Managing an Unmotivated Employee

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

What do I do when I have staff members who don’t seem interested in self improvement? They aren’t bad workers per se; just not motivated to improve. It frustrates me no end that I can’t light a fire under them.

Terry D, Milwaukee WI

Dear Terry,

Unfortunately, for those of us in management roles, most people working for us are self-motivated. We can entice them with rewards, or punish them to get them to do what we want, but ultimately taking the steps to improve lies within each of us.

That said, how do you create an environment where they want to be motivated to improve? You have to make it part of the culture. You didn’t say how big your practice or firm is, but make sure you are bringing in only “A” players when you hire or add to staff. Be sure everyone is clear on their role and the contribution they make to the firm. When you hire, choose people who have shown a willingness to go the extra mile in the past. Once they are hired, get to know them. Find out what your employees care about – what values do they have? What is important to them? Don’t assume it is just having the job or the pay they earn. It could be the way they are treated, earning time off, having an opportunity for ownership, having a voice in the firm’s direction and decisions, or a myriad of other things. Often times if you select winners at the outset, and then show a true interest in who they are and what they care about, they will become self-motivated to rise to the next level.

Of course if you have someone who just isn’t making it at all, put them on a performance plan. Let them know of your expectations and be sure to give them feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

Dear Bev,

My clients are very happy. We offer a high level of service and attention. I have heard about the “concierge” level of service that some practices offer. I’m not sure what this means if I should think about this for our clients.

Wade N., Sarasota FL

Dear Wade,

I’m not sure if you have a problem or not. Your current clients are happy and you feel you are doing a lot for them, but you hear about what others are doing and don’t want to miss out on anything. I respect your desire to strive for even greater service with your current clients. Too many times a practice is focused on new business and can fall into the trap of taking existing clients for granted.

In my experience, the concierge level of service simply means in addition to being attentive, proactive and having staff members that go out of their way to serve your existing clients, you offer additional value-added services such as negotiating for a new car, buying theatre tickets or booking travel. There are different levels of concierge; some advisors serve as extended staff members arranging services for clients. Others, in addition to offering the standard client communication, such as educational events or newsletters, really get to know the clients. Those advisors acknowledge major life events such as weddings, birth of a new baby, and trips clients are taking.  They find ways to proactively make the client’s life easier.

One thing you may want to think about: When you or your employees talk with clients and learn of anything that is important to them, or upcoming in their life or their family’s lives, you somehow recognize it. It could be a gift, the sending of information or contacts, or scheduling something on their behalf. Advisors offering concierge know they must perform well with client portfolios and in investment performance but in addition, they proactively seek ways to make them feel as though they are their most important client!

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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