Crucial conversations for entrepreneurs and investors:#5 The “F” Word
Follow up and follow up again – it’s what effective leaders (and financial advisors) do
When I was relatively new to managing people, I often wished I could give a task to an employee and it would be perfectly executed on the due date or even a day earlier. I resented how much time it took to manage the process of remembering the tasks that needed to be completed and then remembering to follow up with various employees. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I blamed myself for being a bad leader because things didn’t just happen by themselves.
It was a relief to learn that the “F” word – follow-up with employees – is considered a vital part of what a business owner does. Perhaps I hadn’t thoroughly explained the elements of the task or assigned project and the employee needed clarification to deliver what was expected. At other times, the employee may have made some progress and needed some feedback before continuing. The project itself may have changed. Rather than consider follow up as a necessary evil, it helped me when I thought of feedback as an opportunity to really engage, motivate and inspire my employees.
Such engagement with employees requires an enthusiastic time commitment. How much time might that be? An online article by Entrepreneur Magazine estimates that great leaders spend about six hours per week in conversations and meetings with each of their direct reports. Although some of these crucial conversations focus on specific projects (status updates, stumbling blocks, clarifications required etc.) a large chunk of time is also devoted to discovering employees’ motivation, frustrations, achievements and goals. Naturally these conversations, some informal and others more structured, are spread out over the week, rather than unfolding in one block of six hours.
In my experience, there is an ongoing need for feedback and follow-up. Having said that, as your employees grow in competence, the crucial conversations and coaching reach a higher level, which makes it more fun and rewarding for you. It is also important to remember that we are also training our employees to engage with their subordinates in a similar productive manner.
How do I embody the “F” word in my practice as a Financial Advisor? My typical process is to help my clients set achievable time-bound and specific dollar-weighted financial objectives for themselves and then to select the investment and insurance products that should allow them to reach these goals. Depending on the client and their situation, we then set a schedule of quarterly, semi-annual or annual reviews. It is my responsibility to follow up at these agreed-upon times and to report on progress towards the goals. What else do we accomplish in these crucial reviews? It is the client’s chance to tell me if anything has changed in their lives either in terms of reaching or changing their objectives. It is my opportunity to listen to my clients, learn more about them and their dreams, and to make any suggestions that I believe will enhance their lives. The lessons I learned as a business owner about follow up serve me well as a Financial Advisor.
Follow up and then follow up some more.
It’s just good advice.