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Many of my recent conversations with advisors have been centered on how best to conduct meetings with staff members.
Today, I will answer two important questions pertaining to conducting staff meetings:
- What topics to discuss?
- How often to schedule staff meetings?
Before we proceed to item one, I want to discuss different types of staff meetings while including my thoughts on frequency of meetings.
The one-on-one meeting
The first type of meeting is the one-on-one meeting. As the CEO of your firm, each person on your team should have regularly scheduled time with you. Even if you have an operation’s manager or another designated leader who regularly meets with team members, it is still important that everyone has dedicated, uninterrupted time with you. If team members are meeting with another management or leadership person on a regular basis, monthly or quarterly meetings with you should suffice.
For new team members, time with the person responsible for their onboarding should be scheduled daily for at least a couple of weeks. As the new team member becomes more independent in his or her role, less frequent meetings should be sufficient.
One position that requires frequent check-ins is the financial-plan writer. This person is typically working on several financial plans at one time, managing a large amount of information and has plans at various stages of completion. Unless they have a photographic memory, this person will need to meet with their leader on a regular and frequent basis to keep plans moving forward and keep the plans organized in their mind.
Another position that may require frequent interaction with their manager is the person who is reaching out to a significant number of clients or prospects. Here again, it is important for this person to be able to ask questions of and share information with their manager on a frequent basis.
These are just two examples of the type of roles that should have frequent access to their manager.
These meetings need not be long, formal, sit-down meetings. They may be what some call a “stand-up” meeting or huddle. Depending on the circumstances, a huddle can occur once per day or a few times throughout the day. It’s a quick check in to share information and answer questions.
For those team members who have been working with you for quite some time and generally work independently, a daily or twice-daily huddle is enough to keep projects moving forward.
The team meeting
The other type of meeting that I encourage is the group or team meeting. This is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page. Depending on the circumstance of your office, a weekly or monthly team meeting works fine.
Some advisors conduct daily or weekly team huddles and more formal team meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis.
The daily team huddles provide an opportunity to stay connected on a personal basis, cover activities or goals for the day and, if the team is working on a campaign, a chance to play cheerleader or keep the campaign activities in the spotlight.
One example of a campaign is contacting clients to offer them a chance to ask questions regarding recent changes to the tax code and how those changes might affect their personal situation. This is a time-sensitive campaign and the team knows the importance of personally contacting each client by telephone to make this offer.
These daily huddles give each person on the team an opportunity to share with other team members the type of questions clients are asking and how best to answer them. Even if some of the team members are not qualified to answer questions, it is helpful for them to hear from the people on the team who are. Those who are not in a position to answer questions directly can share the names of those they have spoken with who need more information. During the huddle, qualified team members can let the others know the clients with whom they are comfortable speaking. Now those team members can circle back to the clients who need more information and schedule a call with the qualified person on the team who can answer the client’s questions.
Off-site team meeting
Another type of team meeting I encourage is an off-site team-building event. This could be as simple as booking a driver and going wine tasting one Friday afternoon. This assumes everyone on the team is 21 years of age or older and no one on the team has an issue with alcohol.
Other team building ideas:
- Cooking event
- Candy making – chocolate in particular
- Paint balling
- Indoor skydiving
- Spa day
- Golfing – if everyone on the team enjoys the sport
- Sporting event
- Motivational speaker
- Self-defense course
- Face reading
- Anything the team agrees on that is covered by the budget
The meeting agenda
Now let’s talk about topics of discussion for these meetings. A big part of what is on the agenda for a one-to-one meeting is based on the responsibilities of the person with whom you are meeting. You will want an update on tasks, projects, clients, prospects and such as it relates to their job duties.
As mentioned previously, the agenda should take into account how tenured the person is. Using the potential agenda items noted below, with a new person in mind, you would want to ask the first four questions fairly often. For a member with longer tenure, you might ask these questions once per month or even once per quarter.
Don’t overlook these first questions with long-tenured team members. When you take the time to ask, the answers you will receive from veteran team members may surprise you.
The meeting is also a perfect time to reprioritize action items. You may keep handing down tasks as you think about them, but may not take the time to prioritize them. In the mind of your team member, they are all important. A review of outstanding tasks allows you to communicate which are high priority and which can sit on the back burner for now. Remember, your team members are not able to read your mind. Help them manage their time better by letting them know the relative importance of items to you.
Potential agenda items
Here are some potential agenda items for team meetings, whether you do them in-house or off-site:
- What’s going well?
- What is challenging?
- Where are you stuck?
- What kind of help do you need?
- Calendar review: looking forward and back (review to dos and follow-up items)
- Pending new business review
- Cash report review
- Opportunities for new business and/or to thank clients
- Financial plan/deliverable update
- Master calendar review
- New client update/tracker
- Prospect update
- Current project update
- Client event update
- Training/learning opportunity
- Upcoming licensing/continuing education requirements
- Is there anything to add to the year-in-review letter
- Confirm next steps/to–dos using a table such as the one below
Advisor To Do List
Staff To Do List
To be successful
Treat your meetings with team members as your most important meetings.
Your staff members are on the front lines servicing all of your clients. They need to have access to you on a regular basis in order to be able to serve your clients at the highest level.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t take exceptional care of your clients or that you arbitrarily cancel client meetings. I am saying consider time with your staff members as extremely important.
A benefit of honoring time with staff is reduced interruptions. If they know they have pre-planned, dedicated time with you, they won’t feel the need to catch you when they can, which may not be a convenient time for you.
If you are interrupting your team members too often or team members are interrupting you several times throughout the day, consider this simple and inexpensive strategy, which worked exceptionally well when I was working for an advisor years ago.
I created a talk to Bob folder and Bob created a talk to Teresa folder.
Throughout the day, I added notes, questions, reports, documents for signature and the like to my talk to Bob folder.
When Bob and I met for our one-to-one meetings, I would bring my folder into his office and go through all of the items in my folder. He would do the same with his talk to Teresa folder. This is how we 1) stopped interrupting each other all day, and 2) kept projects moving forward. We met once per day to empty our folders and then once per week to walk through a more formal agenda such as noted above.
Team members, in particular, like this idea as it reduces the numerous interruptions that occur each day from their advisor. As one staff member so eloquently told me, “My advisor comes to me several times a day and vomits his thoughts onto my desk.”
From the advisor’s perspective, they have so much going on in their head, they are afraid they are going to forget something. To make sure important items don’t get forgotten, they delegate to their staff people as they think of things.
To alleviate these constant interruptions, “vomit” your ideas into a folder and save them for the one-to-one meeting.
I do have a few advisors who have tailored this strategy a bit. One advisor uses a dedicated note pad to keep track of these ideas as they pop into his head and then shares them during the one-to-one meeting.
Another advisor keeps a Word document open throughout the day. Yet another advisor keeps a draft email each day to keep track of tasks to delegate to team members and then sends one email at the end of each day to each member on her team.
What I am talking about here are the random thoughts, ideas and inquiries that pop into your mind all day long.
Of course, if something important and time sensitive comes up, don’t save this for the one-to-one meeting; by all means, talk to the appropriate team member(s) right away.
Reviewing tasks and projects on a regular basis with team members will hopefully eliminate waking up at 2:00 a.m. in a panic because you are not sure if something important was done. From my experience, this happens quite regularly.
Follow this simple strategy. Honor designated time with team members and get a good night’s sleep!
As always, if you have any questions, or would like an editable version of the one-to-one or team meeting agenda, please let me know.
If you have topics on your agenda that are not mentioned here, or have conducted fun team building on or offsite meetings, please share your ideas with me. We all get better by sharing good ideas.
For the past 20 years, Teresa Riccobuono has been a professional organizer, business consultant and practice-management specialist to the financial services industry, helping advisors bridge the gap between their existing and their ideal financial planning practice. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area but works with advisors across the country. She is a member of the board of directors of the East Bay Chapter of the Financial Planning Association and is currently the co-chair of the public relations committee. She can be reached at [email protected].
Read more articles by Teresa Riccobuono