Aligning your Assets: Cultivating team engagement for collective success

Explore the importance of team engagement for collective success post-pandemic. Learn strategies to cultivate engagement and drive collaboration for a thriving financial planning firm.

It's 2024, and many Financial Planning firms are still grappling with maintaining high team engagement levels in the post-Covid era. The pandemic disrupted operations, accelerated the shift to hybrid/remote work models, and prompted some personnel changes as people re-evaluated their priorities. 

On top of that, the industry landscape keeps evolving at a rapid pace. From increasing and shifting regulatory demands, to the proliferation of AI – the pace of change can feel relentless.

As a consultant working closely with firm owners and leaders, my first job is always to understand the key challenges of the people I work with.  

Recently I have noticed a pattern of concerns around team engagement. Questions like "How can I get my team more engaged and collaborative?". When I dig deeper into what this looks like, underlying issues often surface:

- Team members seem disinterested or don't actively contribute ideas in meetings

- Staff come to leaders with problems but don't propose solutions  

- There's a lack of proactivity and initiative-taking

- Employees don't seem that invested in the bigger picture

So, what gets in the way?

Let’s take one of these at a time and consider these scenarios from an employee’s perspective.

-Team members seem disinterested or don't actively contribute ideas in meetings 

Jane has attended the Financial Planning team meeting with a similar format every week for the last 3 years. Meetings are dominated by a small number of voices and there’s little space for her or her colleagues to speak.

She has also noticed that ideas from quieter people often get dismissed or interrupted. 

In fact, the last time she made a suggestion, her boss interrupted her after just 10 seconds to tell her why it wouldn’t work. That was 6 months ago, and not the first time it had happened. She’s not bothered since.

Staff come to leaders with problems but don't propose solutions  

Lisa comes to her boss with an issue that she has found. She explains what it is, and immediately she is given a solution to implement. That’s what managers do – they fix stuff!

Her boss’s behaviour has just reinforced the mindset that team members just need to escalate issues.

There's a lack of proactivity and initiative-taking 

Martin loves problem-solving but is naturally quiet and a bit low on confidence. He thinks he has spotted something that the team could change that would make things much more efficient. But there is just no forum for him to put it forward.

His boss is rushing around from meeting to meeting and never has space in their diary. When they do sit down for a rare conversation, it is rushed and usually an information download to Martin.

Team meetings are free for all, with people talking over each other and interrupting. So, Martin just doesn’t say anything and no one benefits from his brilliant idea.

Employees don't seem that invested in the bigger picture

Mick is the main Financial Planner and Business owner at ABC Wealth Management. He has a team of 10 people and feels the weight of that on his shoulders. He built the business from scratch and now has the responsibility of all of those salaries on his mind, as well as retaining clients and growing the business. It’s a lot!

But he keeps most of that to himself. He certainly doesn’t share financial information with his team. Projections are largely in his head, and so targets are plucked from the same place, and no one really understands the logic of them, or how they will be met. 

His team lack context and information and think that Mick just likes to keep them in the dark, to retain control. They have no idea where the business is heading, so just keep their heads down and get on with their jobs. 

Could this be you?

If you’ve recognised yourself, or your team in any of these scenarios you are definitely not alone.

Luckily, once we identify the issues, we can start to make changes.

What do we need to feel engaged?

At the core, high engagement arises when people

  • Feel like their work matters, and they can influence important outcomes
  • Feel valued for their work, their input, their expertise and experience
  • Feel like their voice is sought, heard, and matters.

First steps

Here are some strategies that I have seen work to promote higher levels of engagement. 

Stop talking so much! 

Give as much information as people need to get them thinking (usually not as much as we think) and then shut up and listen.

Aim to take up no more than 10% of the airtime in meetings.

Think in rounds

Get everyone speaking, in turn, in every meeting, on every issue. This is probably the simplest change that you can make to improve engagement.

Ask a question, go around the table to hear everyone’s views and make sure everyone pays attention to everyone else. 

Strictly enforce a no-interruptions policy

Stop interruptions completely. Make it a rule that no one is allowed to interrupt anyone else and set an example.

Let people finish, let them pause, and see if they say anything else.

Stop going first

When I introduce new teams to thinking in rounds, I notice that the boss often goes first.

When we speak first, we set the tone of a conversation and this can anchor the whole discussion to our views. Avoid this and you’re likely to hear more innovative and interesting ideas.

As an extra thought, next time someone brings you a problem – a simple “I have some thoughts, but first, what do you think?” can work a treat.

Be more transparent and vulnerable

We think as leaders that we have to be strong and have all the answers. We think we have to leave all of our fears and emotions at home. That’s pretty outdated thinking now, as Brene Brown explores in this now legendary TED talk. 

Share more context with your team. Maybe then they will understand where you’re heading, and why.

Perhaps if they understand more, they will also care more.

Restructure your meetings for maximum return on investment

I often hear stories of team members in meetings watching others debating a point that has no relevance to them whatsoever. Of course, they disengage!

Meetings are one of the most expensive things we can do in a business.

“Meetings should make the very best use of the intelligence, talents and time of every person.” 

Nancy Kline

If your meetings don’t currently do that, give them a good shake-up! 

Change you first

The bottom line is that Leaders and Business owners need to change their approaches to make teams feel their voices genuinely matter. This cultivates ownership, proactivity and the very engagement that they crave.

For my free guide to improving team engagement, just follow this link.

Similar posts