Life Insurance Insights

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Since the early 1960s, I have enjoyed a long and satisfying career in the Life Insurance industry. I have served as an expert witness before the California State Senate Committee, as a licensed Continuing Education Instructor, and as president of several industry organizations. I remain active today as a consultant.

Here you will find regularly posted articles designed to educate individuals and families about the value and importance of Life Insurance today. I welcome your feedback, and invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

- Mike (info@lifeinsuranceinsights.com)

25 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 17

11-25-14 LII Blog FBThe final element of Focus in a leader is Passion and Dedication

Passion/Dedication

Most of the great leaders of history are passionate about their quest.  But passion is not necessarily present in every leader in every undertaking.  Dedication is absolutely essential if a leader is to succeed.  But Passion and dedication are not always synonymous.

Colin Powell is a proven leader.  His military life presents the picture of an individual who worked his way to the very top, admired by friends and foes.  He looks like a leader.  He acts like a leader.   He is well informed and intelligent.  He is a great public speaker.  He shows a passion for his cause—usually.

I once had the honor of having breakfast with him at an insurance industry function and then listening to him as he captured the attention and respect of the entire room.  This was prior to the first George W. Bush nomination.  He gave no inkling of any particular political leanings.  But most of us in the audience that morning—especially those of us who were able to speak to him one-on-one prior to his presentation—came away believing that if he chose to run for president, he could win no matter what ticket he selected. More…

20 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 16

11-20-14 LII BlogContinuing with the importance of decisiveness and risk taking as part of the leader’s Focus.

Decisiveness

Leaders make decisions.   Decisions should be made with adequate forethought and research, but not at the expense of being prolonged.  Indecisiveness is not a trait of a leader.   Make a call and go with it!  Once a decision has been made a leader does not exhibit any second thoughts to their followers.   Discussions with closest advisors are also not only acceptable, but advisable.  But once a decision has been announced, to the rest of the world that must be a clear unequivocal go!  There must be no hesitancy.

If you have a good feeling that you have enough data with which to make a decision, then make it!  You are focused on the goals so most of the time you will be right.  Your followers will have the comfort of knowing that their leader can make decisions and is a person of conviction.  If changes are required—and they are made with equal decisiveness—there need be no loss of face. More…

18 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 15

11-18-14 LII Blog

A leader takes charge of the big picture.

The Big Picture

Becoming sidetracked with minutiae distracts from focus on the goal.  Consider the conductor of a symphony orchestra who has before him the music of Beethoven and 95 talented musicians ready to play it.  The conductor has heard this same composition played by other orchestras a dozen times before, but he knows what he wants from this piece that will take it above and beyond previous interpretations.  He will have only one performance date and a few rehearsals leading up to this performance.  During this time he must communicate his vision to the musicians who will be waiting for his baton to drop and the first note to be played.  He cannot play each instrument himself and he must respect the talent that each musician brings to the table.

He starts by telling these talented artists, not how to play their respective instruments, but how he feels about the piece of music to be performed…about how he believes each section and soloist can bring his dream to life.

As the rehearsals proceed he calls to the attention of each section—the strings, the wood winds, percussion—how they can modify their performances in order to bring about the desired total effect.  Finally, at the last rehearsal he addresses his people with an upbeat message of how well he knows they will come together for the performance night. More…

13 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 14

11-13-14 LII Blog FBContinuing on to the last important trait of a leader—Focus.

Focus

Focus is defined as “the concentration of attention or energy on something.”  In order to focus you must know what that “something” is.  That requires that you know where you have been; where you are now and where you want to go.

If you’re in doubt about your objectives, give it some more thought before proceeding.  Your answer can be broad or pinpointed.  The President of the United States must address the needs of the most powerful nation on earth.  If you are concerned only with leading your minor children through their formative years, your scope is greatly narrowed.  However, the immediate importance to you of being able to lead effectively cannot be overlooked and may be the most important thing for you to accomplish in your life.

Dwelling on the past can be paralyzing.  Move on!  Applying efforts to the tasks at hand and planning for the future is what leaders do.  They also forgive.  Dwelling on transgressions, real or perceived, suffered at the hands of others is a colossal waste of energy and time.  Openly forgiving others can be one of the most cathartic acts you can perform. More…

11 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 13

11-11-14 LII Blog FBA discussion about speaking and writing skills wraps up the importance of People Skills for the leader.Speaking

Not all leaders are good speakers, but being a good speaker—at least one who does not cause the audience to squirm after five minutes—gives the leader a real leg up.

Some speakers are best with a prepared presentation.  Others are best at extemporaneous expression.  In either event good speakers have two qualities that place them into that category:  they are organized and they are passionate.

Speakers who are well organized in their presentation often use a technique:

1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

2. Tell it to them.

3. Tell them what you told them.

“I believe the elements we need to cover are A, B and C.

“Here’s what I mean by A, B and C…

“Before leaving the subject let’s review the important aspects of what we have covered…..”

If speakers follow this format in an extemporaneous presentation, it forces them to organize the subject in their own mind before proceeding and to punctuate the most important elements in the conclusion. More…

6 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 12

11-04-2014 LII BlogContinuing with the importance of empathy as a part of People Skills for the leader.

Empathy

Leaders understand the importance of empathy in dealing with others.

To have empathy you must be a good listener.  Empathy is the ability to know what others want and to comprehend why they want it.  It does not require that you agree with what they want or that their motives coincide with your values.  But having empathy does require that you be able to visualize yourself in the shoes of others.  You must attempt to understand why others are acting as they are.

Obviously, then, in order to be empathetic you must listen.  More importantly you must probe and then listen.  People are usually not reluctant to talk about themselves.  They may be reluctant to provide you with personal information if you start your probing with personal questions.  But, if you ask what they want, or how they feel, and then follow with a question of why they want that or why they feel that way, you will likely get the history you are looking for. It will be so much easier to motivate others when you understand what it is that motivates them. More…

4 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 11

11-06-14 LII BlogGetting the most out of those who are helping requires special attention from the leader.

Recognize Subordinates and Peers

Employees won’t work without pay.  Pay is one form of recognition, but a basic wage won’t get you much more than 8 hours—potentially an uninspired 8 hours.  Paying more for outstanding performance might work:  performance bonuses, commissions, profit sharing.  But that’s not what this is about.  This is about non-compensatory recognition.

Leaders need to get the most out of their followers.  They can accomplish this by using two techniques: fear and reward.  It’s the carrot or the stick quandary.  Not much of a quandary as far as I’m concerned.  When you have an opportunity to use a carrot rather than a stick, do it every time.  Occasionally a stick may be required when the carrot method has failed.

Recognizing people can start with the use of a very simple tool—the smile.  Upon greeting someone—smile.  When you walk into your workplace each day make it a point to greet everyone with a smile and warm “Good morning!”  When you greet people on the phone, smile.  A smile can be felt in your voice.  The smile is to communicate that you are glad to see them and you actually know who they are.  People will work harder for you if they believe that you care for them.  A smile is so simple to give, yet so often withheld. More…

30 October 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 10

10-30-14 LII Blog

Delegation is important, but there are advantages for a leader to get personally involved.

Make Yourself Available—Be Helpful

If people are to follow you, they must have access.  No, don’t hover, but do let them in.  With this said it is also important to respect a chain of command and to realize that time is a non-renewable asset. So there will be occasions when you must restrict access.

Following the chain of command need not preclude a leader from speaking with a person down the organizational chart.  In fact, leaders who allow—even encourage—easy access often learn much that is going on within their organization.  As a leader you can listen with empathy, but must always involve the person’s immediate superior at some point in the process.

When you do open yourself to your staff it is important to follow through on commitments—real or perceived—that are made as a result of this contact.  A few years ago I witnessed a situation where an executive was hired from the outside to take over as CEO of an existing entity.  He decided to meet with every employee.  He wanted to learn about his new organization from the ground up.

Every employee was interviewed and asked many questions.  The executive made notes of their answers.  It was a relaxed interview perceived well by the employees. One of the questions he asked of everyone was what they would like to see changed to help them perform their job and help the firm.

There was an upbeat reaction from the employees immediately following these discussions.  But, the executive never initiated the recommendations of a single employee and never provided them with any feedback.

It wasn’t long before the euphoria of having a new commander who cared enough to ask for their opinion turned into a catcall of comments about the ineffectiveness of their new leader.  If you ask for the advice of an employee or other follower you must always thank them; tell them how you plan to act on their recommendations and, if you choose not to use their ideas, explain your reasons.

Coming up…recognition for those who help the leader.

28 October 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 9

10-28-14 LII Blog

Why don’t leaders delegate and what are the consequences?

Failure to Delegate

Leaders who fail to delegate usually do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. They are afraid that if they don’t do it themselves, it won’t be done right.
  2. They are afraid of being shown up.
  3. The people to whom they can delegate are truly incapable, incompetent or unqualified.

If you want to be a leader and have difficulty delegating, it’s time for some self evaluation.  Which of these rationales are you using?  It could be a combination of these factors.  Let’s take a look at each of these points:

I’m the only one who can do it.

It may be possible that you are the absolute best at performing a specific task.  If this is the case you must decide whether or not you can continue to perform this task by yourself and still be able to accomplish the goals and lifestyle that you desire.  If this is possible, then don’t delegate.  Do it yourself. More…

23 October 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 8

The third trait of Leadership is People skills.10-23-14 LII Blog FB

People Skills

The first element of people skills is to select the right people to help you toward your goals.  Select the brightest, most capable people you can find.  Select people who will challenge you.  Find those who want your job.  Don’t be afraid that your subordinates will look better then you.  Others will measure you by how good your subordinates look, so if they look good, you will look good.  If they really are so darn good that they could take over your job, that’s alright because they probably won’t stop at your job.  They’ll move right on by you and you’ll have a good leader to follow about whom you can say, “I helped get him there.”

Picking good people to assist you in attaining your goals employs a combination of available resources (aptitude test, background checks, etc.) and following your gut instincts.  More…