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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Dear Readers,

As 2020 comes to a close and advisors prepare for 2021, it is appropriate to outline a planning process to end your year or start the new one. I developed S.H.I.F.T.(R) as a framework many years ago and have used it with thousands of teams and firms. To organize your group and prepare for the year ahead, take your team through the steps. A virtual offsite can work well if you are organized, have an agenda and a plan for the discussion and the follow-up.

SSpecify your success outcomes

Start at your end goal and reconfirm your firm’s vision, mission and values. If you don’t have these or haven’t revisited them in a while, this should be the substance of an entire meeting. If you have these, focus on short- and long-term goals for the year. How will you measure success? Think in quantitative and qualitative terms. Create a clear picture of the hoped-for outcomes and make sure everyone on the team understands where you are driving. You can do this step with overall annual goals, and then break down those overall goals into smaller, more discreet, quarterly and monthly goals. Every target should have a clearly identified goal associated with it. This can be a great exercise to ensure your team is working in the same direction and that they understand the goals and can articulate them similarly.

H – Highlight the obstacles and categorize them

Many firms want to avoid talking about the problems. But, if 2020 did one thing for us it opened the door to being real and honest and talking about obstacles. As you look ahead to what you want to accomplish in 2021, what will likely get in the way? What obstacles did you encounter that still loom over your plans for next year? If you do a SWOT analysis, these could be your threats and weaknesses, but frame them as obstacles. This makes them more workable. Create the list of obstacles and organize them – what can you control? What can you influence? What’s entirely out of your control? Once you have identified what you can control or influence, you can do something about those obstacles. Isolate and focus on what can be overcome.

I – Identify the human factor

There are a couple of ways to consider the human factor and its impact on your team and plans. Look at your team as individuals and as a whole. Consider how well everyone is working together and whether they are all pulling in the same direction and supporting one another as they do so. Review how things have gone over this past year – the focus on virtual communication has exposed cracks for many firms in the way their teams connect and work together. Ask yourself whether there are opportunities for better communication. Review the roles and responsibilities for each team member. Can you share responsibilities in a different way to make everyone more effective?

The other area of focus for human factor is to consider your stakeholders. One of the nice things about the advisory profession is that there are lots of outside stakeholders who want to help you – custodians, asset management firms, fintech and so on. Where are your holes and how could you leverage either internal talent or external relationships in order to fill them and get stronger? You can mix and match pieces in many ways in order to get the best out of everyone both internally and externally. Be thoughtful about how you do this.