As a financial advisor, you've invested in stocks and bonds. But how do you invest in strengths? If you invested in a stock and received a return of 20%, you would be pretty happy, right? Well, when leaders focus on employees' strengths, the odds of those employees being engaged goes up 800%.

A Gallup Organization study on the topic of leadership — based on over 20,000 interviews and more than one million work teams — revealed that the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. Increased employee engagement means better service for your clients and a more productive staff. But what would that mean for your business?

There are many strengths-measuring tools out there — Meyers Briggs, DISC, COLB and the Gallup Strengths finder, to name a few. They all help identify what you are good at through standardized testing.

I was fortunate to study the science of strengths with the Gallup Organization. It discovered 34 strengths themes. Based on its assessment, the Gallup test ranks your strengths from top to bottom and uses the top five strengths for your assessment. These are then grouped into four themes of leadership — strategic thinking, executing, relationship building and influencing. Once you take the assessment yourself, have your staff take it. I guarantee you will be amazed by the accuracy of the results. The next step is to match the right person to the right role based on their strengths.

The Optimal Wealth Team

The following are strengths-based leadership themes I've found to be the best fit in each wealth management role based on over five years working with advisory teams. This is not an exact science, so don't start firing people if they don't fit this criteria. Just keep it in mind when managing them and when hiring new staff in the future.

Operations Manager: Since these individuals oversee administration, compliance, trading and staff, the best operations managers have strategic thinking and/or executing as their dominant themes. Executing strengths, like discipline and responsibility, drive them to make sure the work gets done. Strategic thinking strengths, like ideation and context help them deploy your staff and resources to overcome obstacles and roadblocks.

Associate Financial Advisor: This individual assists the senior advisor with large accounts and even conducts client meetings of their own. The best themes for AFAs you want to groom into a sales role are relationship building and influencing. Of all the strengths themes, relationship building strengths — like empathy and connectedness — are most frequently found in advisors. For an AFA more focused on investment research and trading, I would look for the strategic thinking theme. Individuals with strengths like input and ideation tend to be absolute trading and portfolio wizards.

Marketing Manager: Since this individual is mostly responsible for such things as coordinating marketing events and taking the initiative in making marketing calls to prospects and centers of influence, I find the key theme for a marketing manager is executing. They are able to stay focused until the job gets done. Strengths like focus and responsibility can help marketing managers act like a cruise missile. Just point them where you want to go and get out of their way.

Para-Planner: I find the theme of strategic thinking to be a great fit for para-planners, since these folks are responsible for completing deliverables needed for client meetings, etc. Strengths like analytic, futuristic and ideation really help them with the creativity needed to help you construct outstanding deliverables and planning strategies.

Client Service Specialist: These individuals handle the tasks of answering the phones and assisting clients in resolving administrative issues, etc. This role, however, could make or break a wealth manager. The person speaking to your clients and greeting them is critical. One fumble and it takes a lot of work to fix a damaged relationship. I find the relationship building theme a great fit for this role. Strengths like being able to relate to people, being positive and empathy make a client look forward to interacting with this person again and again.

So now we've discussed the themes for the staff. I have seen advisors with all of these themes become very successful. But the secret is the way they achieved their success. Each advisor's business plan likely matched their dominant theme, which is why so many successful advisors have used a different path to the top. When I conduct strengths assessment with an advisor we always review the best path for them and their team.

To learn more about the strengths and themes discussed earlier, get the book Strengths Based Leadership by Barry Conchie and Tom Rath.


Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching
Group, a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc.
You can reach him at
this email address.