Leave a comment

Embrace the Individual for the Ultimate Client Experience

Regardless of labels based on generation, gender, socioeconomic, ethnic or cultural background, political or religious beliefs, physical or mental abilities, skill set, age, personality type, etc., we are all unique.

Diverse teams afford distinctive qualities that enhance our profession but can be challenging to lead if one does not fully understand and appreciate each person’s unique talents and contributions. We all, no matter our differences, have one thing in common—we are all human and therefore we must honor one another’s individuality.

As practice management consultants who have focused on teams for the last two decades, we strongly believe that teams are the only future of this industry. The sole practitioner model is becoming harder to execute with the ever-changing complex requirements and expectations converging on financial professionals from all angles—regulators, firms and clients. However, we wholeheartedly believe that you must understand each individual for the team dynamic to work and the business to realize optimal results.

Creating A Connective Environment for Team Optimization

Without the right people in the right roles executing the responsibilities for which they have the right skill set, motivation and mindset, the practice will not grow and cannot reap potential.

In the absence of the ultimate team experience, associates don’t deliver the ultimate client experience, which affects both the reputation of the practice and the pace at which it grows. Without a connective, engaging work environment, top talent is lost to other firms, employee retention is reduced and growth and profitability are negatively impacted. Understanding each individual is essential in creating that connective environment.

A practice benefits from multiple elements of “diversity.” There are many different types of responsibilities and tasks to be executed that require entirely different and diverse skill sets. Our clients often encompass multiple generations, so we need age diversity among our team to best connect to the entirety of our client families. Many planners serve diverse communities so building a team that mirrors your audience can be beneficial in connecting to them. The examples are endless.

To optimize a team, we must go beyond the diversity label and understand the uniqueness of each individual. We often communicate differently with each of our children because they are unique and respond in different ways. Great little league coaches alter their style with the kids because each player may be motivated differently. Great teachers adjust their approaches because students learn differently. As leaders within the profession, we must do the same. Understanding the uniqueness of each associate, their natural skill set, preferred communication style, motivators, experiences and background will all lead to more optimal results.

We need to move away from stereotypes, assumptions and judgement and see the world and people through unbiased lenses, step into each other’s shoes and listen.

10 Simple Suggestions

Below are some simple suggestions on how to build the team while valuing the individual.

  1. Challenge your assumptions. Move beyond the labels.
  2. Get to know each team member. Execute one-on-ones—periodically take each team member to lunch. Schedule regular team off-site sessions that incorporate business and fun. Create “fun fact profiles”—we create professional bios, why not have a fun facts sheet on each team member? Encourage team members to share stories from both their career and their life journey; sharing experiences and defining moments can drive understanding, connection and respect. Story sharing typically diminishes assumptions and stereotypes in favor of true awareness.
  3. Understand communication preferences. This awareness allows you to flex your style to each associate’s style and subsequently create more effective interactions. Understand drivers, which provide critical information for the team dynamic as well as awareness on how to motivate each person. Utilize assessments and use unbiased tools to complement these activities. Our MapMyStrengths.com assessment is a phenomenal resource to get to know each individual and then utilize the information to improve communication, align responsibilities to those best suited to them and create a connective team dynamic.
  4. Lead the individual not just the team. Leadership involves both unity and individualization. For example, a singular vision unites the team and ensures all understand the path forward and standardized procedures can drive team efficiency. In terms of individualization, when leaders customize their style to each person, amazing results happen.
  5. Set clear expectations and then empower your team members with trust and responsibility. Be clear on expectations as they relate to both team and firm membership—what you as a leader expect from them and what they can expect from you. Provide parameters and the desired outcome to those who prefer to figure it out themselves, but be specific with how-to instructions for those who want to know how to achieve exacting results. Teach and be taught; create mentor programs and connect people for individual learning and growth.
  6. Focus on purpose first. In the absence of understanding the why in our relational industry, we begin to turn people into robots mechanically executing the what, the how and the when.
  7. Be approachable and available. Exit the ivory tower and spend time in the trenches with your team—provide open-door time. Get to know them on a personal level, show care and concern, be authentic and listen.
  8. Frame individual failures as learning opportunities. Explain rather than reprimand.
  9. Embrace critical conversations. Avoiding them can demolish culture and diminish respect for leadership. Execute tough conversations with applicable team members in a timely manner.
  10. Celebrate team and individual successes. Reward and recognize performance and achievement.

None of this is rocket science. We must remember, though, that the ultimate success of the team is dependent on the individuals. We must understand each member, value their uniqueness, embrace the commonalities and respect the differences. As a leader, success is in part dependent on our ability to lead each individual as well as the team as a whole.


Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions. They are coaches in the FPA Coaches Corner for team development. See more resources from them here.

1 Comment

Action is the Antidote to Anxiety

Financial planners can find themselves tangled up in their fears, which can limit any level of future success. As a professional development coach, I refer to this as the “teeter-totter effect,” where on one side sits anxiety and on the other sits results. It goes without saying that when results are up, anxiety is down and when results are down, anxiety is up.

So how does someone get off this ride? Well, action is the antidote to anxiety. Dale Carnegie is widely quoted as saying, “If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

There are many ways to take action. First, you have to make the decision that you are tired of feeling hopeless, helpless and/or fearful. Then you need to map out what action or change of focus you should be implementing. Create leverage for those actions or focus by writing down a reward or punishment that you would give yourself at the end of the day if you follow through (or not). Then, get going and do it whatever it is that you’ve concluded needs to be done.

You also need to be conscious that this process is ongoing and dynamic. You need to evaluate and tweak accordingly because as you move forward, what you’re doing now may not be what you need to be doing a few month’s down the pike.

Be Solid in Your Desire to Change

Change can be a frightening thing. The thought of the unknown can seem more terrifying than complacency. One of my financial planner clients was in need of change. Here is his story:

Aaron P. had over 40 years’ experience in the profession and was comfortable only working with his client base. He didn’t feel the need to prospect. However, as his clients aged, he faced the reality that his client base was shrinking and consequently, so was his income. One day he called me and declared that he knew he needed to prospect but after all this time, he didn’t know how. By letting himself get rusty, he had created a fear of rejection.

Take the time to determine your direction. In Aaron’s case, he needed to first conquer his fear of rejection by determining how valid that fear was. So, I asked him a series of questions until he came to the realization that any rejection that he might experience while prospecting was not personal. Rather, they were rejecting the value of his services. He needed a step-wise process so that he could ensure he was adequately explaining their value and his veteran industry knowledge. We mapped out what type of prospecting he would do, when he would do it, who he would call, what he would say and how he would handle objections.

To create habits, you must create leverage. Like Aaron, once you have a plan, you must have a strong enough reason why you need to follow it in order to get motivated, create momentum and have it become part of your protocol. In other words, you need leverage.

Aaron had plenty of reasons why he should prospect, his client base and income were shrinking. However, in order to pick up the phone and make that first prospecting call, he needed to have a reward to strive for or a punishment to avoid. Make those items meaningful enough and ensure they speak to what you would like to work for (or against).

Consistent action requires commitment. Once you have decided to make change happen, determined your direction and created leverage and accountability, you need to be consistent.

Aaron did just that. Within weeks he was filling up his pipeline again. When I asked him what he thought about his prospecting system, he said he wished he would have started sooner.

Why A Well-Thought-Out Action Plan Works

Following this approach can lessen your anxiety or eliminate it altogether. The reason why a well-thought-out action plan works is because it refocuses your energy to view things as opportunities, not challenges.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

1 Comment

Does Your Practice Have a High-Performance Team?

A high-performance team is a concept within organizational development which refers to a team, organization or virtual group that is highly focused on its goals to achieve superior business results.

A high-performance team is one in which you have the right people doing the right things the right ways for the right clients at the right times for the right reasons.

Do you have a high-performance team? The following checklist of behaviors and attributes of high-performance teams can help you figure that out:

  • Have a clear vision and are committed to a common purpose.
  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Are committed to ongoing, honest and effective communication. Included in this is: having tactical daily huddles; weekly and monthly team meetings; and strategic quarterly and annual off-site meetings.
  • Have a compelling and differentiating story that all team members can articulate.
  • Commit to high productivity daily. Included in this is utilizing time-blocking strategies; consistently utilizing a contact management system; engaging in effective workflow among team members; executing a task priority system; being purposeful and intentional in daily work with a high focus on proactivity; systematizing and documenting all repeated activities as standard operating procedures; spending 10 percent of time on the business every week; embracing technological resources to drive efficiency; and being cross-trained and having back-up systems.
  • Consistently demonstrate a positive, can-do and will-do attitude. This includes: going above and beyond job descriptions; being solutions-focused and committed to problem solving; and innovating to drive efficiency and productivity.
  • Have strong personal accountability. This includes believing in self-leadership; having short- and long-term goals; owning mistakes; frequently evaluating individual, team, and business performance; embracing giving and receiving constructive criticism; understanding role and value in the vision and overall success of the group; and ensuring that words and actions are consistently aligned.
  • Are committed to ongoing personal and professional growth. This includes being masters of their craft; engaging in all firm-provided professional development opportunities; investing in themselves; subscribing to valuable online and offline learning publications; and seeking professional credentials.
  • Are committed and respectful to the leader, the team and themselves. This includes embracing autonomy within their role and embracing collaboration within the team; respecting the ultimate decisions made; and seeking ways to help each other and the team succeed.
  • Celebrate successes. This includes making time to “smell the roses” and have fun together and recognizing each person’s contributions to the team.
  • Master the fundamentals. This includes setting the highest standards for their work; displaying integrity in all things; always putting the clients’ best interests first and foremost; and maintaining mutual respect and trust.

As you consider your staff and team members, identify opportunities for improvements to drive high performance.

Sarah E. Dale, President of Know No Bounds, LLC


Sarah E. Dale
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.



Krista S. Sheets
Performance Insights
Atlanta, Ga.