How to Ensure Team Members Strive and Thrive
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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I had the great fortune to run a program in Hong Kong this week for a client. While there are cultural, language and work-style differences no matter where you go, I was reminded this week how people are essentially the same in many ways. It isn’t that we don’t respect and understand the differences in background, history, cultural and acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors. It’s that in every organization, large and small, there are fundamental things team members need no matter where they live.
After spending time with this amazing group this week, all of whom I truly enjoyed and learned from, let me share some reminders about what needs to be in place for team members to thrive and stay inspired.
- Establishing and communicating the desired outcome for goals and objectives is key. This is for the big things – where you are going and who you want to be as an organization when you get there – and for the smaller things – what does success look like this quarter, this year and into next year? Even when an organization spends time developing its vision (and of course very few do this), it doesn’t often pull the vision through and create the clear success outcomes so employees can see and understand what they are driving toward. Clear outcomes include both quantitative and qualitative goals. Once defined outcomes are established, communicate them and connect them to the team member’s individual goals so everything is in alignment.
- Develop not only the goals but how you are going to get there. It’s stunning how many leaders assume people will just be patient while the senior people work it out, often not communicating their plans or progress. You, as a leader, may not have all the answers, but you need a roadmap you can communicate to your team. You wouldn’t be able to take the steps needed if you didn’t have some idea of how you were going to get to where you need the team to be. Be honest and let your team members know. Trust only goes so far; people need to know there is a plan, how you are doing against it and where they fit in. Create a clear process and provide updates on what’s working and what’s not.
- Allow people to be themselves and don’t try to put everyone in the same box. One of the participants in my session mentioned how grateful he was that we didn’t deliver training that outlined the five-step process for everyone to take but rather respected the individuality of the people there and allowed them to implement the ideas based on their style and what they needed. This often gets missed by leaders. While having the outlined plan and implementing clear processes is helpful, you want people to have the chance to succeed using their own style, skill set and approach. Asking everyone to fit into a clearly defined mold without considering their audience, collaborators, initiatives and role focus is frustrating. Some people need the steps clearly laid out one by one; others want flexibility and guardrails but not specifics – it’s incumbent on leadership to know who needs what and to offer multiple ways to meet goals.
- Team members need recognition. Yes, people come into work and the quid pro quo is they get paid for their contributions in their role. Many leaders see this as “enough.” If people are paid appropriately, acknowledging and appreciating them might seem unnecessary. But this isn’t true. People like validation. They like to know they are doing a good job. They like appreciation. It doesn’t have to be gifts or company-wide emails; it could be a simple “thank you” or an acknowledgement of some way they contributed to a success. Most importantly they need to know how what they are doing fits into the plan. No one does well operating in a vacuum. Context matters. Help them understand that what they are doing is adding value.
- Allow people to make mistakes, and be a leader who is willing to make mistakes and learn from them. In too many cases, fear is the overriding factor and team members are not willing to take risks because they worry about getting into trouble. But too often the leader isn’t willing to make a decision lest it be the wrong one. This leaves people in limbo. They see something that should be fixed or addressed, but they can’t do anything about it. This leads to frustration and sometimes apathy. Mistakes are a natural part of doing business. Without mistakes you won’t know what isn’t going to work! Don’t be wishy-washy. Empower your team members to have a voice and make decisions wherever possible.
- Respect the differences in team members. I know I began this by saying that people are the same in many fundamental ways, but there are also significant differences – culture, gender, age, background, experience and so on. These differences give a business wonderful diversity, but they also raise the responsibility for the leader to manage to different needs and considerations. Focus on the fundamental aspects every team member needs, but be flexible to empathize and understand each person and what they need for support and success.
The team we had this week was extremely impressive and very committed to their work. They were inspiring and engaging. The learnings we shared were a constant reminder of the important role leadership plays in an organization to keep team members motivated and focused.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. The firm has won the Wealthbriefing WealthTech award for Best Training Solution for 2022 and 2023. Beverly is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. She is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.
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