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Avoid the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: “I’m Not Good at Managing People”

I’ve often heard advisers say that they are not good at managing people. I want to shake them and scold, “Don’t say that!” When you make such a declaration, you are doing nothing more than creating an excuse for not improving your skills. You may even be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which your assumption that you aren’t good influences your behaviors and actually causes you to be less of a good manager than you naturally would be.

What Do Employees Want from Their Manager?
You can make a huge improvement in your self-perception, as well as in the perception of your employees, by focusing on some basic employee needs. Among the things employees want, there are two items that stand out, according to research by Gallup: knowing what’s expected of them and how they are doing in meeting those expectations.

These are fundamental needs of employees. That’s why human resources departments tell managers to have up-to-date job descriptions (to define what’s expected) and give employees performance reviews at least annually (to check in about whether expectations are being met). These two actions are not much to ask of an adviser and require that you learn just a couple of skills:

  • How to work with an employee to create a job description
  • How to have a meaningful conversation with an employee about his or her performance

Investing in Your Employees
A little time spent defining roles and responsibilities can go a long way for an adviser who wants an employee to be an important part of the future of his or her organization. Existing employees can be asked to do much of the task.

If you start with an employee who does not have a job description, give him or her a template that asks the employee to outline the key five to eight responsibilities of the job. You can make your own list for that position and then compare the two lists together to create an official description. From there, you can add the values you want to drive internally among everyone who is associated with the firm.

Use the description as the basis for performance reviews. A job description, although not perfect, is a good benchmarking tool and certainly better than using nothing. Again, work from a template to give employees the opportunity to outline how they think they have done in fulfilling their position’s key responsibilities over the past six months or year. If you do the same thing, comparing assessments will give you the fodder for great conversations regarding each employee’s performance.

Half the battle is making this investment in employees a priority and taking the time to do it. Based on the above approach, the time investment is really only a few hours per employee. That’s a good return on investment for employees whom you want to be part of the future of your firm.

Is that all you have to do be a great at managing people? No, but it’s a good jumping-off point. Above and beyond defined expectations, employees are highly influenced by the culture of an organization. We’ll talk more about that next time.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.




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3 Keys to Creating an Engaged Workforce

What does it take to have an engaged workforce? Is it a ping pong table in the breakroom and unlimited vacation and sick pay? Is it a flexible work environment allowing employees to set their own schedules?

If your eyes were rolling and you were wondering just how you were going to make that happen, worry no more. According to research conducted by Gallup®, these types of fringe benefits are not what make an engaged workforce. The things that do will cost you less in hard dollars yet require you to engage with people, who are often confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Engagement in the workforce is the same as the romantic engagement, it happens between people.

There are three keys to creating an engaged workforce:

  1. Selecting the right people seems so obvious, yet all of us have either hired or had to work with someone who just wasn’t the right fit. Good hiring goes beyond the ability of someone with the skills to perform the job. Mindset, attitude and culture also play an important role. Beyond the initial hiring process, what weighs more heavily in employee engagement is selecting the right managers. More often than not, people don’t quit jobs, they quit the manager. When you consider the process by which most managers get selected, they are either star performers or have been with the company the longest, so it’s easy to end up with managers not prepared to manage others. When selecting a manager, focus on their ability to get to know and develop others while keeping an eye on the metrics that drive performance.
  2. Developing employees’ strengths will be one of the most productive roles your manager performs. According to Gallup®, employees who have the chance to use their strengths every day are SIX TIMES more likely to be engaged on the job. Remember what the lack of engagement can cost? Managers are uniquely positioned to come to know and develop the strengths of the people on their team. Using a tool such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment will help both the manager and the team better understand the unique talents of each individual as well as the potential that lies within.
  3. Enhance employees’ well-being. This at first glance appears to be a rather large undertaking. If we break it down, we can see how a company and its great managers can influence well-being. Most people spend at least one-half of their waking hours in the work environment and we know that work influences home and personal life and vice-versa. In studies conducted among its client groups, Gallup® has found that engaged employees are generally in better health and have healthier habits than those not engaged. In turn, these engaged employees have fewer chronic health problems and miss fewer days of work. These are also the same employees likely to participate in a company-sponsored wellness program. Well-being also includes community and social involvement as well as financial well-being. An entire book could be written on just this topic, and it has! Well-Being by Tom Rath and Jim Harter is a great compliment to the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and the assessment.

So where should you start in engaging your employees?  A conversation focusing on strengths can go a long way in engaging your workforce. Take the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment for yourself and discover your strengths. You will see just how empowering this knowledge can be. If you would like a plan for implementing strengths or either of the other two keys in this article, connect with me at barbara@acceluspartners.com.

Barbara StewartBarbara Stewart
Coach to financial advisers
Owner and founder
Accelus Partners
Houston, Texas


8 Tips for a 45-Day Business Plan

Business plans are well-meaning documents. A business inspiration takes form as the aspiring entrepreneur digs into product/service design, scalability, market size, competition, pricing, selling tactics, operations, budgeting, and so on. Collecting thoughts into a single document builds a foundation that makes the risky step of starting a business manageable.

The Dusty Business Plan
That said, few entrepreneurs work with their original business plan. The often harsh reality of running a business day after day smacks against the plan’s clinical, step-by-step thinking. But, this breakage does not belie the truth that planning remains a core element of success, or, if not done, a major reason for failure. The absence of an active business plan leads to meandering services, less efficiency, less focus and greater risk exposure.

A lack of day-to-day connection is the primary reason why business plans get dusty on shelves instead of being a desktop guidebook. In other words, the initial plan developed a thread of “how things should work” and not the reality, once the business was formed, of “how things are working.”

The 45-Day Planning Cycle
A 45-day business plan merges the daily “to do” list with the business objectives that give a firm its purpose. It recognizes that new information comes up and adjustments need to be made, but it keeps sight of how those adjustments fit within a strategic context.

The planning cycle sequence creates a living document across a year. A post-cycle review connects the immediately past plan to the next one. An annual review looks back and evaluates what progress was achieved and where more effort is needed.

Each review studies the tasks and forces judgment of the value for the effort expended:

  • Where was progress made to the objectives, and where was it stymied?
  • What are needed changes to achieve the desired progress?
  • Is the work just completed making the firm more valuable?

45-Day Plan

Making it Work
Planning in 45-day cycles is tighter since the inputs used are more current and the learning timelier. The business engages in a virtuous cycle of planning, doing, and learning.

In an Excel spreadsheet or Word document, the 45-day planning structure is simple to set up, but daily diligence is important to success. While the full planning methodology is beyond this blog’s scope, the following is a quick outline of the structure:

  1. Strategic Objective Worksheets: The 45-day planning process is a set of worksheets; each worksheet should list one of the business’ objectives such as “Increase clients by 30 percent” or “Form five new referral relationships.”
  2. Integrated To Do List: Take the firm’s to do/project lists and assign each task to a worksheet if it supports the corresponding objective. Since these tasks align with objectives, they are priorities.
  3. Ordering the Tasks: For the tasks under each objective, order them according to the expected sequence; a project plan emerges.
  4. Non-Strategic Tasks: Some tasks don’t fit with any of the worksheets; they may be necessary but aren’t strategic (e.g. paying bills). These will be kept on a separate sheet called “Scheduled Work” (step No. 6).
  5. Maintenance: Each completed task is noted as such on its “Objective Worksheet.” New tasks that come up each day are added according to the process in steps No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. When a new objective emerges, a worksheet is prepared.
  6. Scheduled Work: The non-strategic tasks are worked on during non-critical operational time (e.g. after work hours; a weekend day). The key is the prime working hours are spent on priorities; they must get done for the firm to progress.
  7. Cycle Review: At the end of each cycle, schedule a meeting (preferably with key staff) and critically review the progress toward the firm’s objectives.
  8. Task Rollover: Some tasks can’t be completed in a 45-day cycle so they are rolled over to the same worksheet for the next cycle. If a task continues to roll, the review should identify if it’s simply a matter of project/task sequencing or a mismatch to the assigned objective worksheet.

One of the worst feelings a business owner can have is to look back in time and realize that few of the firm’s objectives were met. Working incrementally and with purpose eliminates this bad outcome.

Think of each 45-Day business plan as a stepping stone that leads across a stream. One step comes after another, and the sum of steps leads to clear progress. When looking back (i.e. the review process), these steps bring lasting achievement that ultimately translate into a more valuable business.

Kirk LouryKirk Loury
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey