Make your practice more competitive

Some teams seem to breed success. Every team member appears to be at the top of his or her game and the group works as a cohesive, efficient unit, solving problems and achieving goals.

These “dream teams” don’t emerge purely out of luck. They’re a product of a conscious effort initiated by leaders to create and manage the group dynamics.

Some people naturally assume greater responsibilities, while others take cues from them. As a leader, your role is to encourage team members to collaborate on equal terms as much as possible. A culture of collaboration underpins teams that thrive, especially under stressful situations.

“You want to be able to facilitate relationships through collaboration,” says Larry Distillio, assistant vice president of practice management with Mackenzie Investments in Toronto. “To get things done, people have to rely on each other.”

Distillio shares four ways financial advisors can build a winning team:

1. Hire for attitude, train for skills
The hiring process isn’t just about screening for relevant skills, but also how a candidate fits within the team culture. Someone who looks good on paper might actually lack the soft skills that would help them integrate more easily.

For example, it’s harder to correct antagonistic behaviour than to train someone to use a software system. “It’s very easy to change what people know,” Distillio says. “You can help them develop their knowledge.”

2. Be open about your flaws
Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to tell the team about their own shortcomings. In fact, a willingness to “open up and show some vulnerability” engenders a “climate of trust,” Distillio says.

Your ability to admit and reflect on past mistakes with others can be a learning opportunity. It’s a way for you to get feedback from team members on what needs improvement and their expectations of you, he adds.

If you take that first step, others will likely follow and be less reluctant to own up to their weaknesses, too.

3. Get a change in perspective
Teamwork is enhanced when people understand how other team members manage their work. Seeing things from a colleague’s perspective can prove invaluable to fostering a supportive culture. It can also yield insights on how to achieve better results and solve problems.

Distillio suggests job shadowing and cross training as ways to make staff aware of what each position demands and how team members can pitch in.

4. Develop a “team principle”
Give the team opportunities to collaborate. “Create conditions where people know they can count on each other,” Distillio says.

Without a shared vision, he adds, functions get divided into silos and everyone is pursuing their own priorities rather than the overall goals.

To promote joint effort, Distillio suggests, create a “team principle,” which everyone contributes to. It’s an abiding commitment that articulates how members can support one another, the values that should be honoured and what accountability means, among other things.

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