Wealth management teams have at least one thing in common with sharks: If they're not moving forward, they're in danger of dying.
Last month, the first installment of this two-part series on team leadership described four stages of advisory development designed to give structure to high-net-worth teams' momentum. Originally set forth by Dr. Bruce Tuckman of Ohio State University, the stages are: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.
But even if a wealth management team has reached Dr. Tuckman's Performing stage, the synergy built will slowly erode without an ongoing effort to improve team performance. Without that synergy, a team's ability to consistently attract, service, upgrade and retain high-net-worth clients will begin to diminish.
How to Keep Moving
The solution to continuous improvement is cycling through the 15 statistically significant team-performance criteria noted in the table accompanying this article. (From this point forward, these criteria will be referred to as “performance indicators.”)
More than anything else, these are the indicators that will produce the attraction, upgrade and retention results wealth management team leaders desire.
When committing to ongoing growth, a team leader will want to be aware of two things:
How the 15 performance indicators should be implemented in the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing Stages of the team's development.
How to use the 15 performance indicators as criteria against which to benchmark the thinking and actions that currently shape and drive the wealth management team.
Performance is both the issue and answer for every stage of team development. Consider it the fuel that propels a team through each stage and into the next. Improving performance will do more to push a team through the Storming stage into the Norming stage than anything else, because results are what define the end of each stage.
Once the team has arrived at the Performing stage, it's sustained performance improvement that will keep it there, though achieving this is perhaps the trickiest of all efforts. The secret is to always be on the lookout for areas where improvement will provide the team with new energy and a competitive edge. Energizing the crew is key, because complacency can easily set in when a team decides it has “arrived.”
Let's examine one of the performance indicators with an eye towards how it can be used to trigger performance improvement. The performance indicator is: “Clear and accepted performance expectations.”
The team leader must be accountable for clarifying performance expectations and supporting team-member efforts to meet those expectations. Once team members clearly understand and accept the expectations pertaining to them, the leader has the right and the obligation to hold them accountable for meeting those expectations. That's mutual accountability, and it's the only type of accountability that works.
For expectations to be clear, the team leader must define what is to be done and why, when it is to be done and how an acceptable level of performance will be evaluated. But let's face it. Even if this has been done well, one can never assume anything. Communication breakdowns or misunderstandings occur all the time, and it should come as no surprise when a goal described by a team leader gets misinterpreted by a team member. That said, clarity should always be a primary goal.
Smells Like Team Trouble
A given set of performance expectations is not clear and/or accepted when a team leader observes the following:
Things are simply not getting done, or are not getting done on time.
When asking about a given task or fixed daily activity, the team leader receives responses like:
“That's not my job.”
“Wasn't that due at the end of the month?”
“I don't know why I have to do this; my time is better spent on (insert random task here)!”
“I haven't had time to get to it yet.”
The challenge lies in determining how to surmount these obstacles. The things listed above are symptoms, telling a team leader that problems exist. The reality about problems is this: They will not go away on their own, and the solution is always the elimination of what is causing the problem.
‘Gap analysis’ is an excellent tool for guiding an improvement effort. It's also simple to use. Using the above example, here are the four steps to go through:
Define the area that needs improvement. In this case, a team leader might say something like, “We want to make certain that performance expectations relating to (specific area) are being met.”
Describe exactly what the team is currently doing in that area. Make a list of specific activities, not simply a vague description. State exactly what the team is doing, not what it should be doing.
Describe exactly what the team should be doing in that area — and the specific date by which performance should have improved. This could involve any (or all) of the following:
Changes the team leader wants to make in what the team is doing.
What the team leader wants the team to stop doing.
Develop an action plan, listing the specific steps the team will need to take (in sequence) to close the gap between where it is now and where the team leader wants it to be by the date selected. In the case of performance expectations, that may include restating those expectations, clarifying who is responsible for what, providing some guidance or training to ensure those involved are equipped to meet those expectations.
Gap analysis is so critical to ongoing performance improvement that we've included instructions and a worksheet in our new tool kit for leading a high-performance wealth management team. (For more information, go to oechsli.com/wmtkit/)
Continuous performance improvement is a deliberate act. It is led by an effective team leader and supported by team members who want to grow, achieve and compete. Many teams are not willing to make that commitment, so if yours is, you'll have this little fact to buoy the effort: You'll have little competition.
Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.
The Fifteen Factors
Each is a statistically significant characteristic of high performance.
A well-defined business plan fully supported by team members.
Personal objectives subordinated in order to achieve common goals.
A well-defined team compensation agreement that provides each team member with his desired growth potential.
Satisfaction with asset total and annual production growth.
Common values for work effort, work quality and ethics.
High trust level among team members.
Making certain the right person is doing the right things.
Determining the team member(s) responsible for new client development.
Ensuring each team member always knows what is expected of him.
Having qualified people providing the financial planning, advisory and wealth management services.
Having a well-defined approach to providing financial plans.
Taking a positive approach to problem solving and mistakes.
Creating an environment where everyone feels like he is growing as a team member.
Having fun working together.
Effective team leadership.
Each is a statistically significant characteristic of high performance.