Customized One-on-One Business Coaching for Financial Advisors
Friday, April 16, 2021
Originally published in FORUM MAGAZINE
How can you keep your team inspired and focused during a pandemic? Kim Poulin walks us through a plan of attack
Welcome to 2021. The year may have changed but the uncertainty in our working environment remains. More emphasis is being placed on employee wellness and mental health because of the direct impact that the workplace environment can have on a person’s health.
With the ongoing pandemic, some may wonder if workplace health and motivation is as significant a concern now that many people are working apart. The truth is, it has never been more important to focus on employee wellness and maintaining an effective, cohesive team — yet it has never been more challenging to achieve such a thing.
How can we possibly improve our culture and team cohesion when we are apart or are pulled in too many directions due to the demands put upon us in COVID times? I am a team coach focused on building team effectiveness and productivity. I am a Certified Facilitator & Authorized Partner with Everything DiSC® & Five Behaviors®. I understand that many teams (not all) are feeling like they are in survival mode.In this state, it’s difficult to embrace opportunities to improve your culture,but there are a few rather easy things that you can implement so that your team can have an amazing year.
Let’s start with the challenges. Despite your best intentions during the pandemic, it can be very difficult to manage and support your employees the way you would like. Here are some challenges we have witnessed amongst advisors: • I worry about my staff, especially those who live alone. • I wonder if they are getting enough accomplished. • I don’t want them to become virtually fatigued. • I am concerned about the mental health of one or more of my employees. • I don’t want to lose business momentum. • I’ m struggling because I can’t talk to them as much as before. Here are some challenges employees tell us they are having: • I’m not entirely sure what my employer wants day to day. • It’s harder for me to work virtually. • I’m stressed about my children being home and balancing their e-learning. • I don’t feel as motivated as before. • I don’t have a proper space to concentrate. • I don’t think I’ m working as productively with my team members. • I’m not sure how to balance my job and checking in with team members/my employer.
How can you improve your team motivation, culture, and cohesion virtually?
1. Get feedback from your team members.
Here are some questions to ask your team members to get a basic sense of how they are doing and how team communication could improve. You can send these questions out via email and request they respond by email, or you can send them out and follow up with a phone/video meeting to get more detailed responses. With their permission, it would be worthwhile to share the teams’ responses so that each person understands their coworkers’ preferences and challenges. This is also important information to know for when the pandemic is deemed over.
1. What do you need to feel good while working from home? 2. If given the choice, what is your ideal balance between working on site and working from home? a. I get so much more done at home b. I prefer to be on site c. I prefer a 50/50 mix d. Other 3. What is your biggest challenge working on a virtual team? a. Not enough time to interact with the team b. I feel like I’m always on the clock and can’t shut it off c. Communication can be a hassle and is limited d. Other
1. What changes occurred during COVID that have improved efficiency and will continue in the new norm? 2. For you, is effective, rewarding teamwork easier or more challenging on a virtual team compared to an in-person team? 3. What aspects of teamwork are easier or better when working virtually? 4. What aspects of teamwork are more challenging or less effective when working virtually?
2. Gain a deeper understanding of your team members’ motivations.
Along with knowing each employee’ s talents, career aspirations, professional development needs, and communication style (which we recommend), you also need to know what motivates them. People are motivated by different things. Two ways to determine one’s motivations include simply asking them questions about motivation, and secondly, by using assessment tools such as Everything DiSC® The Five Behaviours®.
Many people are motivated by extrinsic items like money or time off, but let’s focus on intrinsic motivation, also known as psychic income, which everyone has. These are things that your employee takes satisfaction in. The list is inexhaustive, but examples include prestige; working in a stable, predictable environment; solving problems; catching errors or flaws in design; achieving efficient results; being able to work closely with colleagues; giving and receiving praise; initiating projects; and inspiring others, to name a few.
As a side note, knowing the opposite of motivators is just as important. Let’s call these stressors. Examples of stressors include having little independence or private time, being forced to mingle with strangers, following inefficient procedures, dealing with a chaotic environment, being in a dull or unsocial environment, and working without clear guidelines.
With personal assessment tools, you can develop a deep understanding of your team members’ intrinsic motivators, which can have a dramatic impact on how you work with your employees and how your employees work together. Job satisfaction is key at the best of times and leads to overall wellness.
Let’s say Sarah and Tim work on your team. Sarah is friendly, outgoing, and thrives on building relationships and being around people. She is motivated by working closely with her colleagues — an intrinsic motivation that has likely been disrupted. As Sarah’s leader, you may want to touch base with her daily and have her focus on interacting with clients whenever possible.
Tim is motivated by giving and receiving praise, which typically would happen in a public setting at the office. He is always encouraging the team to work harder to reach the end goal. As the team’ s leader, consider implementing a “team success ” update at the start of each virtual team meeting that he and the other team members can look forward to. Discuss how certain successes (no matter how small) have propelled the business forward, and encourage ideas to keep that momentum going.
3. Provide regular and consistent communication.
Hold team meetings and one-on-one meetings, especially if a team member is more likely to express themselves speaking to you alone.
Team members may have specific preferences when they can do a virtual meeting. Find out by asking. Be flexible in the timing if necessary.
Encourage those who may not be as tech savvy to log in 10 minutes before a meeting to get set up properly so meetings can start when planned and they don ’t feel disruptive.
Limit team meetings to two hours. Our team finds that after two hours of screen time, we need to take a break. Offer a fiveminute coffee/bathroom break every hour. A best practice now is to have two shorter team meetings each week. If you have more than one employee, encourage team members to collaborate on video meetings at other times without you when possible.
4. If you need to hire, you can.
Some teams that have fully embraced a virtual model say it has positively impacted their business. So much so that they have been able to make hires virtually, and have needed to because their business has been growing with new clients and others requiring more services. There has been upward momentum in hiring since the fall of 2020. I am currently assisting six advisor teams to make hires. We will do three to four video interviews, and most teams will find a safe way to meet in person near the end of the hiring process, whether having a physically distanced walk in a park, or having the whole team meet in a parking lot.
In the interviewing process, ask a few questions to uncover what motivates them and have them do some sort of an assessment. Here are some examples of questions you can ask. 1. Describe the work environment or culture in which you are the most productive and happy. 2. What, in your experience, motivates your best, most successful job performance? Can you give us an example of this motivation in action in the workplace? 3. How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
If you have an employee who is motivated to inspire others, consider them to mentor your new hire. Doing a few icebreaker games during your virtual team meetings will help everyone to get to know each other. And again, doing an assessment such as Everything DiSC will fast-track the understanding of each other’ s behaviours, communication styles, and motivators and stressors.
When you know what motivates your employees it doesn’t matter if you are apart. You can utilize each person’s energy for the betterment of the business, and the employees will be happier for it. You simply need to take the time to investigate.
February is a busy month for financial advisors so rather than provide tips and resources, we are celebrating our clients' accomplishments. It is truly amazing watching what happens when clients commit to their goals and achieve their vision. Here are the milestones we've tracked.
Originally published March 2008. Revised for February 2021
We recently resurrected an article we wrote in 2008 about making self-care a priority. Interestingly, many of the concepts we wrote about in the 2008 financial crisis are still applicable today with a few updates.
There is a concept in the coaching world called "extreme self-care." Coined by coaching guru Thomas Leonard, extreme self-care is putting yourself at the top of your list and spending your time on the things you want to do. Unlike plain old selfishness, extreme self-care doesn't have a negative impact on others. It goes back to that old analogy of the oxygen masks on the airplane — you have to put yours on before helping others with theirs.
If you have the courage to do some of the things we suggest to make your self-care a priority, then you will have the power to be of service to others, and there will be a direct impact on your bottom line. This is especially important in a period of prolonged stress like we have had for the better part of the past year.
It can be difficult in times like these when everyone is clamoring for our attention from our children, spouses, parents, clients and team members. With so many relying on us, it is even more important to take some time for ourselves.
Here are some practical reminders to get you started:
Have a clear vision.
Get a specific idea of where you want to go. Create a one- and three-year vision for your business and your life and write it down. Imagine it is December 31, 2021 — what does your life and business look like? Just as you advise your clients to write down their goals, you will be much more successful if you do, too. Sharing your vision with your team can also bring you together towards a common goal to help your clients get through challenging times.
Be true to your values.
Make sure you are operating from your values. If you look at your to-do list for the day, are you spending time on what is really important to you? With the change for many to working from home it can be easy for our work life to have no end time. It is much easier to say "no" to things you do not really want to do if you are true to your values. By sharing these values with your clients, it is easier to set boundaries and expectations about when you will respond to them.
Make time for what's important.
Have a look at the rest of the year and schedule in personal things of utmost importance first, such as time spent on family, healthcare, relationships and professional development. Even though we may not be able to travel right now, it is still important to book some time away from the office. One advisor we coach decided to delete social media applications from his phone as he found it was taking away from being in the moment when he was with his family. Another found that by working one or two days a week from home he was able to take a break during the middle of the day to get out for some fresh air with his family and was much more productive when getting back to work.
Free yourself from the nagging to-dos.
You cannot move forward with growing your business until you clear up things that are holding you back. In many cases with our clients, blocking a day to clean up a cluttered office has ultimately led to an increase in business. Set aside some time and get rid of those nagging to-dos once and for all. A first step can even be doing a “mind dump” on paper of everything you have on your plate at the moment. Then you can identify priorities, and items that could be delegated to others.
Practice what you preach about finances.
Are you doing the things you advise your clients to do? We see many advisors so focused on their business that they have neglected their own finances. If you take care of this piece for yourself, you will become a much more effective advisor. If we do have an extended downturn or recession what will the impact be on your business? Some teams took advantage of government support for businesses this year and focused on building up cash reserves in case their revenues are impacted in the longer term.
Leverage support systems.
Do you have an adequate support system in place? It is important to have someone to talk to about the challenges of your business. This can be a manager, coach, mentor or study group. If you are feeling extreme levels of stress or depression, it may be time to talk to a professional therapist.
Keep extra reserves in the tank.
Right now, it may feel like the concept of "life balance" is unattainable. That’s ok. It is often said that it is in difficult times that financial advisors earn their pay cheques. It is important to focus on your financial, physical and mental reserves that are built up by taking care of yourself even if it is only starting at a few minutes a day. Just like our mothers told us, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and moving our bodies each day all make a difference.
To summarize, part of the idea of extreme self-care is having the mindset that what you are doing is what you choose to do versus have to do. By doing this, you will find it easier to focus on growing your business and attracting new clients. And you will be better able to make an impact on your clients' lives, which is one of the key reasons you joined this great industry in the first place.
Originally published Oct 2014. Revised in February 2021.
Effective Team Meetings
“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”
- John Kenneth Galbraith
Many people share Mr. Galbraith’s view of meetings – they are often seen as a waste of time and they can be if not structured properly. When you have a team of two or more people however, meetings are a key part of effective communication in an office.
Here are some tips to make your meetings a more productive use of your time:
1) Have a set time for your team meetings and schedule them in your calendar for the year. For example, day long annual planning meeting, quarterly team meetings and weekly meetings. If you are doing virtual meetings, plan them in 2-hour spans to avoid zoom fatigue.
2) Find a day of the week and time of day when energy levels are high. Tuesday morning meetings often work well. Consider each team member's convenience.
3) Have an agenda for every meeting with a clear outcome. If you like a sample, let us know.
5) Set a time limit for meetings so people stay on point.
6) Build in team accountability. You can use a worksheet or shared to-do list which has key responsibilities, time frames and have each team member report on their own items to ensure everyone is involved.
7) Hold the meeting even if the whole team isn’t there. Even if the lead advisor is away, the remaining team members should still get together to touch base on things.
8) Have someone record minutes even if only in point form.
9) Add some variety (i.e. guest speaker on a topic that is relevant to the group, training on software, or watching a short TED talk).
We asked our Brand & Marketing Team what advisors should be doing in 2021...
Fortunato Restagno, Brand Coach
Many advisory firms have great brand and marketing ideas but they forget about one critical ingredient before getting started - their compelling story. As an advisor, your story is the one thing that is unforgettable. Without it, it's easy for people to forget why you are different than other advisors.
A compelling story will flow through your brand and touchpoints effortlessly and bring your corporate identity together. The challenge is figuring out what your unique story is. Think about your childhood, your adolescence, the beginning of your career, important people in your life, hobbies and interests. If you have a team, work on this together and see if there are any similar themes that come to the surface. Write down any noteworthy events that you feel have had an impact on who you are today and why you are an advisor. Don't be afraid to share this story with your clients. It makes you human and relatable.
Heather Amlin, Marketing Coach
Having a TouchPoint Strategy and Implementation Plan is essential once you have created your new Brand or have decided to re-fresh your marketing materials. There are a few key points to consider:
You need to understand how to reach your ideal clients and/or target your ideal prospects when considering your marketing materials (TouchPoints). Many of your clients may be tech savvy and appreciate your online presence - virtual meeting PowerPoint presentations, online appointment software and e-newsletters. However, many advisors have clients that are not on the computer and would benefit from physical paper documents like brochures and on brand client report templates. You need to know your audience.
The people in your target area should know who you are, what you do, and how you support your community. Having a marketing strategy outlining where to advertise and how to keep top of mind with your clients and prospects is important. It might be something as simple as your name, logo, slogan, and descriptor appearing as a banner ad in the local newspaper, a 10 second ad on your local radio station, or sending a unique, on brand Thanksgiving card to clients in October.
Digital Marketing Tips
Kelly Maxwell, Content Creator & Digital Marketing Coach
If you have developed your strategy and have concluded that digital marketing is an important part, consider the following:
Most TouchPoints you create can have a digital aspect to them - online brochure, newsletter or greeting card so developing a digital version can broaden your reach.
We have also seen many advisors revamp their websites to better reflect their brand, values, philosophies and to provide more resources and easier online communication. E-newsletters and social media communication are also popular, especially now when face-to-face interaction is limited. If you don’t like writing content, share third party content or try short videos on your phone/virtual meeting software. It's easy for advisors and small businesses to get overwhelmed with what to do. Take one step at a time and stick to the plan!
Good luck and if you need help getting started,
For more tips, check out this 2-minute video:
4 Critical Steps to Brand and Market Your Business.
Advisors are back in growth mode and building up their teams
BY HELEN BURNETT-NICHOLS, SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
UPDATED DECEMBER 16, 2020
If you have a Globe and Mail account you can view the article here.
Otherwise, see below for key takeaways.
Volatility and uncertainty during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a forced pause to the year’s plans for most Canadians and businesses – financial advisors included. But several advisors have chosen to shift back into growth mode carefully in recent months as client demand has put their plans for strategic long-term expansion come back into focus.
April-Lynn Levitt, a business coach for financial advisors with The Personal Coach in Oakville, Ont., says that while many of her advisor clients were initially waiting to gauge the impact of the pandemic on revenue and growth, several have added team members over the past few months. She says advisors have shifted from reactive to proactive mode as demand from clients increases.
Many advisors were surprised by the success of the virtual model with both existing and new clients and see this as an opportunity to grow strategically, focusing on where they need to augment their service offering, Ms. Levitt says.
“If you have the mindset that, ‘Yes, we can do business this way in this new environment,’ then those type of advisors have been really exceeding,” she says.
The virtual nature of business at the moment should not prevent firms from bringing on extra team members as long as expansion makes sense strategically and financially, Ms. Levitt says.
At the same time, expanding an advisory firm successfully in the COVID-19 era requires clarity and communication beyond what may have been necessary previously, as the face-to-face component of bringing a new team member on board is missing, she says.
“It’s even more important to have all the things you would have in a normal hiring process, like a very clear job description and responsibilities, a very clear onboarding process and training schedule,” Ms. Levitt says.
Please connect if you have any questions about growing in 2021!
Do you have a business plan? Better yet, would you say it's comprehensive; having strategies, vision, goals with action plans and timelines?
So why plan? Well, simply put, what gets written down gets remembered, what gets scheduled gets completed, what gets measured gets improved! Also consider how business planning efforts will help your clients achieve their goals.
To start, complete a Year-End Review and ask yourself the following questions. Don't forget to get your team involved.
1. What were our goals in 2020 and did we achieve them?
2. What went really well this year?
3. What was missing last year or needed to be improved?
We are seeing extinction in the business world due to the current conditions brought on by COVID-19. Will your business survive or thrive in this changing environment?
The good news is the financial services industry itself is not endangered. In fact, in uncertain times like these, advisors are needed more than ever. This time should be viewed as an opportunity versus a hindrance.
In the May issue of FORUM, Kim Poulin and April-Lynn Levitt discussed having successful virtual meetings with clients. We are seeing successful advisors not only reevaluating how they meet effectively with clients — virtually — but also enhancing their entire digital marketing strategy. This is one facet of business that has become more important with physical distancing.
I have always talked about the significance of technology and digital marketing. Ten years ago, I would see many advisors hesitate to take the leap to implement any digital strategies. They wondered what the impact would be on their business and if it was necessary. Like many marketing strategies, it is hard to quantify your digital marketing success. However, what is the cost of doing nothing? In this unprecedented time, that cost is now amplified.
So, how do you play an important role with clients in the current environment and maintain your ecological niche? Let’s discuss some ways that advisors are taking their businesses to the next level with digital marketing.
Since your online first impression is becoming as important as your face-to-face first impression, advisors want their websites to reflect what their business is about. They are making sure their site reflects their brand, value, and business philosophies. Advisors are also giving their websites a tune-up by offering regularly updated resources to stay relevant and provide the latest information. Consider reviewing your images and making sure they capture your ideal client. Review your slogan and descriptor. Does it explain what you do and who you do it for? Do readers get enough information by simply viewing the homepage? Does your website look great on a mobile device? If not, it’s time to change that.
Advisors are sending specific messaging directly to their contacts regarding the latest news, words of encouragement, and explanations around market changes. These messages are effective because they are coming directly from the advisor. In a world full of templated text, this is a refreshing change. This content can also be used in different ways for broader exposure. If appropriate, you can share these newsletters on your website and on social media.
Leverage your online strategy further with social media platforms. Connect with clients, prospects, centres of influence, and share the same newsletters and third-party articles to communicate your breadth of knowledge. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself on LinkedIn to new potential leads.
If you don’t like writing, try short videos on your phone or virtual meeting platform as well as podcasts to discuss topics you want to share with clients.
Time pressed? If you can, delegate these tasks to an associate advisor or other team member so you can focus on what you do best. You can also hire outside coaches who specialize in coaching financial advisors.
The tools we see advisors implementing are within reach for small businesses. It’s just a matter of implementing the plan and sticking to it.
One of the biggest questions we are hearing from financial advisors right now is, “How do I get new clients when I can’t meet people in person?” Prospecting challenges were real for advisors pre-pandemic so the added social-distancing challenges have left advisors and business owners scrambling to figure out how to adjust their process so they can still find prospecting success.
A lot of advisors aren’t confident they are putting their best foot forward with selling their value via phone or zoom meeting.
It can feel poorly timed to reach out to prospects, especially if you are speaking with someone who is in an industry that has been hit hard by COVID restrictions.
Many are checking in more with existing clients or have experienced process changes within their office therefore they have less time to prospect.
Here are some important things to remember:
Know Your Value
Prospects who do not have an advisor or perhaps have an advisor who doesn’t connect with them regularly, will be feeling even more in need of advice now versus before. Now is a good time, and we have seen some advisors go back to reach out to former/cold prospects as well.
Many people are concerned about their finances right now. This is a prime opportunity to ensure your clients are aware you are there as a resource to help their family and friends if they have questions. Don’t be the best kept secret.
Make a Good Impression Online/Over Phone
Always take a few minutes to do introductions and chat before discussing business. You can gauge this introduction timeframe based on how much your prospect is talking. Give time for questions and comments. Use visual aids and send ahead of time if you are meeting by phone or have onscreen for video. Slow down your pace and annunciate clearly and ask good, emotional connecting questions.
To hear more about client acquisition strategies, please contact us.