Help Your Staff to Climb the Learning Curve

Assistants have become more of the norm rather than the exception for agents heading into the new millenium. Even five years ago there were still many top-producers without staff. Now it is rare to see a top-producing agent without a staff. The question is are they truly a profit center for the agent? The right assistants are, but poorly hired and trained staff that are over compensated are a net loss for the lead agent. Most agents need to understand that the learning curve for assistants and teams is extremely steep. It takes a tremendous amount of time and many mistakes are made before success is achieved. Before assistants climb to the top of the curve they can be a net loss in dollars. Below are three crucial steps to helping your staff climb the curve quickly and efficiently.

First, create a defined job description and set qualities and characteristics for the new team member. Success is achieved by doing the preparation work prior to the hiring process. It is crucial to define the specific responsibilities and tasks your assistants will need to perform. Don’t just look at today’s responsibilities; look at the future responsibilities as well. Determine the type of person that you will need for your business in five years. Create the ideal profile of the person who will be able to free up your time so that you will be able to focus on doing what you do best.

A job description can be created by first evaluating what you do best. Focus on creating a schedule of duties for yourself that are only high pay-off activities. These are the activities that pay you a high dollar per hour wage. Once that is determined, then develop a list of items that you don’t get paid well per hour to do, don’t enjoy doing, or are not skilled at. This list of items should be delegated to your staff to accomplish. By being able to utilize your time doing only high pay-off activities and delegating the low pay-off activities to your assistants the quicker they will become a profit center for your business.

The second step is to hire the right person to fit the team. I made this mistake quite a few times early in my sales career. The reason why I made this mistake is because I needed someone yesterday. I didn’t want to perform the assistant’s functions. The wrong person is worse than no assistant. Don’t hire in panic. Understand that there are some things you can’t teach as an employer.

There is a television commercial by Alaska Airlines that illustrates this point. It is two young kids who are doing yard work for people in the neighborhood. One little boy is rough and not concerned about quality; he just wants to mow the lawn. The other boy is clean-cut and pleasant. They both charged $5.00 for the service they perform. The second boy does a landscape job that looks professional. The last caption is “Future Alaska Airlines Employee” under a picture of the boy who did a professional landscaping job. They are looking for good people at Alaska Airlines. They are not trying to create them.

Often owners and managers say, “I have my core values set. How do I get my employees to embrace them?” That question is backwards. You can’t share your core values; your staff must already have them. The truth is if you have to manage someone heavily, you have hired the wrong person. Nordstrom hires people who are innately focused on customer service. They already posses the customer service mentality. The training they receive only intensifies the salespersons’ ability to serve. You can’t get people to provide extraordinary service if they don’t have a customer service mindset from the beginning.

The third and final step is what do you do when you have hired the wrong person? Our typical response is to over-manage that person. We create systems and procedures to compensate for his weaknesses. His weaknesses take a tremendous amount of production potential away from the lead agent and the whole team. Most often the compensation is based in an area you can’t control. Maybe the work ethic isn’t consistent with your beliefs. There are many issues that can surface.

The biggest mistake you can make is not making a decision to change quickly and efficiently. The biggest waste of time in life is when you know you need to make a specific decision and when you actually execute the decision. Although this span of time for most people is fairly large, you must shrink this span in order to achieve success. Successful people don’t make a few mistakes…they make more. They just load the odds in their favor by making a lot of them and learning from them. They don’t dwell on their mistakes. They move forward.

Evaluate your need for assistants. Define what roles and characteristics they need to have. Evaluate your current staff. Do they fit the long-term standard? Make the right decision without delay, now!

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