Best Practices for an Effective Teambuilding Exercise

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,

I want to hold a teambuilding session in our office. We have a small advisory firm with two locations and about 20 people. I have some practical questions. We don’t like to take everyone away from client calls for the day. Should we have this on a weekend? Or stay late one night? Do I include everyone, from our receptionist to senior advisors? I want to do this right so would appreciate your guidance.

Peter H, CT

Dear Peter,

Kudos to you for doing the teambuilding and being so thoughtful about it. I am a big proponent of teambuilding, but only when there is reinforcement so that employees know you are serious and it isn’t a one-time “feel good” exercise.

I’ll give you some best practices for teambuilding and answer your questions in the process:

  1. Timing is very firm specific. Some staff members are fine with a weekend jaunt if you include something fun and consult with them on scheduling. Others are not. My clients typically do these sessions with us during the workday and either plan for periodic breaks (20-25 minutes each) to catch up on calls, or hire a temp to answer the phone and alert a team member if something important comes up.
  2. Include everyone! These people are working together. The more they know and understand about one another, the better they can support one another. When it comes to teambuilding, there is no class system – everyone gets the same opportunity to participate at the same time.
  3. Include breakouts or exercises they can do together. In as many years as I have done these sessions, I am continually amazed at how people who have worked together for a long time learn new things about each other during breakout sessions. Allow them to share stories and information about themselves and their lives with one another.
  4. Leave a command-and-control attitude at the door – neither the leader of the firm nor senior people should be lead the workshop. Make sure it is participatory and everyone has an equal voice and chance to learn and grow.
  5. Provide for ongoing opportunities to build on what you’ve done. I like sharing some do’s and don’ts on communicating and/or setting ground rules that everyone supports. Circulate these after the session.

This can be a great way to start off a new year. I hope you have an enjoyable and productive session!

Dear Bev,

Our growth has been pretty consistent over the last few years. I have a couple of senior rainmakers who find referrals regularly. I am now hiring in new, younger staff. What’s a fair way to distribute leads and connections? Some are more capable than others, but I don’t want to give someone an unfair advantage.

Bob K

Dear Bob,

I have a client right now who did not plan this well in advance and now has a poorer performer inheriting all of the leads. The clients who are coming in are unhappy and the lead advisor is scrambling to figure out how to reallocate and fix it.

Having seen these things happen over and over again, I am a strong advocate of planning and being prepared and am glad to see you are doing so here!

Leads should be distributed based on a combination of fairness but also “earned opportunity.” Let me explain.

I would call the junior staff members into a room and tell them that your objective is to see them grow a book of business. You expect them to do some prospecting on their own, and you will also provide some leads. However, they are charged with working closely with the senior advisors, with their prospects, and with the existing clients.

Lay out clear expectations for the behavior you want to see throughout the process. Then let them know it is an “earned” situation once they each have been able to demonstrate they can handle 3-5 leads. The advisors who are rising to the top and meeting expectations will get more leads coming their way.

Just be sure that your expectations are clear and understandable (measurable helps, too!) and that it isn’t a beauty contest. Be as fair as you can in assessing, but then let the best man or woman win for the longer term.

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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