Year-End Planning Considerations
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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Despite COVID this will be our best year ever. I want to formally plan and create enthusiasm for 2021 with my staff. Do you have any tips on how I could manage this in a virtual setting?
In the past we’ve gathered everyone for a holiday party in our large conference room and I’ve brought in food. We’ve reviewed what the year looked like and what we hope to do next year. It feels like it will be very different when we can’t be together and have people spontaneously throw out ideas or split off and have side conversations that sometimes lead to our greatest insights.
I don’t want to lose momentum but not sure how I can replicate this approach. Thoughts?
Kudos to you and your firm for having a regular approach to recapping the year and looking ahead! Many firms are so tired by the time they get to December and are scrambling to take their last bits of leftover vacation that this type of process gets lost in the shuffle and then January 1 comes and it starts all over again.
While you cannot mimic your in-person approach, there are ways to make this type of planning work in a virtual setting. It is more important to have a formal approach when you are virtual and prepare in advance. Some thoughts:
- Always start at the beginning; restate the vision and mission of your firm. Send this to people in advance and ask whether they believe this needs to be revisited or discussed. If you don’t have a clear vision and mission in place, start the meeting by talking about this.
- Provide the update as you normally would about how the firm performed, any unexpected wins or losses in different areas and what the goals are for 2021 (be sure these are both quantitative and qualitative).
- Send people questions to consider before the meeting. My favorites include:
- What worked best for us this year? What are the top two most successful things we accomplished?
- If you had the magic wand, what would you have changed (besides COVID) this year in the firm and our practices? Top 2-3 things.
- What (besides COVID) were the biggest obstacles faced by our clients this year?
- In the virtual meeting, depending on the number of people, you should set up breakout groups of three or four people to take some of the “magic wand” answers and/or obstacles faced by clients and brainstorm ways to overcome these. Allow people to simulate those side conversations you noted by having them go off in smaller pods and then come back and discuss findings.
- Agree on next steps you will take to address improvements, and put plans in place to reach your goals.
- Be sure to have someone be the note-taker. Capture all of the discussions and have someone recap in writing for next steps.
While it won’t be the same experience, it is good to keep your momentum flowing into 2021. Hopefully at some point next year you can hold your in-person meeting and review where you are and where you are going. Do a mid-year check-in along with your end of the year one.
We will have our best year ever and yet I don’t rest easy. I believe difficult times are coming for the markets and for the economy in general. I want to celebrate our year with my team but I don’t want them to put on rose-colored glasses and think everything is fine and we can rest easy going into 2021. How do I temper good news with a healthy dose of skepticism without coming off as ungrateful?
I’m impressed as a leader you are doing some self-reflecting to even consider how best to communicate this! I teach a graduate class on managerial skills and another on leading teams. The students tell me the whole class could be about leaders learning to “know thyself” and become self-aware. You are not only conscious of your own views, but also how those views could come across to your team members – self-awareness and social awareness (in EQ terms). Very impressive!
Honesty is the best policy here. I would share with your team exactly what you have shared here with me. However, there are a couple of additional things to consider.
Celebrate the year. Tell them how proud you are of what they have accomplished, review the details of what you’ve all done together and acknowledge the successes. Let them feel good about what they’ve done, and know that you recognize and appreciate it.
Then, as a follow-up or in another scheduled meeting, turn the “what could be coming” conversation into a discussion about how you approach next year. No firm or industry can assume up will always be up. Perhaps you could do a SWOT analysis with your team to be objective about what you might face. SWOT it is an opportunity to look internally (strengths, weaknesses) and externally (opportunities and threats) to assess and project, as best you can, for planning purposes. In doing this, your team might raise concerns about what’s coming on their own.
You have a nice opportunity to celebrate and calibrate at the same time.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.