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Communication and collaboration are key to good team work

15 October 2020

At the heart of any good business and work stream is good communication and… collaboration. We need more of it, says Michelle Hoskin, managing director Standards International.

This article was first published in the October issue of Professional Paraplanner.

If we are truly on a drive to build a quality profession, it must all start with quality communication streams.  In fact, I would go one step further and say that communication will only get you so far, but ‘collaboration’ will take you all the way!

I feel it is ironic that in a profession where we predominantly listen (and then talk) all day long, when it comes to our interactions with clients, when it comes to our relationships with our teams, the profession as a whole is falling way short of where it should be.

Why? Well, I think there are way too many assumptions being made. With open-plan offices, home working and full to bursting diaries, teams ‘assume’ that everyone is aware of a what is going on, when in fact the opposite is true.

Meetings, de-briefs and catch up’s all take time and are seen as simply another drain on resources, especially when most teams (including financial planners and advisers) are constantly running against the clock to get their work done and see clients.

Get together!

Having spent literally thousands of hours in financial planning and advice firms, I have seen that there is not one problem that cannot be tackled by getting together, talking it through, and coming up with a solution (together!).

Believe me, I am not talking about having meetings for meetings’ sake. I for one have learned to understand the benefits of regular catch ups with my teams, direct reports and those working on key clients and business projects.

Why? Because it is good to talk. Put simply, these teams are a group of people working together on projects and tasks which help the company take one step further towards getting stuff done!

Simple? So what can be done and where do you start?

  • Before you dive in, getting all trigger happy and start scheduling a ‘ball breaking’ number of meetings into every one’s diaries… start to map out what topics you/the business would like to discuss. Encourage the whole team to be involved in this exercise; I suggest running this at your next team meeting (if you have them!).

I suggest the following 11 key areas:

  • Purpose and Vision
  • Plan, Policies and Objectives (Company and Individual)
  • Financials and Accounting
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Operations and Business Development
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Service and Propositions
  • Compliance and Governance
  • Continual Improvements
  • Projects and work in progress

These pretty much cover the breadth and depth of the whole business, but feel free to add any of your own topics which may not fall into one or more of these areas.

  • Next, have a think about how frequently you would like to discuss each of these. Then mark them with an A – Annually, Q – Quarterly, M – Monthly, W – Weekly and D – Daily.
  • Then mark at the side of each of the areas, the initials of the roles that should be involved in the discussions of these. Do not use the names or initials of the people in your team, as I am trying to highlight if another problem exists.
  • For example, for Financial Planner – use FP, Paraplanner – use PP – you get the idea.
  • Work through each area until you are done. BE AWARE – it may feel a little overwhelming and may look like you’re never going to have any time to do anything else after all of these meetings, but please trust me and stick with it!
  • Once you are done – take a step back and have a look. Check you haven’t missed anything. If you have done this right you will never have to do this exercise again. Winner!

What you have created is your whole year’s communication strategy; right there on one piece of paper!

It should look something like the sheet of paper below.

Now get planning

If you are all in agreement with what’s been written, then you need to create the year’s schedule.  Planning ahead is key here.

The worst case scenario is that you start having these meetings and catch up’s, and then because you get busy, or certain people are not in that day they simply peter off to nothing. This will send a terrible message to the team as a whole, and trust and confidence will start to breakdown amongst them! This is by far the worst possible outcome and needs to be avoided at all costs!

So, map it out…

  • Give each meeting a name, for example – Leadership Team Meeting, Work In Progress Meeting, Morning Huddle etc. You decide, be as creative as you wish – these are your meetings after all!
  • Now start to map out a high-level agenda for each meeting. Every meeting needs direction and an agenda will help by outlining the areas that need to be discussed.
  • Finally, get these meetings in the diary! Schedule them and make sure you share the importance of these not being missed or being bumped to another day or time! Schedule them and stick to them! If certain members of the team cannot make it – it doesn’t matter, they happen anyway!

Now it’s time to have some fun! At first they may last a little longer than you’d hoped, but that will ease as you get more used to them and the agenda becomes more free-flowing. Warning (yes another!!) don’t get bogged down in the details. Detail can be discussed ‘off line’. These meetings should be high energy, fast paced, informative, engaging and productive!

If people start to lose the will to live half way through, you may have gone a little off track!

Enjoy it and stick with it! It really is good to talk, and in over 20 years I have seen firms achieve their goals, accelerate their progress and transform their business all by getting together and spending some good quality time collaborating!

For further insight into the value of great communication listen to Michelle’s podcast on this topic, which can be found under Little Miss Woww!

Professional Paraplanner