Dr. Relly Nadler: Today we are going to speak specifically about leadership development. We have the opportunity to speak with Johanna Dillon. She is an AVP in Field Management and Leadership Development at Bankers Life and Casualty. Johanna manages and directs leadership training and development for over 160 branches nation-wide with almost 20 years of experience she coaches executives and high potential leaders across the organization.
Prior to Bankers, Johanna created and implemented executive coaching programs for various Fortune 500 companies. For any of you listeners who are in the leadership development world and executive coaching, this is going to be very exciting.
We’ll get some tips and best practices from Johanna.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I’m excited that we are going to talk to Johanna Dillon today about how she trains leaders to manage themselves and those around them to be their best.
I met Johanna several years ago through our work together at Bankers Life. It was under the directions of one of the folks that Johanna works with there, Mr. Bill Lombardo. It was a delight to help them develop a 3-day leadership training offsite and to work with the top 25 performers at Bankers Life and Casualty. It was an honor to partner with Johanna and Bill to do that.
Prior to joining Bankers Johanna created and implemented executive coaching programs for various Fortune 500 companies. We are going to talk with Johanna about all kinds of leadership development programs that she is involved in. It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Johanna, welcome to the show.
Johanna Dillon: Thank you very much for having me.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Johanna, thanks for being able to fit us in. I know you are in the midst of doing some training as we speak.
Johanna Dillon: As we speak. It never ends.
Dr. Relly Nadler: All these topics I’m sure are fresh and top of your mind for you. We like to start by asking folks who have been some of the more influential people, thinkers, around leadership for you that you have been influenced by?
Johanna Dillon: Thanks, Relly, that’s a great question. I would have to say, first and foremost, my father. While he is not a well-known leader in any sort of necessary capacity, he was my leader when I was a young child and instilled me that if you work hard, have integrity, be fair with people, and listen to what people are saying, it’s going to get you far.
He was a Vice President of Sales of a multi-international gaming company. He traveled all of the time and always took the time to make sure that he was teaching us those lessons of integrity, humility, honesty, communication. He always used to say that between sales and marketing, nobody ever gets along because the sales guys want to do something, and the production people want to do something differently, and he was able to bridge that gap by using some of those great skills.
I think my first introduction to what a real leader needs to have was my Father.
Then I was introduced, in the early 90s, to Ken Blanchard. His philosophy around leadership and, this was when I was still working in retail, we used his training systems when I worked for a national company and I thought wow, this is a simple, easy, system that transfers, that everybody can understand.
I had the opportunity to work with Ken on a couple of other projects in a couple of other companies later and really found the way that he approaches leadership and development of other people to be simple, easy, and wonderful to use and easy to understand for everybody involved.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Johanna, as you talk about people who influence you, you have done quite a few things in your career. Can you take us from where you have been to where you are now?Johanna Dillon: Sure. I started my career in I guess, training and development, in the retail world. I worked in the retail world for several large, major, national, organizations and started out mostly because I loved clothes. That’s the real reason I wanted to work at a retail store because I could get a discount on clothes. It quickly came to the attention of the people that were my boss, that this person is a leader.
So, I was promoted up through the ranks of leadership through several different retail organizations. My last position with a national company where I was in charge of sales training and development, writing, training, doing training, being the end-all/be-all person for, I think the company had about 60 stores across the United States.
From there I thought, there’s got to be something else I can do. Taking all these skills and maybe not in retail. I switched industries completely and went to work for a manufacturing company where I was literally in a plant, on a floor, teaching frontline supervisors how to be better leaders and managers.
I did that for about five years and then I thought, okay, well, there’s the manufacturing end of it. If I can do it in retail and I can do it in manufacturing, there must be another way to round out some of my skills from a more comprehensive standpoint.
So, I switched to insurance. I’ve been with bankers almost five years. The same skills that my father taught me in having integrity, listening to people, having influence over the results and making sure you are aligned with what you want, transfer from all three different industries.
I’ve been very successful in developing myself and others, in all three of those venues.
When people say to me, I can’t make a job switch, or I can’t make an industry switch, I emphatically say, yes you can, you just have to know what you are good at and take those skills with you, those good leadership skills and put them into play wherever you are.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Let’s talk a little bit about Bankers Life and Casualty. Why is leadership such a hot topic in the success of the agents that you work with in agent training? For someone without the knowledge, they might say, well each insurance is just the same. What are you noticing about the difference between the agents and how does leadership help them?
Johanna Dillon: That’s a great question, especially in our field today. The insurance industry is so highly regulated and compliance continues to knock on our door that we have to be very careful about making sure that we are doing things exactly the right way.
Leadership is a way to help people build relationships. It’s, I feel, especially in our marketplace, we serve mostly the retiring and senior market. If you don’t have a relationship with somebody you can’t really sell anything.
As a leader, if I don’t have a relationship with that agent, then I can’t help them to be successful. Creating that culture of how do you build relationships comes from the leader. In the past five years that I’ve been in the industry, we’ve had some challenges around compliance and making sure we are doing things the right way.
Making sure we are creating that environment where people are ethical requires us to help the leader build better relationships so that the agents can sell. To me, it all just comes down to them building relationships in order to be better leaders and building that culture around making sure that people are doing the right things for the right reasons.
Listen to the complete interview above.