Indianapolis: During a workshop on practice management, I asked the participants what they were doing to improve team performance. Carl was eager to tell his story.

"Several weeks ago, our entire team, including the CPA and estate-planning attorney who work with us, got away for a weekend to review where we've been and talk about where we want to go. It was a great weekend! We got to know each other better, and I sincerely believe our working relationships have improved." I then asked Carl to describe the measurable performance improvement he has observed since that weekend away. "Well," said Carl, "we did discuss some performance issues. But quite frankly, I have not seen the performance improvement I had hoped would result from those discussions."

Carl's approach was based on the common misconception that efforts to improve working relationships will somehow produce higher team performance. The logic isn't simply flawed -- it's reversed. Our 2006 research on Wealth Management Teams strongly confirms that fact. What made the team experience significantly rewarding for our survey respondents were six factors that produced high performance, not the factors related to team dynamics. It's a simple formula: improved team performance flows out of a hunger for high performance.

Carl's idea of getting away for a weekend is fine, but the focus needs to shift from building relationships to improving team performance. As Harold Geneen, founder of MCI, put it: "Performance is your reality. Forget everything else."

Creating a Hunger for Higher Performance

Does everyone on your team have a hunger for high performance? Possibly not, but the way you shape and carry out your agenda for a "get-a-way" meeting can have a significant impact on creating that mindset. Here's what you need to consider when planning your agenda ...

  • Whether it's a weekend off-site, a day in the office with the doors closed and phones off, or three hours after the market closes -- make the "improving team performance" purpose clear so everything can be geared toward achieving that purpose. Carl focused on building relationships and planned everything around that.
  • Build your agenda around performance results and the performance factors that you use to drive weekly activity and measure results (see below). I discovered that Carl's agenda was full of fun activities, leaving little time to discuss those "performance issues" he mentioned. Without intending to do so, Carl relegated performance improvement to a low priority.
  • Select a time frame and location that will enable you to adequately address those performance factors. Getting away for a weekend of relaxation and relationship-building makes sense, but you may find that it's better to set aside a day absent of interruptions right in your office so you will have ready access to information and materials related to the performance factors on your agenda. It isn't where you go, but why you go and what you do there that matters.

Intellectually, Carl considered this off-site event a Quarterly Review, but his real objective was to have people come back from their weekend together saying what a great time they had. Your objective for a Quarterly Review is for everyone to be focused on performance ...

  • Accountability for the past quarter results.
  • In agreement on whatever corrective measures need to be taken.
  • Committed to action.

It will be important that you have an agenda that is designed to achieve that.

Selecting The Right Performance Factors

I suggest that you build your agenda by beginning with performance results, then focusing on the performance factors that produce those results -- the what and how of performance improvement. The following questions are to help you define those agenda items.

The results ...

  • How many key clients have we been able to retain over the past quarter? What are the key performance factors that enabled us to keep who we kept -- and lose who we lost?
  • How many key clients have we upgraded over the past quarter (brought in additional assets)? What was our new asset total from upgrades? Which upgrade strategies worked well for us? Which upgrade strategies did not work well?
  • How many new clients did we bring in over the past quarter in each of the following investable asset levels: $1 million and higher; $500,000 to $1 million; $250,000 to $500,000; $100,000 to $250,000; under $100,000? What was our new asset total from new clients?
  • How many affluent relationships are there in the pipeline? What is our asset total in the pipeline?
  • How do the above results match up with our goals for the past quarter in our current long-range plan?

Performance factors ...

  • How effective are we at positioning ourselves with select clients as their go-to financial coordinator -- and convincing them to place all of their assets under our management?
  • How effective is our metrics system in measuring weekly and monthly activities as well as quarterly and yearly performance results?
  • How closely linked are our new business development strategies and weekly activities to our current long-range plan?
  • How effective is our effort to create a comprehensive, formal financial plan for our clients?
  • How effective are our efforts to proactively contact our clients when upcoming tax and other changes will impact their investment portfolio?
  • How effective are our efforts to understand our clients' goals and family situation when giving investment advice?
  • How timely and effectively do we bring in experts to help with financial areas where we lack expertise?
  • How effectively do we help clients coordinate and organize all their financial documents?
  • How effectively do we reveal and explain our fee structure?
  • How effective are our established systems and procedures in guiding our financial advisory and administrative processes?
Please don't view this as a complete list. Use it to stimulate your thinking so you can create an agenda that will take you from where you are now to where you want to go -- and create the hunger for having a high-performance financial practice. Reproduce the list and give it to every team member, asking them for their feedback and ideas for refining and adding to the list.

Another factor impacting team performance is that teams go through predictable stages of development. How your team members evaluate the above factors will be influenced by where they are in their journey through those stages. We are providing our Team Development Questionnaire at no cost so that you and your team members can determine where you are -- and discuss how that relates to the specific challenges you face in becoming a high-performance team. If you would like a free PDF version of the questionnaire, go to: www.oechsli.com/PM51