Our Team is Fighting Over New Procedures
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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We have team members turning on one another because much of the new client servicing standards we agreed to set in place are not working. Our operations associates blame our client service team, and the client service team blames advisors for not following the process. I’m running ops, but I’m at a loss as to how to rein this in.
It is no one’s fault. It is a new set of procedures we all have to get used to. Why is the default to make it someone else’s problem? It could be worked out if we were not expending so much time and energy trying to figure out whose fault it is.
The human condition is summed up well in your question “Why is it the default….?” Unfortunately, there is a propensity in business to point the finger and make it someone else’s fault or problem. It stems from two main things: fear of losing credibility – or even my job – if the problem is linked to me, and lack of confidence in my own abilities (sometimes called “imposter syndrome”). When a person is fully confident in their position and they know taking responsibility isn’t going to be dangerous for them, it’s rare that person won’t either see what they can do to help fix something or even raise their hand and offer themselves up as an example of what might be confusing or going wrong.
If you agree with my position on this, look at the culture of your firm:
1. Is the environment one where people are free to make mistakes and take ownership of them without it being punitive?
2. Do people feel psychologically safe to voice a question or show confusion, or is there a penalty for not knowing?
3. Is it okay to fail?
4. Does the firm welcome new ideas, processes and ways of doing things versus having a “we’ve always done it this way” philosophy?
Be a bit introspective and examine whether the culture is supporting this type of reaction rather than pointing another layer of fingers at people who are not appearing to cooperate.
Consider whether there has been adequate communication and training on what exactly the new standards entail. I’ve observed in many of my advisory client firms instances where a great idea is implemented, but it creates a change in the way people and teams have to do things. Often all of the component pieces aren’t considered. For example, the new process may have two people doing the same thing or skip a step where no one is responsible.
There could be opportunities for you to pull the group together and talk obstacles – what you know is working, what needs to be changed, etc. Make the conversation objective, rather than personal. This often pulls people together to make a necessary change happen.
I appreciate the idea of change. But I don’t believe it is always necessary.
My advisory firm has done much the same thing for years and we’ve received great results and feedback from clients. Why should we change because someone says there is a shift in the market dynamics? I’m speaking specifically about a consultant we had who talked about the importance of ESG and working with clients on their values. He said we should be adding customized portfolios and marketing this as an option. I am on the investment committee for the firm and we’ve used a repeatable process for 12 years that has worked well for us. We are almost always at or above our benchmarks and clients comment on it. Changing this because ESG is popular does not seem prudent.
Are all advisors chasing the shiny penny? Is that what this industry has become?
Your note to me brings up so many different issues:
1. Did the consultant recommend this for a particular reason? I’m wondering whether he talked to clients and uncovered a previously undisclosed need. Was there a prompt to make him believe this would be the right strategy for you? I am a consultant and I find it hard to believe someone would make a blanket statement like this without some context. I once spoke at a conference and heard another consultant say that all advisors should only hire people out of Harvard or Yale, which was truly shocking. So it is possible this consultant has a one-track view also. Consider whether it was fact-based and the possibility that there is something you are missing in the translation.
2. Have you, your team and the investment committee, looked at impact of this change? I understand your hesitancy and I respect the “not broken” perspective. But it can be useful to run scenarios and see what returns you could be getting, or how the allocations would change were you to make this shift in the portfolio.
3. Have you and your leadership talked to clients about this possibility? Is there an appetite to include this, or would your clients agree this is not necessary for them and they aren’t interested in it?
There are questions to ask and avenues to explore to validate or deny this change fits your environment and is right for your firm.
I don’t believe that change just to change things is always a good idea. But I am a fan of paying attention to changes in the marketplace, understanding what competitors are doing and observing trends to determine if they are right for your firm or not.
I respect what you are doing has worked well for you, and your clients have appreciated it. And it is possible you should keep doing what you are doing, and all will be well. I also believe that in an ever-changing market, economy and world it is prudent to stay on top of trends and continue to consider whether a change is important to make for your firm.
The number of advisors I work with who still have outdated websites going back 10-20 years without a refresh, in a world where everyone Googles and looks up a name online, is always shocking to me. With value-based trends like ESG, investors understand their money talks and some want their money to talk about things they care about and align with their values.
I’m not saying do this or even change – I’m asking you to consider that staying open and interested to learn and consider it is always useful.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. 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.