Outside-IN

Your people are the secret ingredient for great tech. Don't leave them behind

The best way to get 100% buy-in on new solutions is to rope your team into the decision-making process as early as possible

Jul 11, 2019 @ 12:41 pm

By Eric Clarke

Running in the 2018 Boston Marathon was an incredible experience for me, not only as a personal accomplishment, but as an opportunity to run with a mentor and friend to support a great cause in the Foundation for Financial Planning.

But while I ran, trying not to think about the frigid rain, blowing wind or the looming prospect of Heartbreak Hill, another story was unfolding, one I believe every advisory firm should take to heart.

Last year, Desiree Linden and her teammate Shalane Flanagan laced up to compete in the marathon. But an hour into the race, Ms. Flanagan had to stop for an unexpected break.

Ms. Linden could have seen her faltering teammate as deadweight and left her in the dust. But she understood that she didn't have to choose between winning and supporting her team. She waited for Ms. Flanagan, then helped her make up for lost time, slipping back into the leader's pack over the course of the grueling race.

Not only did Ms. Linden recover from the setback, she went on to win the race, becoming the first American in 33 years to win the women's category in the Boston Marathon. You would be hard-pressed to find a clearer example of the power of all-hands-on-deck teamwork.

But for all the talk we hear about the importance of working together, all too often I see firm leaders take a top-down approach to challenges that excludes feedback from the people who have to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

For example, as more RIAs contemplate changes to their tech stacks, some leaders will bar everyone but the top echelons from the decision-making progress.

The line of reasoning usually goes like this: "You don't have an in-depth understanding of the software, and you can't see the 'big picture' of the business. How can you give meaningful feedback?"

Here's the thing. Your people are the secret ingredient for the success of your tech. Without their support, you will not successfully put in place repeatable, efficient processes. And if the processes are bad, no amount of flashy tech can overcome them.

I've faced decisions where my team and I disagreed on the optimal choice. In those instances, I've found that a solution fully embraced by a team and implemented 100% is superior in practice to a choice that is the clear favorite of executives, but is half-heartedly implemented by the team.

The best way to get that 100% buy-in is to rope your team into the decision-making process as early as possible. Allocating time and resources for them to train with a new tech solution is important, but it can be just as helpful to appoint an unofficial "evangelist" for the change.

If your team has someone who can remind them why they're changing solutions while sharing and amplifying success stories, they will be more inclined to rally around a new way of doing things.

If you want your team to be receptive to change, don't treat them like obstacles to power through.

In the Boston Marathon, Ms. Linden's bond with Ms. Flanagan was every bit as important as the end goal. That bond was ultimately the driving force behind Ms. Linden's victory. When you welcome your team into the decision-making process, they will help you win, too.

(More: The future belongs to visionaries. Let's build their tools today)

Eric Clarke is the founder and CEO of Omaha, Neb.-based Orion Advisor Services.

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