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Passion: It's the Little Things in Your Practice

Chicago—“I just finished listening to a panel of our top producers talk about their service models, and it sounds wonderful. But then I find myself wondering, ‘Is this realistic?’ ” mused John. “I’m not even sure these advisors really do everything they’re saying.”

By the tone of John’s comments, it was obvious that he’d just exposed his Achilles’ heel—he wasn’t able to listen to this “best practices” discussion and make the connection between his professional world and these top producers.I got the sense that he’d rather complain than try to identify a handful of items applicable to his situation.

Shortly after my conversation with John, one of our coaches, Stephen, returned from facilitating an annual retreat for one of the teams he was coaching. His excitement as he shared the highlights of the retreat was contagious, as we began implementing a handful of the same initiatives at The Oechsli Institute. But it was also easy for us to recognize the difference in attitude between John and the team leader at the retreat. In a nutshell, it revolved around passion and all the little things emanating from it.

Poor John; like so many people, he was complaining and unaware. From his perspective, he was just stating reality, but the reality was he lacked passion—his glass was “half-empty.” It makes no difference if you’re a solo advisor sharing an assistant or part of a large wealth management team; passion is trait available to all, and it’s contagious.

Our research on elite advisors has armed us with empirical data on this subject; elite advisors trump the general population of advisors by over 20 percentage points—a lot!

Stephen’s team retreat is a case study in passion and how it manifests itself in attention to even the smallest details. Working with the team leader, he framed the retreat around the theme, “Regaining the Passion.” The retreat was then organized into four parts:

  1. Regaining the Passion.
  2. Activating Individual Achievement Cycles.
  3. Revisiting Team Goals.
  4. Developing Individual Action Plans.

Stephen led the first part by handing out copies of the Ritz-Carlton Credo and then used it as his platform. The entire discussion revolved around service and areas needing improvement if they were to consistently deliver a Ritz-Carlton level of service.

According to Stephen, there was no shortage of ideas from the group. The individual achievement cycles part of the retreat was a new concept to all but the team leader. It’s all about setting personal goals, establishing fixed daily activities linked to those goals, and making a personal commitment to do the fixed daily activities. As by design, this part became personal.

The team leader kicked off the team goals session by complimenting everyone on their hard work (they had brought in $52 million in new assets YTD and had been recognized as one the elite teams within their firm), reminding them of Project $5 Million (a long-range goal) and the 2012 goals ($75 million in new assets), and then began a discussion around passion.

Stephen facilitated this discussion and steered it back to the Ritz-Carlton Credo, asking if it was essential to embrace the Ritz-Carlton Credo for achieving Project $5 Million. Everyone agreed that it was. Stephen then asked what specifically needed to be done and by whom.

The list they compiled speaks volumes, both of the team leader’s passion and attention to detail and his team’s buy-in. Already priding themselves in delivering high-level personal service, this group proceeded to demonstrate the importance of self-awareness.They were highly critical, and the following list of housekeeping changes at the practice office is merely a sampling of the details:

  • Everyone cleans his or her own dishes.
  • Whoever finds the dishwasher full in the kitchen is to empty it.
  • No more empty coffee cups or food utensils left in conference room.
  • Everyone making certain the bathroom meets Ritz-Carlton standards after each visit (which includes re-filling soap, paper towels, etc.).
  • Keeping the conference room table cleared and cleaned after every meeting (prepared for the next meeting).
  • Kitchen inventory checked weekly; coffee, water, drinks, etc.
  • All perishable food items in refrigerators trashed every Tuesday and Friday.
  • Keeping parking area and immediate outside areas neat. (Never walk past a piece of trash outside—it’s to be picked up.)
  • Whoever sees a piece of dirt, lint, trash, anything dirty or misplaced in the office, no matter how small or who was responsible, takes care of it.
  • Hold a service huddle every morning.

The final session of the retreat was focused on personal commitments. The team leader made a pronouncement that acquiring this level of Ritz-Carlton service was not debatable—it had to occur.Stephen then had everyone take ownership by selecting areas he had listed on the white board and linking specific action steps for each to take.

Could John embrace the Ritz-Carlton Credo? Absolutely! But it will never happen until he decides to flip the switch in his mind and become passionate about his career. The work is in the details, but passion is the fuel that makes it happen.

If you would like a FREE copy of our guide to holding your team offsite retreat please visit our download center by clicking here. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven’t already - join The Oechsli Institute’s Group on LinkedIn!

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have e-mailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one. If you would like to learn more, please visit

If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trusts & Estates magazines, at [email protected].

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