attend most key games and school events. I even helped with some homework. Knowing how important this was to me and Suzanne gave me the confidence to say no when work events conflicted with the home front.

  • Understand your audience – whether they’re an employee, peer, customer, partner or friend, ask yourself, “What does this person need from me at this moment?” When my uncle Paul died, my parents really wanted Mike and me to be there at the funeral to represent the family but were afraid to ask – my brother and I both have busy lives and the church was three hours from home. But, it only took one conversation with Mike to decide we needed to be there.  

  • Be a good listener – while at Sun Life, my friend Liz named my office conference room the “living room.” While we used it for small team meetings, our best work happened in one-on-one discussions. Sometimes there were laughs, at other times, tears. But on each occasion, we connected. These skills are very applicable when selling, too. Ask open-ended questions, then manage the rest of your process based on their responses.

 

With the holidays upon us, I trust you will have many opportunities to practice being present. Vote with your feet and be there for them, wherever they are.   

 

As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

 

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Random Thoughts: Be Prepared


Industry

My daughter graduated from the University of Connecticut recently, on Mother’s Day to be exact. After the ceremonies, most graduates headed home for a much deserved break before starting a first job or matriculating to graduate school. But Dani headed back to her sorority house room (sparsely appointed since we took most of her stuff back to Virginia) to prepare for the final baseball road trip of season.

You’re probably thinking, “Women don’t play baseball,” and you’re correct. For three seasons, Dani has been a student manager for UConn’s baseball team. During this, her final season, she traveled with the team for all of their away games (11 series in all). 

Even though Dani spent all those weekends away from campus, missing time with her friends and sorority sisters, this opportunity was one she’d prepared for going back almost a year. Growing up in a baseball family, she’s loved her three years with the team – managing the office, coordinating recruiting, etc. When the opportunity came up to be the traveling manager, she re-arranged her class schedule (taking a heavier load in the fall) so she could handle the time commitment. 

I was a bit skeptical when thinking about her fall workload, but seeing how happy she’s been this spring was all worth it. She was definitely prepared for the challenge. 

Never being a Boy Scout, I didn’t have their motto, “Be Prepared,” driven in to me at an early age, but I do believe in its meaning. Dani’s experience (and the natural self-reflection brought on by an event like graduation) had me thinking of times when being prepared made a difference. 

  • Picking a college – I was a strong student and a good athlete at small Catholic high school in suburban Philly. When it was time to look for colleges, I went on a half-dozen recruiting trips to Division II & III schools, intent on playing both football and baseball. I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for, but I quickly realized things I didn’t like, such as the frat scene, which just wasn’t for me. In the end, I chose Swarthmore, not for its sterling academic reputation, but because it was a place where being me was OK. If I didn’t take those recruiting trips, I probably wouldn’t have figured that out. If your kids are searching for the right college, I suggest getting them on campus to see how it fits before making a final decision.

  • Moving to Virginia – When I left the CIGNA home office to open the brokerage shop in the D.C. area, we could have chosen to live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. At that time, the kids were only 4 and 2, but Suzanne insisted we think about the quality of high schools and universities in the area. Eighteen years later, we are proud to say we still enjoy the northern Virginia area and have two college grads, both of whom benefited from the terrific public schools and one of whom chose a great state university (William & Mary).

  • Joining Ash Brokerage – With 30 years in the insurance business, I view my career as a series of rotations, each of which has prepared me for the next opportunity and allowed me to cultivate some strong relationship. I’ve also been able to use external coaching to understand what I love to do best and which activities ignite my passions. Of all the opportunities I considered when I chose to go back to sales, it was the role with Ash that allowed me maximize the positives and minimize the negatives (I actually wrote out a Ben Franklin T-chart for decision making). But, without my diverse corporate experiences and nurtured relationships, I wouldn’t have been able to find nor be as prepared for this wonderful opportunity.

 

So, as you think about what you’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis, how can YOU come to the table more prepared to take advantage of opportunities?

  • Understand your WHY – Before any goal-setting, self-reflection, or task list can make sense for you or be effective, it helps to have a good handle on WHY you want to do what you do. Whether you’re working on one goal or a view of your existence, you might first try spending time on why you want to do it or why you are here. Some of these answers may be static for your whole life (i.e. “I am here to serve others”), while some may be specific to the task at hand (i.e., “I want to lose this weight so I can look better in my wedding dress”). Not only will the why help you set better goals, it can also provide motivation along the way.

  • Take advantage of the night before or the morning of – How many times did you hear your mom or someone else say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? If this is a well-established social moray, what gets in our way of making it happen? I believe it’s lack of preparation. Ask yourself, “What am I going to eat tomorrow morning? Do I have the right food in the house?” I think the same holds true for your next day’s meeting schedule. “What do I have ahead of me tomorrow? Am I prepared to make the most of that meeting? If not, what can I do to make the most of it?” Over the years, I’ve found that just a few minutes of review in advance of your day can make a huge difference in your productivity.

  • Practice – In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he explains the concept of the 10,000 hours rule of mastery. He uses examples of Brazilian soccer players, Canadian hockey players, and classical music “virtuosos” to explain how practicing your skill is the key element to being great at anything. What are you doing on a daily basis to be a success? Did you practice your presentation, take a class, read a book on a key subject or listen to a few “on point” TED Talks? Living in the information age allows us so much access to data, it’s easier than ever to fit practice into your schedule.

Whether or you grew up as a Girl Scout, Boy Scout or neither, preparing yourself to perform at your best when opportunities arise is a healthy habit. Know your why, make the most of your time and build up the skills that allow you to be qualified for many more opportunities. Challenge yourself to be prepared for whatever comes your way!

 

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