When I started in financial services over 28 years ago, most firms hired financial advisers who were called “brokers” or “insurance agents” — even “special agents” at Northwestern Mutual — based on their ability to work alone. You were successful if you could hunt.
Fast forward three decades, and wealth management has been redefined. Even if you work alone, you have no real autonomy. Every adviser is part of a network. We hunt in packs.
The complex needs of clients, the aging of the adviser population, continuity and succession planning, the requirement to connect with and gain trust from your clients' heirs — all are crucial reasons advisers must embrace the pack mentality and understand the power found in numbers.
The fastest way to do that is to build a team to help you achieve greater success in complete partnership with others.
For many financial advisers who have spent their careers building a business around a brand in which they're accustomed to maintaining total control, an element of team building works entirely against the grain.
My take is that advisers have to let go of this mindset. There is no formula; the path is different for every advisory team, but here are a few ideas to consider if you're open to adjusting your outlook.
Less is more. Understand that having less control actually gives you greater freedom. This may seem obvious, but the longer you wait to engage the ideas and capabilities of your team members, the harder it is to dispel the belief that you are the only person capable of successfully contributing to your business.
By maintaining this attitude, you rob yourself and your team members of the potential to see their value, and deny yourself the freedom and lifestyle you've been working toward.
Delegate. Determine where you are having trouble letting go. Make a detailed list of the activities that keep your practice running, then take an honest look at what you're capable of entrusting to someone else. The tasks you feel comfortable transitioning should be moved off your plate as soon as possible.
Consider discussing with your team those items you're having trouble releasing. You can't seem to bring yourself to relinquish control of operations and client follow-up, but have you truly considered what it would be like to involve your team members in those processes?
The great thing is that you have ways to determine how they could contribute before you hand them the reins.
Look at where you experience weakness and involve your team in a discussion about how to improve. Their input could reveal insight you hadn't even considered. That undertaking also gives you the opportunity to weigh the capability of your team members in these areas before you involve them.
Take a risk. When reason isn't getting you there, take the leap. Remember, when it comes to what feels like the point of no return — actually passing off responsibility — you're still at the helm.
You've used reason and logic to put the pieces in place to build your team. Now it's time to trust the decisions you've made and be OK with being wrong. If you are so afraid of failing that you never make the move, you will always be in the dark about what you and your team are capable of achieving together.
Start collaborating. We all must understand the difference between delegating and collaborating. Once you've successfully built a team, keep in mind that it is very different to assign tasks to members than it is to collaborate with them on determining goals and what's required to reach those goals.
We refer to this as creating common intent, and it is the first and most important indication that you've stepped beyond delegating to leading and collaborating, and that you're on a path to engaging your team effectively.
STEP BY STEP
Letting go of your assumptions about how you need to run your business and creating common intent with your team members aren't overnight accomplishments. The process takes careful consideration and planning, but taking the necessary steps ultimately will give your operation greater bandwidth.
It also will allow you more freedom, putting you on a path to a self-sustaining business that will continue to serve clients in a manner consistent with your vision.
Ray Sclafani is the founder and chief executive of ClientWise, an executive coaching firm for the financial services industry.