At ClientWise, we often stress the critical importance of developing an interdependent team rather
than an autonomous work group. But how do you objectively determine which of those two you currently have, and if the latter, how do you evolve them into a true team?
Unfortunately, most practice leaders who have created a work group never realize the fact until it’s too late. It’s only when they sell the practice (and six months later see it implode because clients neither know nor trust anyone else) that they realize their mistake. No matter how technically competent their staff may be, they’ve never truly coalesced as a team with a common intent and purpose. They are merely task performers without the relationship skills or vision.
With interdependent teams, clients genuinely believe they are being served by a team rather than an individual, and that the value they receive from the team is greater than that which the lead advisor could bring by themselves.
These types of team are easily recognizable from their communication and collaboration. Whether in team meetings or day-to-day activities, they all engage, they all have a voice, at various times they all take leadership roles, and most importantly they always treat each other with respect and support.
It’s never too late, however, to help a work group grow into a successful interdependent team – one that can bring more value to your client relationships today and help to sustain and expand those relationships long after you’ve decided to leave the business. The following are a few tips that should help to spark the evolutionary process:
1. Encourage storytelling, reminiscing and anecdote sharing at team meetings. Whether work related or from personal life, the process helps deepen personal connections between team members and fosters mutual caring and empathy.
2. With the same underlying intent, try to schedule regular periodic team social events and from time to time include family members.
3. Create powerful team meetings that will afford opportunities for the entire team to do real and meaningful work together (e.g., defining the team’s common intent and purpose, team goals and/or culture/ambiance).
4. Find opportunities to talk to team members on an impromptu basis to more personally connect with them.
5. Actively identify practice areas where collective thinking and work will be more powerful than individual work (e.g., planning for the future, complex problem-solving and developing new approaches/procedures).
6. Encourage more face-to-face rather than electronic team interactions. It’s much harder to be dismissive of or surly to a co-worker when the person is sitting across from you than it is via email.
7. Give feedback regularly. Be specific as to what you appreciate and where you see a need for improvement. Be timely. Don’t wait until three months later to bring up a point of contention. And be sure to publicly provide your praise for excellent performance.
But the most important step in the entire process depends entirely on you! Once and for all, you need to acknowledge that it’s in the best interest of your clients for them not to depend entirely on you to serve their needs. Once you do that, you’ll find the wall between you and your team members quickly disintegrating. And as a byproduct, you’ll suddenly have more time to focus on those parts of the business you most enjoy.
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Coaching Questions from this article:
Take some time to think about the people working to support your business. Are they an interdependent team or are they a work group? How do you know?
How can you better emphasize the importance of mutual support among team members, and stress that success depends on the participation and commitment of everyone on the team?
Which of your current responsibilities are solely dependent on you? Which current (or future) team members could take on joint responsibility for each of those and how might you undertake the transition?