Overcoming Employee Finger-Pointing

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,

We have a team-selling approach. We have portfolio advisors, salespeople and client-servicing people who all go on calls together. I own the firm and I’m tired of hearing each of them complain to me about one another. It’s always someone else’s fault when we don’t win an account, or a client doesn’t offer up a referral. What advice can you give me so that I don’t say something that I will regret?

Name withheld

Dear Anonymous,

If there weren’t people in a business, there wouldn’t be any problems.

This is the main reason that I write this column every week – people issues are at the core of what advisors deal with on a day-to-day basis. Reading your question, though, I’m not sure if I should offer some stress management advice (remember to breathe…) or some advice on how to give feedback to your troops. I will opt for the latter.

A few things to think about – first of all, make sure that expectations are clear for these meetings. Is there a designated leader who is managing the process in each meeting? Is it obvious how the handoff should happen between colleagues? Has everyone agreed on the desired outcome before the meeting even starts?

If you don’t have a planning process in advance of meetings, put one in place. Second, have a feedback process – sometimes referred to as the “post-mortem.” Have your team talk to one another in a formal way after the meeting. What went well? What could have been improved? What can we plan together to do differently next time?

Lastly, don’t allow yourself to be the sounding board.  Tell people who come in to complain about one another that they need to talk to each other instead. It’s unproductive to have you as the central dumping ground. Your team needs to learn to share their perspective directly with one another and discuss how to improve. If they are able to turn to you with their complaints, they won’t learn how to build bridges together. Some people have never learned how to give feedback, positive or negative, so help them learn how to do this with one another and remove yourself from the process. It will help them learn to work together, and the added benefit will be a reduction in stress levels for you.

Dear Bev,

I’m an investment advisor who has worked with three different marketing firms over the last five years. In each case, I was asked to tell my story, using elevator pitches and the like. I’m frustrated because I don’t understand why good old-fashioned investing is out of vogue. I am a good investment manager and it’s why I wanted to go into this business. Having investment experience and expertise is why people hire me. This soft-skills emphasis on relationships and telling everyone why we’re different doesn’t seem important to me. Is there a marketing approach that would allow me to focus on what I love to do?

Sam L., Chicago IL

Dear Sam,

Marketing should focus on what you love to do! Your “story” is about that, so I’m perplexed as to what those firms were telling you. There are investment advisors, and accompanying marketing stories, that focus mostly on asset or investment management. These are investment professionals who are not defining themselves as an overall “wealth manager” or financial planner. Investors come to someone like you looking purely for investment expertise.

One of my best clients has grown his business significantly by being “just” an investment manager. His clients love the fact that he is an expert and a specialist. Try coming up with some story ideas on your own. Ask yourself, why do you love investing? What is your philosophy toward it? Why do clients come to you? What type of client fits your approach the best? How do you work with clients?

Describe your process and approach and then answer the “so what?” question. So what about your investing knowledge – why is it beneficial to anyone and what problem does it solve? Your marketing materials or your website can explain why you focus solely on investing and why this is important to a potential client.

As a marketer, I can see your passion coming through in your question to me, so it should not be too hard to translate it into writing for your prospects and clients. And you don’t need to be like everyone else – in fact, from a marketing perspective, sometimes not doing what everyone else is doing is the best way to differentiate yourself.

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, MSNBC.com, 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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