How to Handle Underperformers

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The following is excerpted from Caleb’s book, Successful Hiring for Financial Planners: The Human Capital Advantage, available from the link on this page.

At some point in your firm’s lifecycle, you will encounter financial planners who underperform. Although underperformance comes in various shapes and sizes, it’s most commonly considered an inability to complete job-specific tasks quickly and accurately. If not addressed properly, underperformers can wreak havoc on your firm’s work flow and profitability. The following six “dos and don’ts” are meant to guide you towards bringing an underperforming planner back up to the service standards that you’re accustomed to.

1. Do: Establish performance goals jointly

I find that firm owners often do a poor job communicating their expectations to new planners, and these planners go on to become underperformers months later. It’s not entirely the planner’s fault, since she can’t be expected to meet or exceed expectations that you failed to verbalize. To remedy this common problem, be sure to set specific goals and reasonable timeframes. As the leader of your firm, it’s your responsibility to create these expectations initially—preferably in writing—and then build upon them collaboratively with your new planner so that she buys in to your vision. This approach will also assist you when it comes time to do an annual review, because it will allow you to take an objective approach by revisiting the document that you and the planner developed together.

2. Don’t: Focus exclusively on the negatives

When a planner on your team is struggling, it’s your job to look for ways to boost his or her confidence. Maybe it’s a compliment on something that’s being done well—even if it’s just one thing! Realistically, if you cannot find a single thing that the planner is doing well, then you should never hire again without professional assistance. If the planner that you hired has any awareness whatsoever, he or she is probably already aware that your expectations are not being met. Take this opportunity to ask questions to find the cause of the downturn and to determine if it’s temporary. Use the conversation as a chance to build confidence and ignite the planner’s desire to succeed.