The Inner Game: Sobering Realities of Teams

The Inner Game: Sobering Realities of Teams

A checklist that's not for the faint of heart.

Bringing a group of competent financial advisors together as a team is no simple task. In my September column, I shared some of our recent research that highlighted the lead that elite teams have created for themselves ahead of the general population of wealth management teams. With those facts as our backdrop, the sobering reality for today's advisors in pursuit of teaming is the slipshod manner in which they go about it.

Forming a team is all about due diligence. Because this takes time and is hard work, many advisors and managers guiding these team formations gloss over this critical stage of team development. You have to get the right people on board, for the right reasons, with the right work ethic, the right core competencies, total integrity, and a strong goal focus.

Exhausting, right? You bet!

Which is why so many advisors don't pay enough attention to this critical step. Not only is this due diligence a lot of work, it also gets quite personal. Which is why we developed a Team Forming Checklist to help advisors put some structure around this pre-teaming due diligence. There are 15 areas that need to be thoroughly discussed and dissected — and don't skip over any area.

By the way, whenever we encounter a team that isn't satisfied with its stage of development (they're not yet elite status), we recommend a team offsite to work through this Team Forming Checklist; in other words, recommit their teaming vows.

  1. Trust

    You need 360 degrees of trust. This is all about the integrity of all parties involved.

  2. Compatibility

    As this financial crisis has affirmed, this is different than enjoying each other's company socially. Advisors must be able to get along in high-stress business situations.

  3. Work Ethic

    Resentment surfaces quickly whenever one partner perceives that he or she is working harder. Work ethic expectations must be agreed upon prior to forming.

  4. Competency

    All team members must be able to perform well in their area of expertise, including rainmaking. History is a good indicator — especially for rainmaking.

  5. Comprehensive Business Plan

    Advisors must agree on the teams' vision, long-range goals, profile of the ideal client, number of clients, assets, services provided, marketing strategy, etc.

  6. Clear & Unified Goals

    Each partner has to buy in to annual team goals, subjugating personal goals to collective goals.

  7. Clear Roles & Responsibilities

    Every team member, partner and support staff should have a clear role and delegated areas of responsibility prior to forming.

  8. Partner Contribution Clarity

    Each partner should have a clear understanding of his/her individual contribution to the team's annual goals.

  9. Client Segmentation

    Partners must agree how they will segment their current client base — and also agree on the appropriate levels of service to be delivered to each segment.

  10. Wealth Management Services Provided

    A client-centric financial solutions process that is consistent for every client within a specific segment should be agreed upon prior to forming.

  11. Compensation

    A performance-based bonus structure for non-partner team members (support personnel) should be agreed upon in advance.

  12. Individual Performance Re-views

    Partners need to agree to conduct these reviews, and on how and when they'll be conducted.

  13. Basic Team Operations

    Agree on office procedures: office hours, phone coverage, team meetings, etc.

  14. Partner Performance Reviews

    Team partners must be held to the same level of performance accountability as other team members. It might be a good idea to involve your coach for these partner reviews.

  15. Team Performance Reviews

    Agree on holding an annual offsite to be attended by every team member to review the past year's achievements, reinforce team accountability for achieving goals, make necessary adjustments, and agree on upcoming annual goals.

Rarely will a team that hasn't been formed properly achieve elite status. Many get stuck in what we refer to as the “norming-storming” trap. This is where everyone appears to be getting along when times are good (pre-crisis) but when times get tough (current environment), partners start bickering over things like work ethic, compensation, and the like. This is one of the factors contributing to the fact that today's solo advisors have higher levels of career satisfaction than advisors on non-elite teams.

This checklist is not for the faint of heart. It requires soul searching, honest self-assessment, and compromise.


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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