The Key for Agents: Lifelong Learning

Here are seven principles for a disciplined, strategic approach to gaining all the benefits that come from lifelong learning. 

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Successful insurance agents understand that in such a dynamic industry, knowledge is key. Embracing a mindset of lifelong learning helps agents remain at the forefront, empowered to adapt swiftly, identify opportunities and provide innovative solutions for their clients.

Despite the benefits, many in our industry resist the concept of lifelong learning because they find it irrelevant to their actual challenges. It's time we rethink this mindset.

Regulators mandate a certain amount of continuing education for agents to maintain licensing and stay in compliance with industry and state standards. Lifelong learning, by contrast, is self-directed and involves continually acquiring knowledge beyond formal education. 

The insurance industry has traditionally approached lifelong learning poorly, often mandating repetitive and unengaging training that fails to address actual business needs. There's also the negative impact of AI—no, not artificial intelligence but arrogance and ignorance. Arrogance comes from a false sense of knowing everything, and ignorance is not knowing what we don't know.

See also: From Agents First to Agents Last?

Rather than basing actions on assumptions, agents who pursue lifelong learning continually reevaluate their methods and approaches, promoting creativity within the agency.

Education can also serve as a confirmation tool, reassuring team members that they're operating correctly. This reinforcement boosts confidence. It also plays a pivotal role in team dynamics, fostering a sense of unity and direction and ensuring everyone is working toward the same goals.

Many people struggle with education because they attempt to tackle it alone. However, learning is often more effective and less frustrating when done collaboratively. Participating in courses, coaching sessions and discussions with peers can greatly enrich the learning experience. Lifelong learning isn't just about taking a class—it's about continual coaching and participating in conversations that enhance your knowledge and skills.

Lifelong learning doesn't necessarily mean spending large amounts of time on education each day. Instead, even dedicating 15 minutes a day can help. Use this time to focus on key concerns and pain points such as time management or business acumen. This small daily commitment can lead to significant improvements over time.

To maximize your learning and development, it's essential to adopt a strategic approach. Here are seven principles to keep in mind:

Commit to Daily Learning: Dedicate a 15-minute block every day to learning something. This routine can improve your skills and knowledge incrementally without taking much of your time. Avoid Mondays if they are generally busy for you.

Set a Theme for Your Learning: Each month, focus on a different aspect of your work. For instance, you could focus on communication skills in July, retention strategies in August, etc. This approach can ensure a well-rounded development over time.

Don't Journey Alone: Seek help from mentors, coaches or an alliance to gain insights and address your pain points effectively. Learning isn't a solo journey and can be more enriching with others' input and expertise.

Acknowledge the Need for Business Training: Many agents start their own agency without any formal business training. If this applies to you, acknowledge it and strive to improve your business acumen and operational skills as part of your learning.

Keep Track of Pain Points: Maintain a list of topics or situations where you lacked confidence or struggled to find answers. These pain points can guide your learning. Discuss these with a coach or seek advice from a training center to find effective solutions.

Understand Onboarding vs Orientation: Orientation is about acquainting yourself with the environment (like the location of the restroom), while onboarding is integrating new hires or learning procedures. This process can last anywhere from a few days to an entire year.

Distinguish Technical Skills From Soft Skills: Technical skills pertain to how you perform specific tasks like submitting a report or filling out a form. In contrast, soft skills such as time management, communication, questioning, sales skills and pipeline building are vital for overall success. Soft skills are often the hardest to master and must be continuously worked on.

While lifelong learning may seem overwhelming when looking at the big picture, breaking it down into smaller, manageable chunks makes it more approachable. 

See also: 4 Predictions for Independent Agents

Remember, acquiring knowledge is not an obligation—it's an opportunity. So, why wait? Turn lifelong learning into the cornerstone of your agency’s success story.

Jeff Chidester

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Jeff Chidester

As the director of the SIAA Training and Learning Center (TLC), Jeff Chidester is responsible for the development and administration of membership training programs through the TLC. He has over 30 years of experience as a training professional, including the development and delivery of numerous training programs and has been recognized for improving methodologies and introducing business analytics as it relates to private-sector adult education.

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