I recently read a NYT op-ed piece about Google’s hiring process called “How to Get a Job at Google.” It got me thinking about how we coach financial advisors to engage with team members and potential team members when building out their teams.
I frequently compare building a team to taking a leap of faith, because it often requires a shift in perspective for financial advisors to trust that the responsibilities they’ve always personally overseen will be addressed with the same care, and investment when handed over to their team members. While this is never a guarantee, Google teaches us a few things about how to increase the likelihood:
(In THIS case) It’s not necessarily about the numbers: You rarely hear this in financial services, but when it comes to hiring team members, take a cue from Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google: “G.P.A.’s are worthless criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless… we found they don’t predict anything.” While expertise in certain skill sets, like analytics, is very important for financial advisors, we’ve discovered that these skills are frequently learned through experience by applying them on the job. The real test, then, is to understand a candidate’s cognitive ability, which is often determined through competency based interviewing, a tactic we often introduce to our financial advisor clients.
Emergent Leadership vs. Traditional Leadership: This is a distinction that I appreciate as an executive coach who very much believes in the idea of partnership. Partnerships sometimes require that someone take on a leadership role, but they always require collaboration, and leading as collaborator is very different than leading as a delegator. When building a team it is important for financial advisors to recognize this distinction in them as leaders, and in their team members with regard to their capacity to lead different aspects of the business. As Bock says in his interview, it’s not solely about having the experience of traditional leadership roles. It is just as critical that a team member be able to step back and recognize when NOT to lead, as it is that he recognize when to lead. To be successful your team members need to be able to collaborate with each other and determine collectively when their disparate leadership roles are required.
Acceptance of Weakness and Failure: Another thing you rarely hear addressed in financial services, but an important characteristic for your team members to be able to accept, both as individuals and as members of a larger team. As Bock puts it: “What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ ” Your team members’ ability to admit that they are wrong or capable of failure demonstrates a level of resilience and open-mindedness that paves the way for learning new ideas. This ultimately equates to their “coachability,” a term we use to describe how open an individual is to learning new structures and thought-patterns, so that they have every opportunity to collaborate with others and be a highly-contributing member of your team.
Proven Adaptability: The industry is changing and advisory teams need nimble players now more than ever, as professional’s transition from serving the Baby Boomer Generation to filling their books with Gen Y and Gen X investors. The rapidly changing market doesn’t seem to be ceasing anytime soon, so it’s important to know that your team members can shift and change tactics along with it. This isn’t necessarily evident in an interview or reflected in how a team member sums himself or herself up on paper. Often it takes experience, and patience on your part, to determine your team members’ ability to adapt within the specific environment of your team.
These are all qualities that we advise financial professionals we work with to seek out in themselves, and in their relationships with team members and clients, but they are also importantly qualities that we embrace in our coaching partnerships. In this way, clients who enter into one-on-one coaching with us are provided a model for their relationships that they can later emulate with their teams, their clients, and centers of influence.