2020 was a cakewalk, right? Only if a cakewalk can be characterized by chaos, change, stress and challenges. Not much has been easy. If there is an upside, it is that in dealing with chaos, change, stress and challenges, we have learned to adapt. Now it is time to take the reins, move forward and help your team out of 2020 and into the future.
One thing that many advisors have come to realize in 2020 is that managing their teams through a crisis mandates a need to lead. Unfortunately, for many advisors, 2020 has shined a light on their weaknesses as leaders. In my 15 years of teaching and studying leaders, I’ve found that clear communication and being a good person are about 85% of what it takes to be a good leader – but as simple as that sounds, it’s a lesson many advisors have forgotten. Let’s dig into the “how.”
How to Communicate Clearly
To achieve clarity is to communicate your most important messages until the whole team is rowing in the same direction. Most leaders think that communicating a message once is enough, but the most effective leaders “over-communicate” their important messages.
One high-performing advisor I worked with said that he knew that he had communicated “enough” when team members jokingly started to finish his sentences. I asked one of his team members about it, and the person said that everybody on the team was always perfectly clear on the activities they were responsible for – that the clarity of the advisor’s messaging helped team members prioritize work more effectively.
One powerful tool for communicating clearly is a well-designed and well-run weekly team meeting. Carson Group uses a meeting format from Gino Wickman’s book “Traction” called Level 10 or L10 meetings. I strongly suggest the book for any entrepreneur! The key points of L10 meetings for clarity revolve around the reporting on key performance indicators and what Wickman calls “rocks,” which are each team member’s most important quarterly deliverables.
Tracking your teams’ progress toward goals provides absolute clarity on what’s working and where resources need to be directed.
Speaking to one advisor about her team meetings, she reported that virtual team meetings need to be fairly fast-paced, or team members either disconnect or start multi-tasking. Additionally, all meetings need to have an agenda; no agenda – no meeting!
Leading is Caring
During normal times, it is OK to focus more on the work, the processes, and business of business. But, in today’s crazy times, it can’t be just about business, especially in a small or medium-sized firm. Connections are too close, with people relying on each other to do the work that results in happy clients!
Being a good person in these chaotic times requires you to show care and concern for the “whole person” that each of your team members are. You need to be a role model! Model resilient traits, such as vulnerability and empathy, while demonstrating focused persistence.
So what does this mean? It means that you need to slow down to speed up. You need to spend more time listening to your team members, communicating about things that aren’t purely work outcomes. If you take the time to help team members through these uncertain times, they will see that they aren’t just cogs in your machine. You will show them that you value and care for them beyond their role responsibilities.
There are two major ways you can stay more connected to team members. The first is the “care” sections of the weekly L10 meeting. The other is one-on-one calls with team members, which can be scheduled regularly or quick check-ins.
There are two “care” sections of the L10 meeting agenda that work especially well. The first is right at the beginning of the meeting, where everyone shares a personal and professional win from the previous week. The reporting of weekly wins starts the meeting on an up note, where everyone gets to give a thumbs up to their teammates! It transforms the typical all-work meeting into something that feels more supportive and personal.
The second part of the meeting that helps with the “care” check-in is when team members can ask for help or input on work issues and projects. Traditional work meetings are typically focused on progress toward task achievements. I can tell you from first-hand experience in these meetings that knowing that I am encouraged to ask for help has completely shifted how I address my work. I can take on challenging projects and more of them, because I know that my team has my back.
The best thing about these meetings from a leadership perspective is that the help is often offered by team members, not the leader. It functions as delegation – without having to delegate! If you would like more information on team meetings, see our Carson Coaching Online course on the topic or Wickman’s “Traction” book.
The Format and Function of One-on-One Meetings
The recommended one-on-one calls can be formal or informal. Formal one-on-one meetings are scheduled and usually deal with development and resource needs, both of which demonstrate care for the team member. Informal check-ins are more about asking, “How are things going, and how are you doing through all of this?”
Sometimes the most difficult thing about care-focused, one-on-one calls is being present with your team members. When you are on a call with them, ignore the temptation to read or respond to emails or do other activities that will distract you from the conversation. Multi-tasking while communicating makes the people you are talking to feel like they aren’t really that important to you. Being present while communicating with team members is a simple and effective way to show them how important they are to you.
Most advisors are really good at being present – with clients. During client calls, the advisors are engaged, asking questions and actively listening. However, as soon as these advisors interact with team members, they shift from being present to focusing on other things. Expand out the attention you give your clients to your team.
Admittedly, being in the same room as someone you are talking to is different than communicating by phone or on a Zoom call. When you are face to face, it is clearly rude to be focused on your phone or computer. However, on a call, it is both easy to get distracted and relatively easy to get away with it. Do yourself and your team a favor – close your other computer tabs, put away your phone and listen! It will pay off in engagement and productivity.
Why Slowing Down Pays Off
You might wonder if taking time to slow down and listen is a waste of time. Over 30 years of leadership research clearly indicates that the answer is no. Almost all time spent listening and communicating more clearly with team members results in increased engagement, which results in better results. Committed team members have higher work-output, fewer errors, better problem-solving ability, and fewer sick days than unengaged, clock-watching team members.
Leading your team through the end of 2020 and into 2021 will test your leadership abilities, but the time you spend working through clarity and decency is an investment in your firm’s future. Imagine how showing your commitment to the overall well-being of your team during the tough times will pay off when the craziness calms down!