San Francisco—“We’ve been talking about making changes in how we manage our practice, but we never seem to execute,” said Jim, the leader of a very successful wealth management team. He then laid out a challenge to his team: “We need to make three New Year’s resolutions that will improve our practice—changes that we can execute. If by the end of March they’ve been incorporated into our practice, I’ll take the entire team for a weekend in Vegas.”

Wow! Now that’s an incentive. I’ve never seen such a free flow of ideas, and they were coming from every member of the team.

Our research tells us that elite advisors are far more self-aware than the general population of advisors. In other words, they don’t rationalize away weaknesses, they are self-critical, and they work to take corrective action. Which is what Jim was doing by taking responsibility for not executing on changes previously discussed and then asking his team to identify three areas needing change (self-critical). He wanted his team’s New Year’s resolution to be the execution of these changes (corrective action). His incentive signaled his commitment.

I recognize that this can seem a bit overwhelming. Where does one begin? There are so many areas to tackle. In addition, the track record of people keeping their personal New Year’s resolutions is abysmal. So what will make the New Year’s resolutions you set for your practice any different?

The following are suggestions I shared with Jim prior to his incentivized challenge to his team, and here is some of what surfaced.

1. Separate your practice into four processes:

• Business Development.

• Operational Efficiency.

• Wealth Management.

• Client Loyalty.

2. Outline the key areas to your team’s functioning within each process. For example:

• Business Development. Update a business plan with an annual metric scorecard; establish new client and new asset targets; create a marketing plan that is both strategic and tactical; assign team member(s) responsibilities.

• Operational Efficiency. Clarify roles and responsibilities for each team member; improve communication by holding daily huddles and weekly team meetings; clarify expectations; conduct quarterly performance reviews; re-segment client base; develop two distinct service models.

• Wealth Management. Every top tier client gets an updated financial plan; provide a financial organizer to top tier clients; escort clients to outside experts when needed; be more consistent with the wealth management solutions offered.

• Client Loyalty. Gather more personal information about top tier clients and their families; work to develop a stronger personal relationship with top tier clients; schedule intimate client events; surprise and delight top tier clients throughout the year.

3. Identify three to five areas to improve (although Jim asked for only three, his team selected the four below):

• New client and new asset targets, complete with a marketing plan and the assignment of team member responsible.

• Clarifying each team member’s role, eliminating duplication and reducing inefficiency.

• Scheduling bi-monthly intimate events.

• Conducting weekly team meetings.

4. Setting New Year’s resolutions for your practice with target dates (Jim’s team’s New Year’s Resolutions):

• Jim committed to becoming the team’s rainmaker and would have his marketing plan, complete with dream list and specific high-impact marketing activities, completed by Jan. 6, 2012. He would begin executing his high-impact rainmaking activities by Jan. 9.

• By Jan. 6, each team member was to have outlined their current role, identified areas of inefficiency and tasks that could be delegated, and identified tasks and responsibilities that could be added.

• The first official 2012 team meeting would be held on Friday, Jan. 6.

• Venue for first intimate client event will be established at Jan. 6 team meeting.

You might think that these resolutions should already be common practice in a successful team. Think again. Jim recognized that everyone, including himself, needed to raise his game if the team was to go beyond its $1.5 million in production. He also realized that his leadership in rainmaking would set the tone for all the resolutions. If he failed to execute, his leadership credibility would take a hit, the other resolutions would become stalled, his long-range goal for the team would be merely a pipe dream, and there would be no weekend in Vegas.

So, how about it? The time is now for your practice to reap the benefits of the performance enhancement New Year’s resolutions you set. You will want to get collective buy-in from everyone in your practice, make certain that you’re specific in your expectations, and be willing to inspect what you expect. You should also consider following Jim’s lead and incentivizing the execution of the resolutions you set. And relax, your incentive doesn’t have to be a weekend in Vegas; it can be a team outing, pizza and beer—your call, but have some fun.

If you would like a free copy of one of our latest research reports, Best Practices of Today’s Rainmakers, click here.

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