How Financial Advisors Can Leverage Their Team to Grow

According to the InvestmentNews 2019 Elite RIA Study the top concern threatening elite RIAs' ability to succeed is having the right employees in the right roles. 

I’ve found this concern, having the right people in the right roles, relevant for teams of all sizes. Most financial advisors know they need to develop and/or expand their team to meet their goals but don’t know where to start. 

People are your most expensive investment, getting this right matters. So, how can your people support your business and your growth?

Getting the most out of your team

Let’s start with the team you have. These are common questions that come up:  

  • How do I make the most out of my team?
  • How can they help support the firm goals?
  • How do I measure their performance?
  • How do I retain employees?

Let’s start with the obvious, we are all human and are driven by some pretty basic things, at the most basic level security (money and a sense of stability) but there are three higher-level needs, which, if met, can ignite your people and business.

To make the most of your team you need to provide your people with “SOAP”:

1. Security

Psychological security is foundational, a requirement to have engaged and motivated employees. Employees need basic job security, to receive fair compensation, clarity on who is their manager and how they can add value. If any of these are unclear or they don’t believe they have them then engagement, motivation and retention may be difficult for even the most skilled manager.    

2. Autonomy (with accountability)

Autonomy is the ability to be self-directed. As humans we crave independence and the ability to do it our way. 

As a manager you provide autonomy by being clear on role, responsibilities and expectations, and then getting out of the way and letting your team do their job. The key is to have job descriptions, clear expectations and priorities. Don't tell people how to do something, instead paint them a clear picture of what success looks like and get out of the way. 

Part of autonomy includes accountability, holding people responsible for the great and not so great work they do. As a manager it’s just as important (maybe more important) to acknowledge the good work not just the stuff that doesn’t meet your expectations. 

3. Opportunity for mastery

Opportunity for mastery means you create and protect space for your team to develop, practice and grow in the right ways. Hopefully there are opportunities for growth related to their job but it’s also important to provide support for self-directed exploration and development. Understanding their professional interests and goals is a good place to start. I’ve been surprised how versatile people can be when given the opportunity to learn something new, to be pushed outside of their comfort zone in a supportive way. 

As an advisor this may look like supporting a team member in pursuing a certification or training of their choice, providing the opportunity for mentorship, to take the lead on a new project or to sit in or run relevant meetings. 

4. Purpose

When your team is aligned to your purpose they are proud of what they do, they wake up excited to go to work and are able to persevere even when it gets hard. A business’ purpose includes starting with why, why are you working with retirees? Why are you focused on planning? Why do your clients need you? 

An individual’s purpose may be different but ultimately aligned or supported by the company or team’s purpose. Another way to think about it is does your team drink the kool-aid? 

To get the most out of your team they need more than money, if you don’t believe here’s a short-video that breaks down the science behind motivation.   

Fill the gaps

If you have optimized your team and there are still gaps what do you do?

1. Start with your business plan. Is this strategic or reactionary hire? A strategic hire is one that’s aligned with your business plan, your short and long-term goals, and you have the resources to hire and maintain the right person.

2. Develop a job description (or requirements if it’s not a full- or part-time hire). What will they do, what skills and experience do they need to have but more importantly what is the impact you expect? Said another way, what does success look like if you found the perfect person or solution? 

3. Determine how you’re going to fill the gap. Use your job description (or requirements) to determine the right structure of this role. Is it a full-time hire? Part-time hire? Contractor? Partnering with a third-party? Can technology help? 

5. Hire intentionally.

Regardless of who or what you’re seeking to bring in to fill the gap do it in an intentional and systematic way. People are inherently bias, especially when we’re hiring. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making the easy hire: a friend, a random referral from a friend or family member or the person that you really like but doesn't really fit the role. 

Look for a skill, experience and cultural fit. Consider using a personality/behavioral assessment such as Predictive Index (PI), Myers-Briggs or DISC to help ensure skill and cultural fit (and to support ongoing management). Bring in various team members or trusted partners as part of the interview process and listen to their feedback. Ultimately, you have to trust your gut. There is no guarantee you’ll make the right hire every time. However, if you have a process, review a diverse set of candidates and will increase your odds of hiring success.  

6. Onboard for success.

Onboarding, a new hire's first impression, is important but often an afterthought. Especially when you’re a small team it may feel like you don’t have time to slow down and handhold someone during their first month. However, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Before they start, have their workspace set up, ensure technology is working and prepare their 7-30-60-90 day plan. A 7-30-60-90 day plan simply outlies what the first week will entail and what you expect them to be doing after the first, second and third months. This gives you both a roadmap as to what training needs to happen and what success looks like. It typically takes 3-6 months to really settle into a new role. Getting off on the right foot not only ensures engaged but impactful employees.

7. Continually manage, measure and develop.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Set it and forget it.” It’d be great to get people going and then be able to step away and let them run without any intervention but that’s not how it works. Leadership and management isn’t always easy and it may not be one of your strengths but it must be done to get the most out of people, especially as you’re growing. Successful people management fuels and supports growth. If you aren’t going to do the work then delegate it. 

Are you a solopreneur or an entrepreneur? 

If you’re an entrepreneur, growing a scalable and sustainable business you will need to figure out how to use your people resources. Granted most financial advisors (and business owners) didn’t start their businesses to manage a team but it’s a requirement for success. People can truly make or break your business.