Success in the insurance industry, and, for that matter, any industry that involves people requires developing long term relationships of trust and confidence. Both words are mutually exclusive of each other. Trust is complete assurance and certitude regarding the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or some thing. Confidence is a feeling of adequacy and reliance on oneself or another person in the ability to get a task completed correctly. In insurance, because it involves taking care of money matters, agents and producers are considered fiduciaries, that is, people who hold a legal and ethical relationship of trust with one or more parties.
Penalties for not acting in the best interest of the customer are swift and strict.
As the recruiting and selection manager for a company, I had the opportunity to both train and personally interview candidates for sales and sales management positions. It was imperative that these candidates understood their responsibilities for the job they were seeking. In one of these interviews, I asked the interviewee to tell me a little bit about her college experience. She explained that she attended a prestigious school in Pennsylvania and her major was in liberal arts. I asked her how she afforded that education and she told me that she took out five student loans. I inquired as to the payment of those loans being a burden or a distraction in her work. What I was really looking for, without directly asking, was could she devote the time required in the position without taking on another side job. She said no because she had no intention of paying the loan. I asked her to expand on that and she said that she knew other graduates who did not pay their loans and nothing dire happened to them. I went on a few moments with the interview, concluded it, and decided she was not a good hire. How could the company invest its time and resources in anyone who would not accept their responsibilities?
In working and dealing with people, I can give you many instances where it became very clear that some people were not trustworthy. I’m sure you can too. In some cases, they touted their success on the ability to be manipulative and they did this with no care for others. Often I would be told something in confidence and, in fact, had to sign a document that I would not divulge any information to anyone. Once I was asked by a senior leader if I had information concerning a specific situation and I explained that I did, but the information that was given to me was in confidence and I could not share it with him. He was so taken back on my insistence not to do so that he said he would take punitive action against me. I simply asked him that if he gave me information in confidence and later found out that I shared that information with another, how would that affect our relationship?
Trust is like a wall that is built brick by brick and it takes time, effort and accepting responsibility before it is fully erect. Failure to accept that responsibility, even in one instance, brings down the entire wall. Respect is lost and may never be regained. More importantly, what is the message that we are giving to others, our family and friends, our associates, our acquaintances who see us as capable of shirking our responsibilities. Society today is challenged with these occurrences and, frankly, I think we are headed in the wrong direction. Where will this behavior take us? Will our children grow to have the moral fiber to accept the responsibility to create rather than destroy, to contribute rather than consume, to give rather than to take. It starts with being accountable for our actions. Hopefully, it ends with people having confidence in one’s ability to get the job done and the knowledge that one can be trusted.