Advisors in leadership roles have to drive their future success, but they also have to make sure they get the most out of the team in the present.  Sometimes those are two very different things.

At the IMCA conference on May 17, William Stepanek, a team consultant at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, shared the ingredients for leading a successful financial advisory team.

Keys To Being A Successful Team
Stepanek started with a simple definition:  "A team is a small number of people, with complementary skills."  He believes the individuals need to be committed to a common purpose, saying, "If you just share a front door, that's really not a team."

Stepanek explained how communication gets more complex with every additional person added to staff.  That is why he starts there when evaluating the teams he works with.  He said, "If you don't have communication collaboration, nothing works after that."  

He noted that structure is also important, as client service drives referrals, not performance.  He asked the attendees, "Do you check to see if there is a dentist delivering higher performance?  No. It's all about the relationship."

The Role Of A Leader
Stepanek sees four kinds of leaders:  owner, producer, leader and manager.  Each has a different mindset and different responsibilities, while all impact the other team members in some way.  

He often finds that leaders have a very different perception of how they are doing compared with how their team members rank them. Stepanek explained a main reason for this, saying, "The team want you in the present, especially staff. That's where it breaks down. Your team's are judging you every day."

Still, the leader helps created the future.  He suggested a good starting point is to ask, 'What would be the perfect client experience in three years?' adding, "That's where you start to think ahead."  He sees that some older advisors are getting complacent and they are losing the itch.  Planning what they will do and then building the team around it is a vital responsibility to help them regain focus.

Six Key Disciplines Of Team Leaders
1. Focus on goals or the mission
"If you don't have that vision, you are just a manager," said Stepanek.  "The mission must be clear and inspiring."  He gave an example of how Phil Jackson's first act as a new coach with the Chicago Bulls was to create the vision of success.  Stepanek suggested bringing the mission into daily huddles to keep everyone on the same page.

2. Ensure a collaborative environment
"If for some reason you don't trust each other, don't walk away, run away," said Stepanek.  "Collaboration is not optional. It is mandatory."  He gave an example of someone who might not be connected to the vision and how that can distract the team. That is not to say your team needs to be a hugfest.  Stepanek thinks, "If we don't have conflict, we are not getting the best of the team. It just needs to be done professionally."  For the team leader, he said, "You have to manage yourself to be the most collaborative."  If leaders do not do this, they will always have to be right (which is likely not the case.)"