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Challenging Times Require Creativity

"I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall when it comes to implementing any type of change within our team," Mary moaned as we walked down the hall following a team leadership workshop I'd just delivered.

"I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall when it comes to implementing any type of change within our team," Mary moaned as we walked down the hall following a team leadership workshop I'd just delivered. "We talk about it in concept and then continue to do the same old things— almost as if we have team habits we can't break," she further explained.

Change is difficult under any circumstances, but being able to implement radical and creative change under pressure seems virtually impossible … Or is it?

Fortunately, just prior to my conversation with Mary, I had read an article in Fast Company's October 2006 issue titled Rewiring the Creative Mind by Emory University professor Gregory Berns. According to Berns, our brains are wired to engage in repetitive thinking and to generate new ideas; we just need to adjust the wiring to get the synapses to behave differently. He goes on to clarify how unplanned encounters and new environments are the best way to "jolt the neurons" into new wiring.

What does all of this have to do with your team and these turbulent times? A lot— if you want to capitalize on these challenging times. Nothing, if you want to keep doing the same old thing. If you're with a major firm, how much of an impact are your weekly branch meetings having in terms of generating radical change? I'm sure it’s not much. How about your weekly team meetings?

I began to apply Berns' ideas to Mary and her team’s scenario. It was then that I realized that these challenging times require radical change, and radical change requires creativity. Here is what I suggested:

Engage in a NEW group activity—I suggested to Mary that she take her team on a group activity—such as a bowling retreat, bird watching or leaf collecting— that is completely out of the norm. She opted for an afternoon hike with her team.

Hold a group pow-wow: After two or three hours of out-of-the-box activity, you'll want to gather everyone together for a brainstorming session. This can range from a picnic in the park (Mary's idea) to pizza and beer after bowling; the idea is to radically change the team meeting venue.

Engage all team members: As I explained to Mary, this cannot be a command performance by the team leader. She's exercising her leadership by organizing the hike and picnic. The idea is to frame this pow-wow around a pure free flow of ideas, which is always easier with a change in environment.

Develop a Radical Change Action Plan: The idea that brainstorming is one of those 35,000 activities that has no practical value is true—if these ideas are not formulated into an action plan.

Mary determined that she was going to facilitate steps three and four. To do so, she created what she referred to as a “Creativity Agenda” on her team's most topical issues:

  • Serving Clients
  • Wealth Management Process
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Rainmaking (affluent client acquisition)

You will have to determine what is important for your team, but hopefully you get the idea. The main idea is to rewire the conventional thinking of your entire team. By radically changing your environment, Professor Berns tells us that it will change the way everyone thinks. The next step is transitioning these new and improved ideas into action.

Mary's team responded quite well. They determined that holding breakfast “Market Updates” three times a week for their top clients and friends in groups of eight to 10 was a good fit. They had 60 top clients, so this was going to take a few weeks and would require everyone to get involved. The three partners contacted the clients (20 apiece) and presented this as a valuable service, and permitted each client to bring along an interested friend or colleague. They created market update overviews and provided each client with a Financial Organizer at the breakfast. The prospects—friends of the top clients—would only get the update.

Mary created the market update and every team member would attend each breakfast. One team member volunteered to assume responsibility for the Financial Organizers, another team member—who was an excellent cook—prepared take-home sweets for everyone and another partner was scheduling individual appointments for prospects (clients were to schedule appointments with the support personnel handling the organizers).

Wow!! For Mary, that was a serious rewiring of her team.

The results are not in yet, but after their first breakfast three affluent prospects asked if they could meet with one of the partners. I expect good things are going to happen.

To ensure you are creatively moving your business into a new and improved direction, especially during these challenging times, visit our FREE download page for our Creativity Action Plan.

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one. If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at [email protected].

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