Years ago, when my now 16-year-old daughter was still young enough for bedtime stories, we tackled the Harry Potter series. Although I know hundreds of thousands of fans would whole-heartedly disagree, I confess I wasn’t as compelled by the writing as I was by the opportunity to spend quality time engaged in a quality activity.
Considering my general apathy for JK Rowling’s style, it’s surprising that as I’ve been helping advisors plan out 2018, I’ve leaned on one particular magical power as introduced in the fourth book – the pensieve.
Let me back up a bit. You see, coaching has given me a lot of insight into the brains of advisors. I’ve found that so many of them have amazing ideas and intentions, but where they struggle is in the implementation phase. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you there are simply not enough hours in the day to juggle the duties of a rainmaker, CEO and advisor, while also being the “doer.”
So, for the past few months, I’ve been encouraging my members to take a good hard look at a project management approach. Illustrated by the character Dumbledore in this scene with a pensieve, utilizing this approach essentially allows an advisor to remove the very best ideas from the confines of their mind and compile them where all team members can access them and, most importantly, ACT!
It’s a way of capturing all that is significant to the future of the firm and subsequently using levels of detail to turn the conceptual into reality. Adaptation of this methodology takes effort, but the results can be magical for your business – horrible pun intended. Here’s how to get started:
Select a Tool
Whether you decide to build a spreadsheet yourself or invest in an already-available online solution, such as Smartsheet, you’ll need to pick a tool to track your progress. The key objective is to organize and monitor your yearly initiatives, including information about when each goal, task and subtask is due and who is responsible for the aforementioned duties. Once you decide on the project plan template you’ll be using, make sure your team members know how to log in and edit accordingly.
Assign a Project Manager
A project manager is the person who ensures the right people are doing the right tasks at the right time. The lead advisor should never be the project manager, as the purpose of this approach is to free up time for you to focus on the highest-value, highest-reward aspects of your role. Instead, choose someone who is detail-oriented and who is equal parts assertive and diplomatic. It’s a safe bet you already know who your preferred candidate is just from the description.
Establish Strategic Priorities
Now that you know the how and the who, you need to establish the what. What are your 2018 strategic priorities? Your firm has most likely identified 3 to 7 areas in which you’d like concentrate your efforts. Ensure these are both reasonable in number and in expected return.
Schedule a Meeting to Dive Deeper
With the major framework of your projects in place, you must switch your mindset to address the nitty gritty. Put a team meeting on the calendar to discuss:
- The strategic priorities for the year
- The goals that are needed to achieve the strategic priorities
- The tasks required to accomplish the goals
- The subtasks necessary to effectively carry out the tasks
These critical data points form a hierarchy, with each level getting increasingly more specific than the next. The more granular you get, the more likely you are to do things correctly, without error and without unfortunate incident. Additionally, completing easier subtasks will provide momentum for the challenging tasks and goals that lie ahead.
Note: For each subtask and task, you need to assign a due date, designate a person in charge and record any vital information.
The project manager is not the only person working on these, rather they are the team member who empowers the others to follow through. Here is an example that may prove helpful:
- Strategic Priority: Grow revenue by 20%.
- First Goal: Host a passion prospecting event where clients are encouraged to bring their friends.
- Potential Tasks under the First Goal: Secure a location, send an invitation to the guest list, select food to be served, hire entertainment and order branded gifts.
- Potential Subtasks under just one of those Tasks: Hire a graphic designer to make the invitation, find a reasonably priced printer, use CRM to narrow the invitees, purchase stamps and drop off invites at the post office.
Make it a Weekly Agenda Item
During your weekly meetings, have the project manager lead a conversation about what is past due, what is due that week and what is upcoming in the project plan. Inevitably, something may fall through the cracks. That’s okay! To deal with the dropped balls, ask these three questions:
- Is this still a priority?
- Where are we currently at on this goal/task/subtask?
- What additional resources can we provide to get this to the finish line?
You Won’t Know Until You Try
If all this seems like a lot of work at the onset, I hate to break it to you, it is. Successfully employing a project management approach, however, will prove you and your team are working smarter and more efficiently than in previous years. I’ll leave you with a quote from the same edition of Harry Potter and same wise, yet fictitious, headmaster as mentioned earlier, “We must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy.”
Choose what is right, not necessarily what is easy, for your business in 2018.