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4 skills that help advisers function like CEOs

High-functioning advisory teams embrace practices also used in many C-suites

Jul 24, 2014 @ 11:48 am

By Ray Sclafani

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As a financial adviser leading a team or small firm, your responsibilities are often like those of a CEO leading a company. Thinking like a CEO requires busy advisers to tackle several managerial issues along with with their responsibilities as producers.

The first is that you clearly understand the different areas of focus that go into being a CEO, and the second is that you understand how to share this knowledge with your team members so that they can become effective partners in co-creating the goals and vision of your organization.

We've worked closely with top advisory teams and have identified the following four crucial skill sets that help advisers function more like CEOs:

1. Relational: These skills come very naturally to many advisers, especially when interacting with their clients. However, they are often overlooked when it comes to the dynamic of their own teams, and could be even further refined in their interactions. Relational skills are crucial to the success of your business. We teach the same tactics our coaches use in their sessions with clients to harness the powerful communication tools that enhance management skills with teams and deepen relationships with clients. These skills can lead to great mutual benefits across all your business relationships.

2. Business management: These skills are related to the practice management aspects of your business. They include everything from client acquisition and client engagement to organizing and defining the processes that ensure your business runs smoothly even when you aren't there. It also covers team development and processes for referrals, and all the other elements outside the technical aspects of running a wealth management business.

3. Leadership: A strong leader can make the difference in determining whether the members of your team work as a cohesive group toward goals that are co-created and a vision that is co-authored by everyone involved. We refer to this as total team leadership, when a leader and team engage in the exchange of leadership among themselves in a manner that evokes meaningful contribution from every team member, showcases the strengths of each, and advances consistent and effective group decision making. This creates greater consistency and cohesiveness across the group to save time and ensure goals are met.

4. Technical: The technical skills of your business are directly related to what makes you a professional within the industry and a specialist within your particular area of focus. For some advisers, this becomes the driving force behind their professional development. Financial advisers, especially team leaders, need to consider how these specific goals align with their overall vision of their team and the goals that have been co-created by their team, and how obtaining these designations will affect the experience of their ideal client.

While pursuing designations like your CFA or ChFC are important, they will do very little for advisers who aren't maximizing the current relationships they have with clients by sharpening their relational skills and running their team with the most efficient processes possible, allowing them to fully utilize the benefit of that credential.

We've found that advisers who are most successful at managing these varied skill sets don't do it alone, because they have the ability to learn these skill sets in a way that applies specifically to their team, and then effectively pass that knowledge along. This requires an ability to readily gain knowledge and adapt it as a “journey learner.” We define journey learners as professionals who grow through acquiring knowledge, and then apply, evaluate, and reapply what they've learned to their situation and experience. Their careful consideration of what they learn in terms of its application as well as its value means they are much more likely to gain a richer context and be able to pass that deep understanding of what they've learned along to their team members.

Being a CEO requires constant attention to learning and the ability to be selective in understanding what knowledge applies to your team.

Four questions for advisers to consider:

1. What more could you be doing in your business to create a balance between the four main CEO skill sets listed above?

2. Are you fully considering the relational skills you've established beyond simply maintaining consistent communication with your clients and team? What questions are you asking them? How are you effectively engaging them with the language you use and the relationships you develop?

3. Is the partnership with your team jointly established? Could you do more to involve your team members in co-creating and co-authoring goals and vision?

4. To what extent are you considering how the knowledge you gain relates specifically to your team, and are you consistently applying and reassessing that knowledge to fit your particular situation?

Ray Sclafani is the founder and chief executive of ClientWise, a business and executive coaching firm working exclusively with financial professionals and teams.


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