Invest in Your Team: A Leadership Guide for Advisors

Feb 14, 2023 6 min read

As an independent advisor, your role is often stretched beyond just helping clients achieve their financial goals. In addition to advisor duties, you are charged with building and managing a team of professionals and fostering a culture that is aligned with your practice’s vision. This is the core reason why advisory firm executives must invest time, and focus on the “how” and “why” of their firms, instead of just the “what.”

We all know the value of building a solid foundation of trust, support and empathy with our clients; and the same principle applies to building successful teams within your firm. Managing a team requires leadership skills that are a combination of strategic thinking and empathy. Just like your clients, employees need to feel that you are invested in their success and are available to listen to their concerns and support them in achieving their goals. Employees who feel valued will perform further than expected. This blog will explore the traits and strategies that help shed light on what successful financial advisors are doing behind the scenes to lead and create engaged, productive, and happy teams.

Traits of a Leader

Having a strong leader is crucial to an advisor team’s growth. Whether you’re launching your own practice or finding a successor, these key traits will help you guide your team in the right trajectory.

  • Be Approachable — Creating a solid relationship with each team member is key. This will create trust between you and the team members. Employees who trust and value their leaders will be open to constructive feedback, seek help when they are in need, and feel comfortable in the environment.

  • Build Trust — Allow employees to have ownership in their work so they will feel confident to go beyond the outlined metrics and reach outside their comfort zone. People learn the most from their mistakes, which can present great learning opportunities for the whole team. Trust them to lead from time to time; whether in an internal meeting or externally with clients, offer exposure to their next goal, and occasionally invite them to meetings with leadership.

  • Give Affirmations — Ensure they know their work is valued by showing actions and expressing words of affirmation. Examples of this are saying thank you as a collective group and giving team members shout-outs. It’s the small recognitions that go a long way. The team will learn this trait and apply it on their own, which will propel them to excel and improve.

  • Be Knowledgeable — Leaders who share their experiences and knowledge will help their team members navigate toward their own paths and set expectations for career development. Leaders can suggest courses to pursue, networking advice, or coach them to be at their best. Let them know you are paying attention to how they conduct themselves in various situations by giving your guidance and feedback.

Leaders in Action

An advisory firm is continuously evolving. Being a good listener and observing the changes within your team can help you anticipate any big changes and pivot your strategy when needed.

Structure within the team may need to change from time to time to be more effective. As such, the workload may increase or decrease but you need to ensure that you’re able to accommodate these shifts. When change is necessary, be mindful of the impact on your team. Introduce change slowly, including collecting their input when a situation allows for it. People are more accepting when they feel they have a say, even if their suggestions are not adopted, it attributes to them feeling part of the process.

As a leader, listen to your managers — be in tune with the objectives and goals they want to meet for the firm. This will build a foundation for you to deliver and drive success for your team. Do not be afraid to question the objectives to gain further insights in order to effectively relay that information to your team. Remember that successful leaders make sure their team is driving towards the right goals to ultimately be successful themselves.

Leading by Example

A leader who walks the talk, creates a positive team attitude, mood, and behaviour. It is an easy task, but one that should be done authentically.

  • Maintaining a positive attitude to drive a team forward as a leader’s mood and mindset have a downstream impact on the team. When feeling challenged, deliver the message with positivity but admit you are human too. Set the team at ease by pointing out the successes achieved to drive them forward on the next steps. This also impacts on how your team interacts with clients as well.

  • It’s important to encourage breaks, whether that is throughout the workday or on vacation. By teaching your team to find a balance, they will be well-rested to perform at their highest potential. Some examples are suggesting taking a walk, exercising, or scheduling a reminder for lunch. It is proven that employees who take breaks throughout the day and scheduled vacation days are more productive.

  • Encourage efficient time management, calendar blocking, and work preparation time. Share with the team “a day in the life of a leader” to promote these habits in practice.

  • Building connections is key, whether that be virtually or in person. Show the team how to build connections by using internal messaging platforms such as: Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. Some examples of this include facilitating icebreaker games once in a while to lighten the mood and enjoy some laughs as a team to encourage team bonding.

Bonus Tips!

A leader can never have too much knowledge! Below are some further tips:

  • Coach your team whenever the opportunity presents itself. Coachable moments should be either individually or with two team members, which then can be presented at the next team meeting as a learning opportunity for all.

  • Find out each team member’s strengths as every individual varies. All the strengths combined can be used to the team and firm’s advantage to deliver great outputs. If leaders provide an open platform for individuals to do what they are good at, they will feel confident to tackle new tasks. Build on their strengths and slowly introduce areas they may need work on.

  • Be adaptable as a leader and team member. Leading different personalities can be challenging. Be prepared that what may work for one team member may not be effective for another team member. When coaching or providing feedback, be prepared to pivot during your delivery. Reading their social cues helps with this by watching for verbal or non-verbal reactions, for example, facial expressions. Remember to take time to give them space by not always filling the silent moments, in which you may be surprised by what they might say. These moments can often offer good information to improve your leadership skills.

  • Encourage team bonding which will in return create team collaboration. Respectful and genuine likability of team members creates cohesiveness and an open environment to share knowledge that would help one another. Actions that a leader can take to ignite this are giving recognition in public forums and feedback in a group setting when witnessing collaboration amongst the team.

  • Continuous feedback, coaching, and one-on-one discussion present an opportunity to discover what a team may need help with. Asking questions will give a leader further insight into what’s going on, such as what is working, what they are enjoying, and what they want to do more of. Understand where they see themselves in the future, and where their interests lie, and encourage opportunities in the current role or within the greater team to gain exposure for growth.

-Shaen Ramsay is the Head of Advisor Success & Operations at Purpose Advisor Solutions.

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