Engagement with advisors is a huge driver for productivity and retention, yet team leaders often evaluate it with their guts rather than objective criteria.

You need hard data to know for sure whether you have created an environment that is ripe for engagement. To define and add dimension to the areas on which advisor team leaders should focus and cultivate team success, ask three questions about your team:

•            Do they have clarity — do they know what they are supposed to do?

•            Do they have mastery — are they capable of doing it?

•            Do they have autonomy — are they given the freedom to choose how they do it?

If you answer "no" or "kind of" to any of these questions, here are some tactics for getting your team on track:

1. Create Clarity. If your team is growing, role assessment and clarification may need attention more often than you think. You can address role confusion a couple of ways:

  • Time studies: Requiring a time study may make most of your advisors curse you under their breath for a week, but it will also yield relatively sound data about where people are spending their time. Review the collective percentages to determine whether major changes need to happen. For example, if only 20% of team time is client-facing, but 40% is spent on admin, improving processes could help you reallocate time. Also ask employees to do their own analysis and make their own recommendations. Have them list the current percentages for time spent and ideal percentages of time they would like to spend on major functions of their role.
  • Brainstorming: Ask team members to suggest things they would like to do to add value to the group. Engage their brains in thinking, "How can I contribute?"

2. Promote Mastery. If members of your team lack mastery in their role, it is your job as leader to ensure they have the tools to achieve it. Do you have a mutually agreed-upon plan in place to help them? If not, here are some tactics to consider:

  • Define mastery and break it down into parts. For example, if you would like your junior advisor to be a financial planning expert, determine how many plans he or she should develop behind the scenes, how many of those should be client-facing and whether pursuing a certification like the CFP and/or the CPWA would help.
  • Provide coaching structure and support. Advisors are best able to accelerate performance with access to both formal and ad hoc coaching. Identify the best person on the team and ask for a weekly time commitment and an open-door policy. Creating a coaching culture where planners see it as their duty to help other members of the team grow and develop is the mark of a successful team.
  • Schedule teach-backs. Create opportunities for budding team members to show what they know as they try to wrap their head around a new concept. You never learn a topic as well as when you have to teach it.

3. Allow Autonomy. Many advisory leaders have a raging case of "founder's syndrome," which manifests itself in many ways, the most common of which is an inability to let go and effectively delegate. Consider the following questions:

  • Does everyone come to me for everything?
  • Do we miss deadlines because I am not able to attend to everything in my inbox?
  • Do I need to make all the decisions that are teed up for me?
  • Can I become comfortable empowering various team members to make some decisions?

Creating a highly engaged team where people are put to their highest and best use is a panacea worth striving for. The path is there for those who choose to take it and it is laid with gold.
Christine Gaze, president of Purpose Consulting Group, a practice management consulting firm, is an incoming board member at IMCA.

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