The Five Organizational Obstacles to Overcome in 2019

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 Readers,

I have met recently with many advisors on the topic of teaming. Even those who run very successful practices with significant growth and revenue can face people-related obstacles. A “team” can be large or small – two partners working together or several hundred people all in the same firm. As you think about ensuring your team is performing as effectively as possible in 2019, here are five key areas. Consider whether you are operating at the highest level of excellence in these areas, or whether you should revisit one or more in advance of the New Year:

1. Does your team operate with a clear definition of success? In many cases advisors will measure success in purely quantitative terms –10% AUM growth, increasing revenue by 12% or 10 more client referrals. This is important but it is only part of the picture. What qualitative things will allow your team to succeed? That can include aspects of your culture, hiring for roles and working together more effectively. This shouldn’t just be a discussion; the success outcomes should be in writing and distributed to all team members. Everyone should know what you are driving towards, and there should be clear milestones put in place so you can review progress every month and quarter throughout the year.

2. Do you have a clearly articulated vision, mission and set of values for your team? Some advisors tell me they are too small to worry about these things. They deal with whatever comes their way and they don’t need to do what the big firms might do around vision and mission. But every single day you come into your office, work with a client, meet to make a decision or implement a new approach, you are doing it with a context around “what and why.” Having a vision, mission and set of values gives you a roadmap to make these decisions. It defines who you are as a firm, and how you want clients to think about you and experience working with you. It gives you a way to talk about who you are and what matters to you in the interview process with potential candidates. Most importantly it binds your team together to move in the same direction and support your values in the day-to-day decisions. Make sure these things are in writing and distributed. You can review them each year and make changes if needed.

3. Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined such that there are no overlaps, nothing missing and no confusion about who does what, and when? It’s fine to have a job description – it’s a necessary part of running a business. But having a job description for every role doesn’t always mean you can answer this question with an affirmative “yes!” There needs to be process defined along with the roles. Where does one role start and another end? If a client needs attention and your culture is a “can-do,” how do you communicate who can do and when they will do it? Team members might have an old job description that is outdated and no longer relevant to today’s business. You might have hired additional people but not looked at longstanding processes and existing roles. If your team cannot get into a room and turn to one another and be clear about who is doing what, when and how each of them impacts other team members and your clients, you don’t have the clarity you may believe you do.