Core Leadership Competencies for Financial Professionals

Something you may not know about me is that in addition to my consulting work I am also a co-owner of a landscape contracting company, and as such rely on financial professionals in the running of that company.

I recently received a request from a journalist to share my thoughts in the core competencies today for CPA’s and other financial professionals. Here are my observations:

A great financial services leader communicates completely, candidly, and directly.

Too often, I’ve seen financial professionals believing that they’ve stated a set of concerns very clearly, but the client doesn’t really grasp the severity of the situation. The same can happen with their own employees.

Get confirmation that your message has been received and understood instead of just delivering it. A weak leader avoids conflict by throwing out information without verifying understanding.

A weak financial services leader will take and cling to toxic business, such as the client who borders on abusiveness with staff, etc…

The leader who is run by fear of losing any business, including bad business, is weak – and running their business into the ground. A great leader will regularly cull their client list until their book is filled with clients who treat them and their staff with respect, pay on time, and generate work that fulfills the organization.

Which do you sound like?


The Truth About Delegation

We begin delegating even before we learn how to talk. If you’ve ever seen a crying infant pointing at a bottle that’s just out of reach, you’ve seen delegation in action. And if you handed that child the bottle, you were successfully delegated a task.

So, considering that we all have so much experience with delegating, why don’t we get outstanding results every time we ask an employee to complete a task?

Unfortunately, delegating is usually approached as a transaction, which it isn’t. Managers think, “I tell an employee to do a task. The employee does the task. I reward the employee. Everyone’s happy.” This is the managerial version of pointing at a bottle and crying.

But just as that baby can cry and point in vain, so can managers. What makes us actually give the baby the bottle isn’t just our desire to stop the noisy crying. It’s based on a mix of relationship factors, including empathy, communication, and a desire for a mutually beneficial outcome.

At its core, delegation is an act of trust. When it’s successful, the relationship between leader and employee is strengthened. When it’s ineffective, it can get one or both people fired.

Many leaders wrongly feel that delegating is too hard or too risky, and prefer to do things themselves. This attitude is precisely what keeps “bottle washers” who work 60-plus hours a week from getting to the next level.

Successful delegation doesn’t just allow you to get more done in less time. It also frees you up to contribute at your highest and best level, stops you from being a bottleneck in organizational capacity, allows your employees to further develop their skills, and builds a culture of accountability for your organization and yourself.


Putting a Plug in Drains on Your Time

If asked, could you reduce your work time to 45 hours per week, starting today?

If you’re like the majority of my clients, you might initially think this is impossible. But if you make a conscious effort, you might be surprised by the results.

Attempting to significantly reduce your work hours will bring unnecessary drains on your time into sharp focus. Below are some examples of typical time drains that you may be facing, perhaps without even realizing it.

Capable Person Syndrome

Many leaders have an unspoken motto of “I can, therefore I should.” Since these people are typically very capable, they never have enough time to accomplish everything they “can” do. Remember that people will happily ask for help from a capable, willing person. Responding to all of these requests creates parasitic relationships.

Needless Distractions

I have a client who runs a technology company. Needless to say, he loves using the tools of his trade. When I went to his worksite to observe him in action, I was shocked at the number of distractions he had. His phone was constantly dinging when emails arrived, and his social networks were growling on a regular basis. With every interruption, I watched my client shift his attention to this or that device, then attempt to regain his train of thought, which had just been forced off track. When we added things up, we discovered that all of his “productivity technology” was actually costing him, rather than saving him, many hours per week.

Can’t Say No

There are a number of reasons people, powerful leaders included, find it hard to say no. Often, we have a strong desire to be liked or to be as responsive as possible to every internal and external client. But if saying yes to everyone means follow-through for each client suffers because you have too much on your plate, your clients will be disappointed anyway, and will wish that you had set more reasonable expectations.

Do these examples sound familiar? As you strive to become more effective, keep an eye out for areas where changes to your attitudes or behaviors might free up more time and remove obstacles to your success.


How to Master Your Relationship With Time

Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done that you need to?

You’re not alone. Even seasoned executives have trouble managing their relationship with time. In a lot of cases, the difficulty comes from taking the wrong approach.

Time management, for instance, is a farce. The truth is, we cannot manage time any more than we can control the weather.

The basic assumption of time management is that, since there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them in, we need to somehow squeeze more hours out of the day. This, of course, is impossible.

What’s more, time management programs prescribe a set of actions that are meant to apply to every person in every environment. This one-size-fits-all approach fails individual users.

When we take a simple, customized approach to optimizing our own effectiveness, we eliminate the need for fruitless time management systems, and instead learn to manage our relationship with time by managing ourselves.

Self-management begins with self-awareness, which we can start to develop by answering these questions:

How do you use your time? If you don’t know, begin by documenting how you spend each hour of your day, and look for trends.

What choices are you making (or not making) with regard to your time? Consciously deciding how you spend your time will allow you to maintain control, rather than letting your time be drained away.

Are the choices you’re making (or not making) with regard to your time helping you achieve your goals? If you’re spending most of your time on what’s least important, you’re minimizing your effectiveness. Think about your priorities, and make sure you’re using your time wisely.

Managing your relationship with time is no easy task – it requires conscious effort and dedication. Fortunately, by becoming aware of the decisions you’re making (or not making) when it comes to how you use your time, you can begin to improve upon this skill.


How Do You Get Middle Management To Be Optimistic About Executing The Business Strategy?







How Do You Get Middle Management To Be Optimistic About Executing The Business Strategy?

Include them in its creation!

Surely, there’s no table big enough for everyone in the organization to have a seat at it, but you can:

1. Listen to middle managers ideas, concerns and questions

2. Communicate the strategy with them on an ongoing basis

Middle managers aren’t minions to do executives’ bidding. They serve a vital function of accomplishing the vision. Based on my experience with clients, middle-managers have the on-the-ground view that’s often missing from the C-Suite.

If they’re not optimistic – and you have the right people in place – , it could be for two reasons:

1. They don’t get it yet, or

2. Executive management doesn’t get that the organization isn’t ready to deliver

It’s not about them, it’s about you.


Does The World Today Need More Managers Or More Leaders?

Does The World Today Need More Managers Or More Leaders?

We don’t need more of either! We need better quality.

To make the distinction: Leaders have vision, big vision, for where to be in 5-10 years and managers pragmatically realize that vision.

True visionaries ignite our hearts and minds by revealing possibilities. Steve Jobs and Barack Obama in his first campaign are great examples. So-called leaders are all too often meek or come up with milquetoast plans. Visionary leaders of the caliber needed are few and far between.

The role of Managers is to make or break the realization of the vision. Often the failures lay in an inability to get teams to work together, inability to truly comprehend the vision and what it will take to realize it, empire building, lack or courage or trust, reluctance to build the capacity of the organization, etc…

Save us from more managers and leaders. What we need is really good ones.


How do you rebuild trust?

Trust is fundamental: erosion of trust causes chaos. It may take years to build trust and seconds to lose it. Yet, how does one rebuild it?

Trust is rarely lost in seconds.Normally there is a mindest and pattern of behavior that is unearthed in seconds, when trust is shattered. To win trust, change to a mindset that is worthy of trust and the behavior will be consistent.