Build a Win­ning Team

Take a page from suc­cess­ful sports fran­chises and work to­ward a com­mon goal. Here are five steps that will help you do this.

Financial Planning - - CONTENTS - BY KELLI CRUZ

As a fan of pro­fes­sional sports, this is one of my fa­vorite times of the year. Ma­jor League Base­ball is in full swing and many teams still have a real shot at the post­sea­son. Plus, af­ter end­less months of reg­u­lar sea­son and play­off games in the NBA and NHL, the cham­pi­onships are un­der­way. When I look at the most suc­cess­ful sports fran­chises, one key char­ac­ter­is­tic stands out: Th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions are true teams. They are not just a group of in­di­vid­ual con­trib­u­tors who gather on the field at the same time, but also a group of pro­fes­sion­als who col­lec­tively care about one an­other like a fam­ily. They trust one an­other, and when one player does well, they all cel­e­brate as a team. It should go un­said that teams are a cor­ner­stone of build­ing and sus­tain­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, too. Within the ad­vi­sory in­dus­try, the team-based model of de­liv­er­ing su­pe­rior ser­vice is where I see the high­est fu­ture growth. Un­der this model, ad­vi­sors pool re­sources to de­liver prod­ucts and ser­vices to their clients, who are shared and viewed as clients of the firm, not clients of in­di­vid­ual ad­vi­sors. This model en­ables the firm to be nim­ble, yet present a united front to clients, bring­ing to­gether var­i­ous team mem­bers to work on client is­sues based upon staff ca­pac­ity, skill set and cost.

A One-stop Shop

When a firm uti­lizes all of its re­sources — per­son­nel, ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise — it places its best foot for­ward in ser­vic­ing clients in­di­vid­u­ally. Ad­di­tion­ally, the firm can present it­self as a one-stop shop to its clients. In a team-based model, clients be­come more ac­cus­tomed to deal­ing with a num­ber of team mem­bers and are not wed­ded to dis­cussing all their mat­ters with the firm’s principal. This means that clients have the abil­ity to get to know more of the firm and its peo­ple.

Firms should set team goals based on tan­gi­ble out­comes and results, rather than just on the amount of work that is to be done.

Mean­while, sim­ple client re­quests can be man­aged ap­pro­pri­ately down the line, free­ing up the principal to fo­cus on other rev­enue­gen­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Clients will also en­joy re­ceiv­ing ac­cess and sup­port in a time­lier man­ner.


To suc­cess­fully sus­tain a team-based struc­ture, all mem­bers of the firm must learn lead­er­ship and coach­ing skills. Here are some proven strate­gies that I have seen work well in the fi­nan­cial plan­ning in­dus­try. 1) Set clear di­rec­tion and goals: The clearer the mis­sion, the greater the odds of suc­cess. In­di­vid­ual team mem­bers and the teams them­selves must know what is ex­pected of them to meet or ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions. That is why I rec­om­mend that the principal or team leader should al­ways set clear goals and ob­jec­tives and pro­vide reg­u­lar feed­back. Firms should set team

goals based on tan­gi­ble out­comes and results, rather than just on the amount of work that is to be done.

Tar­get­ing the Goal

Next, they must de­velop a plan for how each in­di­vid­ual and the broader group will ac­com­plish the mis­sion. This plan pro­vides team mem­bers with clear di­rec­tion and gives them some­thing to aim for col­lec­tively. For ex­am­ple, if the firm’s goal is to in­crease rev­enue by 10% over last year, the team will un­der­stand the out­come that is needed. Each per­son can take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their role in the plan. 2) Rec­og­nize and re­ward suc­cess: Now that your team-based struc­ture is off and run­ning, you will need to align your firm’s com­pen­sa­tion struc­ture to re­ward both in­di­vid­ual and team results. I rec­om­mend do­ing so through a team-based in­cen­tive/bonus com­pen­sa­tion plan. Plain and sim­ple, a well-de­signed com­pen­sa­tion plan en­cour­ages higher lev­els of per­for­mance among your team mem­bers. Team-based in­cen­tive plans can be ap­plied to a group as­signed to a spe­cific project or mis­sion, or a spe­cific team within the firm such as ad­min­is­tra­tive, ad­vi­sory, mar­ket­ing or sales teams. The ad­van­tage of team-based in­cen­tive plans is that in­di­vid­u­als are mo­ti­vated to work col­lec­tively to achieve a com­mon goal. In the ear­lier ex­am­ple in which a firm aims to in­crease rev­enue by 10%, team mem­bers have the op­por­tu­nity to en­cour­age one an­other, par­tic­i­pate in brain­storm­ing ses­sions and sup­port one an­other in their ef­forts to achieve that in­crease. Once the goal of the 10% in­crease is met, the team should share in that fis­cal vic­tory through a team-based in­cen­tive/bonus award. 3) Check in of­ten: It’s im­per­a­tive to fre­quently check in with the team to man­age progress. I work with teams to cre­ate a process for reg­u­larly eval­u­at­ing per­for­mance results. It is so im­por­tant to un­der­stand each team mem­ber’s strengths and weak­nesses in or­der to clearly see how they func­tion as part of the team at large.

A well-de­signed com­pen­sa­tion plan en­cour­ages higher lev­els of per­for­mance.

There is no bet­ter way to build trust and con­fi­dence as a leader than to show em­pa­thy and car­ing for each in­di­vid­ual team mem­ber. If you aren’t meet­ing with peo­ple on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, it will be hard to pro­vide as­sis­tance when em­ploy­ees need it most.

Ad­mit­ting Er­ror

It is equally im­por­tant that the team mem­bers ac­knowl­edge mis­takes dur­ing the check-in process. The path to suc­cess is forged around a series of course corrections based on what is — and is not — work­ing. Can­did and timely con­ver­sa­tions are es­sen­tial to shap­ing that path for­ward. Team mem­bers should dis­play a will­ing­ness to work through dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions con­struc­tively as well as in a timely man­ner. 4) See po­ten­tial in every team mem­ber: In­vest­ing in your em­ploy­ees and hav­ing faith in their abil­i­ties can’t be over­stated. My fa­vorite tool for as­sess­ing a team’s talent is the Clifton­strengths Finder of­fered by Gallup. The tool is based on the be­lief that every per­son pos­sesses a unique com­bi­na­tion of tal­ents, knowl­edge and skills. Th­ese are the in­nate traits and abil­i­ties peo­ple use in their daily lives to com­plete their work, to re­late with oth­ers and to achieve their goals. Help­ing your team dis­cover and de­velop their in­di­vid­ual strengths po­si­tions them to do what they do best every day — both in and out of a team set­ting. Un­der­stand­ing your cur­rent team’s makeup will help you de­velop a di­verse breadth of talent.

En­hanc­ing the Client Ex­pe­ri­ence

A diver­sity of skills and ex­pe­ri­ence is needed so that all po­si­tions are cov­ered, and each in­di­vid­ual can be as­signed a par­tic­u­lar role on the ba­sis of their strengths and skills. A va­ri­ety of per­son­al­i­ties, age groups, cul­tures and ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els can also bring cre­ativ­ity and a broader range of ideas to the team. Ul­ti­mately, this will en­hance the client ex­pe­ri­ence. Com­mit to de­vel­op­ing each in­di­vid­ual and build­ing a deep bench of talent for the firm. 5) Cel­e­brate suc­cesses and have fun: It shouldn’t be all work and no play. This men­tal­ity can lead to burnout, so it’s im­por­tant to in­ject a bit of fun into work­ing life. Teams who work par­tic­u­larly well to­gether en­joy each other’s com­pany and oc­ca­sion­ally get to­gether out­side of the of­fice to so­cial­ize and bond. Over­all, the most suc­cess­ful ad­vi­sory firms have built strong pos­i­tive team cul­tures that are grounded firmly in the pur­pose of help­ing clients reach their fi­nan­cial goals. Achiev­ing that pur­pose re­quires hav­ing a client-first men­tal­ity, re­ward­ing ex­cel­lence, hon­esty and team­work. As the ultimate team leader, you must model the way.

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