A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Association (IIABA) Fall Leadership Conference in San Francisco. While there, I had the opportunity to make a presentation about how to deal with change, especially given the interesting times in which we live.  The great recession had just started, and more than a few people in the room had been affected seriously in one way or another.

While the message on that particular day was specific to the challenges facing the professionals there who dealt in the education business, the core of the message I shared that day still resonates for any manager or leader in any industry. We all deal with the particular challenge of economies within our part of the business world that are unpredictable at best and contracting at worst. All of us are trying to do more with less; even in the best of times, budgets get cut, key employees resign and things change. Who hasn’t been frustrated by technology that was supposed to make things easier, faster, cheaper or more effective, but instead has made managing our people, files, customers and legal obligations worse than ever? In the insurance trade where I’ve spent my entire career, we are talking about “cyber liability” every day. This is a phrase we didn’t even know just a few years ago.  Maybe you can relate to this: do you ever feel like you’re driving the car down the road while the car is still being built?  (I live in the Dallas area. Driving down roads that are still being built is an everyday occurrence here.) As the leader of your team, you must set an example, so perhaps this article will help you keep up your morale and motivation––internally and externally.

Pause to consider. You may find these three little words help you encourage employees who are feeling the same pressures.


The most difficult part of managing and dealing with change is to simply accept that it must happen. For example, even the best Ivy League schools depend on alumni donations, football tickets, and other means of garnering income well beyond tuition. Without these additional sources of revenue, they wouldn’t survive. As much as we enjoy the sporting events, this draws time, attention, and resources away from the core mission of the school: education of our youth. It’s still mission critical. Every business needs to grow territory, expand product lines, and work longer hours.

Projects that don’t seem to directly enhance the core mission can seem counterintuitive with all the focus on strategic planning and specialization over the years. Sometimes that focus on something different––a peripheral area––is just want we need to move forward something else we are doing. Maybe it’s a temporary creative change that just gets everyone thinking in a new way. Sometimes, as in the case of college sports, it’s going to be here to stay because it works.

While acceptance is a simple concept, it is remarkably hard to do, given our human condition. We got where we are quite successfully doing it our “old” way, thank you very much. It’s comfortable, easy, and mostly on autopilot. Much has been written on this subject; in fact, some of us already teach, preach, or train others on how to do old things in a new way. But actually doing it is still difficult. Brain researchers tell you that this comes from the deeper, primitive “lizard” brain and has something to do with survival. If you haven’t read NeuroMarketing yet, make sure it’s next on your list. Psychologists say it is because we have emotional connections to the things we do and the methods we selected after careful research and long experience. Educators will tell you that adults must connect all new knowledge to some older knowledge that is already lodged in the deep crevices of the learning centers of the brain. Abraham Maslow would have said we need to self-actualize. These are all proven theories to help us along.

However, I’m less concerned with the reasons why we are resistant and more interested in the actual doing of things. How can we act on the concept of simple acceptance? Click your heels three times if you must, but somehow you find a way to make the decision of acceptance, because the train of life keeps rolling. If you aren’t on it you get left behind. It is, after all, just one more decision. Remember Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson? It is a quick read with a valid message. And to this point, let me add this last thing: it feels great once you make that decision. There is finally a relief in letting go of the resistance and accepting the inevitable.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3!


Lisa Harrington is vice president of IRMI, and is responsible for all aspects of marketing, conference management, client services, and sales. Previous engagements include COO and acting CEO of the Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU), and over 10 years as vice president of education for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents. She has more than 30 years of experience in the American Agency System as a leader, author, and trainer. Ms. Harrington resides in Southlake, Texas with her husband and many four-legged loved ones.

For more information about Lisa’s book, Taking In Strays: Leadership Lessons from Unexpected Places, please visit www.TakingInStrays.com.