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Are you a reluctant manager?

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You became an advisor to help make a difference in your clients’ lives — not to manage people. And yet, here you are with a team. Many advisors struggle to get their teams to generate high-performance results. In our coaching programs, we estimate that more than 80% of advisor teams aren’t getting the results they want.

Here are some of the biggest challenges we hear:

  • Empowering team members to be involved in decision making
  • Having colleagues feel they are part of the big picture and not just doing tasks
  • Compensating the team appropriately
  • Getting individuals to march together toward a common goal.

Sound familiar? I’d bet that at least one of these concerns has kept you up at night. In particular, compensation is a sore spot. Advisors often think that if they solve that issue, they’ll have a great team.

To begin, you need to have a clear mission — a firm idea of where you are now, a vision of where you want to go and a recognition of the gaps that need to be bridged.

But the reality is that there are more foundational issues that must be addressed — things like your purpose and the reason your team exists. Compensation, while important, is not a magic pill that solves all issues.

Here are three important elements in building a high-performing team:

1. Convey a clear mission and purpose. Establishing a common purpose is especially crucial. If you are the leader, you must provide clarity so that everyone in your organization knows why the team exists and what they are meant to accomplish. If your leadership is accompanied by clear goals and a sense of purpose, you can have a 24% boost in productivity, according to consulting firm Moss Adams.

To begin, you need to have a clear mission. Ask yourself: What is my vision? Why does my team exist? Use the answers to create a picture where you are now, where you want to go and recognize gaps that need to be bridged.

True clarity results from having four components in place:

  • Clearly defined and communicated firm goals and objectives
  • Clearly documented and communicated roles for all employees
  • Clearly communicated performance reviews
  • Clear career path and team structure.

As you can see, communication is a key. It’s far too common to encounter advisors who can tell you their mission statement and goals. But when you ask them if anyone else at the firm knows those things too, the answer is no.

Advisors want to grow, but they often don’t get their teams involved in setting growth goals and other objectives. Your team needs to understand what you want to achieve as an organization both quantitatively (more AUM, for example) and qualitatively. As the team leader, you are probably dialed in to those goals, but I’d bet that others in your firm are much less clear on them.

Consider getting together with your team and asking them what success looks like to them. Ultimately, you want everyone to be able to fill in the blanks to the following statement: “We will go from ______ to _____ by _____.”

2. Establish standards that encourage mutual respect and collaboration. Chances are, you have guiding principles for how you work with clients, but few advisors create such principles for their internal teams. Once you have common goals and the team buys in, how are you all going to work with one another and what standards will you adhere to?

Here are some standards that I’ve seen be especially effective at inspiring greatness from teams:

  • All team members’ opinions are equally valued
  • Problems — not people — will be discussed, analyzed or attacked
  • Once we agree, we will all speak with one voice
  • Consensus, not democracy — we all get our say, not necessarily our way
  • Silence equals agreement

Some people have a hard time accepting that all team members’ opinions are equal. But consider this: The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron has this standard when they debrief after a mission. There’s no rank at those meetings. Each member can say what he or she wants.
If you have standards that effectively say, “It’s my way or the highway,” you will squash any inspiration that would otherwise motivate team members.

Standards for behavior within the team fuel collaboration because they instill trust and openness among team members.

Advisors who create such standards and communicate them formally — such as in a written document for every team member — find that buy-in becomes easier because everyone’s opinion is considered.

Standards also fuel collaboration because they instill trust and openness. Have you ever had team members who either can’t communicate with each other or they fight when they do? Standards help people have the debates that lead to decisions the whole team can support.

3. Emphasize and foster complementary skill sets. We tend to surround ourselves with people who look and think just like we do. These people feel most comfortable to us. And that approach might work when your team is very small.

But as you grow and seek to expand further, you’ll find that everyone’s skills start to overlap; this can hamper your growth. The most inspired teams I see have a diversity of skills, experiences and knowledge. That diversity helps them think creatively in ways that generate exponential growth and improvements to their businesses.

A team is like a jigsaw puzzle — there are lots of individual pieces and it’s not always clear how to make them fit. But by taking the types of steps outlined above, those puzzle pieces will start to come together.

A truly inspired team is one that is diverse, with team members who feel valued and heard and who understand the vision of where the firm is headed. A truly inspired team is one that will help take you wherever you want to go and invest themselves deeply in your future success.

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