Leading an organization during a crisis is a challenging endeavor, but it comes with the territory. After all, if it were easy, then everyone would do it!
Leadership is about inspiration, and getting people to deliver their best towards a common set of goals they share with your organization. But leadership does not mean having all the right answers all of the time... so don't put this additional pressure on yourself. It means garnering trust, so people have the confidence to follow you and contribute their highest and best use to achieve the personal and organizational goals each of you have set forth.
Here are some specific leadership challenges we see leaders of financial advisor firms facing, and some ideas on navigating them successfully.
- How much to tell your team when you aren't sure what is going to happen yourself.
- If only we all had a crystal ball, right?! Your team is not expecting you to have all the right answers all of the time, but they are expecting open and honest communication now even more than ever. Even if that means saying something like, ‘we don’t know exactly what the future holds, however, here are our plans to weather the storm.’ It isn't a coincidence that you probably tell your clients this as well. In a recent study conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics, Researcher Jason Dorsey found that over one third of Americans in the study said that honesty and clear communication are the most important qualities of a manager. On that note, for example one of the things I learned and will be better prepared for the next (insert major life and/or business disruption here) is to ensure I communicate to my team members sooner about the overall health of the company, and that no one has to worry about losing their job. I was so preoccupied with trying to make sure things were okay, that I failed to communicate it timely to the team.
- How to be sensitive and caring while continuing to push for performance.
- When AUM, revenue, and profits are falling, it is easy to enter into panic all-hands-on-deck mode, so remember to try and balance this with compassion and empathy for what your team members are going through. A fair number of employees at advisory firms I spoke with over the last few months were depressed about how Covid-19 had disrupted their lives. They also shared that they were very appreciative of the managers who were sensitive to the fact they could have been going through a tough time outside of work too. I understand that you still have a business to run, but it may be an appropriate time to revisit goals and expectations to see if any adjustments need to be made. Forbes contributor Nihar Chhaya suggests “checking on '' as well as “checking in”which is a great way to approach your communications. Think “check on” in terms of the quantitative items such as workflow, priorities, goal achievement statuses, etc., and “check in” in terms of qualitative items such as emotions, concerns, feelings, etc.
- How to keep people engaged and motivated when working remotely.
- High levels of employee engagement and motivation are difficult in normal times. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study states that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged. And this anemic level of engagement from the study was done in 2017, prior to the pandemic of 2020! Dorsey’s research also showed that every generation in the workforce (Gen Z, Millennials/Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers) has a very different workplace experience, so a one size fits all approach doesn't work. Each generation has different perspectives when it comes to working remotely. Here are some other interesting findings from Dorsey’s team:
- Almost half of all Americans see remote working as a positive influence on their work so this sudden shift in working environments has not been as disruptive as once thought, at least from your team members’ perspective.
- Over a third of Americans would prefer to continue working remotely full time after pandemic ends. The firms that offer this as an option will have a recruiting advantage over the firms who don't.
- Millennials and Gen X have the most positive experience working remotely. Many of our top candidates in these generations have been asking for this for the last decade and some of the firms we represent who said “they would never go virtual” have found that they're not just surviving, but thriving with the virtual set up.
- Gen Z feels more connected to their coworkers, but overall finds remote work more challenging so you could have a situation, post pandemic, where your Gen Z team members return to the office while other generations continue to work from elsewhere.
Your team will be more engaged if they know where they stand in the organization, know what is expected of them, believe in the mission and values, and receive regular communication. I think back on my career, and other managers I had when I was first getting started, and how powerful it was when they simply asked me how I was doing, and then when I rattled off some stuff about work, they then asked me again ‘how are you doing?’
We hope these were helpful as you continue to lead during this Pandemic, and position yourself for future leadership challenges which you will face.
Keep in mind, it is hard to go wrong with transparency and authenticity, as I don't ever recall anyone stating someone was too transparent and authentic. Of course, it is easier said than done, but take the advice you are probably giving to your clients, and don't let uncertainty turn to fear, which then turns to anxiety which can impair your clarity and decision making ability. Find ways to lead from a position of strength to further instill confidence and lay the groundwork for emerging from times of upheaval a stronger better business.
It is an overused cliche, however, it is true that you should never let a good crisis go to waste. So use times like these to strengthen your leadership skills, try different strategies, and develop new ways of thinking and leading.
Stay safe and healthy!
Caleb & The New Planner Recruiting Team