Hannah: Well, I’m so excited today to be having this conversation about managing others, because I think this is such an important piece of new planners’ growth and development within financial planning, and there just isn’t enough information out there for new planners. The question that I’ll start with our guest is all of you all are managing other people. What have you learned about managing others that you wish you would’ve known sooner?
Yusuf: I can jump in. I’ll just share a bit of news. I came on as a partner at Yeske Buie six weeks ago today. And in that role, it’s become even more obvious. I’ve climbed the ladder over the past several years at the firm, up the managerial responsibilities, path, but it’s different when you own. And I think the thing that I wish I had known sooner is try to figure out some way to gain a better appreciation for what it feels like to own and then come from a place of just understanding and appreciation, and managing others.
Yusuf: I mean, I’m not trying to talk too harshly about myself, but when you own the firm, truly you have a perspective about just how vulnerable you are and how much you rely on your team. And then coming from a place of empathy and humility, and understanding, I think you’re able to get the most out of your team and then that ultimately helps you be successful as an owner.
Eddie: Yeah, that’s good stuff Yusuf and, by the way, congratulations on becoming a partner at a fantastic firm. That’s a wonderful achievement and it is not handed out by any means, so congratulations.
Yusuf: I appreciate it.
Eddie: Yeah, I agree with everything you just said. And I’ll add to that, just coming back to your original question of what is it that I wish I would have known earlier that I know now. It’s that management early is a two part process. There’s managing up and there’s managing down. And so, I think in this segment, you’re probably talking more about the managing down or me being the manager of more junior people within the office. But if you’re listening and you’re that more junior person, there are some really important skills for you to learn to manage up as well, to do that in a respectful way.
Eddie: But also that it’s okay for you to ask questions and to ask for clarification. That you’re receiving delegation, and I’ll talk about that more later when we talk more about the tools piece. But when you’re being managed, it’s really important for you to listen well to what the person’s saying to you, to know that you have a voice in getting clarity, and making this a relationship where it’s not just you being told what to do but you’re collaborating together as manager and managee.
Bryan: Yeah. I’m so glad you said managing up. I think that’s a phrase that most people don’t know, at least starting off. I don’t know what managing up means. Management’s … what you just described is how I feel about it, it’s a two way street. Meaning somebody is not just giving you direction, an organization’s not just filtering down all the work. You should also have a say in what’s happening to you, and that’s what managing up means. Managing up means, “Hey, you just gave a bunch of stuff to me. I have different feelings and opinions on it and I have different timelines on when I want it all to get done with you. Let’s figure out a system to make it all happen.”
Bryan: I’m glad you mentioned managing up. I think that’s really important and I know that Abacus teaches that a bit more. I’ve seen it in some of the materials that you guys have and all that stuff is really, really good. For me, some of the things about what did I wish I had known earlier or what have I been learning, it’s no … you were talking about ownership mindset, which is a different shift in mindset, which I haven’t even crossed that threshold yet. Another type of mindset whenever you’re first getting started with management is that it’s so easy to forget what it feels like to be new, essentially.
Bryan: What it feels like to not know what you’re doing, what it feels like to not know the culture yet. It’s tough to know, so you have to have just such increased empathy for what this person’s going through, what you used to feel like because it’s hard. It’s just hard to remember how hard it was back then. That’s one thing. Also, whenever you’re a new manager, really wearing that hat for the first time. I think the biggest revelation for me was like, I don’t know what my identity is. I don’t know if am I supposed to be to play dad all the time. Like disciplinarian. Am I supposed to be like cool big brother? Like who am I?
Bryan: You just have like existential life crises, basically every day and if something goes wrong, how are you supposed to act? If something goes good, how are you supposed to act? I think now I’ve tried and failed at the dad thing too many times where I’m just like, “Okay, that’s just not my thing. That’s not my style. I should stop doing that.” I’ve even had a couple of conversations with my own boss, like, “Who am I?” And my thing is more like, what has worked for me in the past?
Bryan: It’s more like being like the team leader or being the team captain. That’s more of the big brother style. Big brother’s more comfortable for me since I am a big brother. The identity crises is harder, but I guess you might think you have to be the disciplinarian all the time, but you probably don’t.
Hannah: Well, that’s really interesting point there Bryan. I would throw that back to Eddie and Yusuf. Like did you guys have … I mean you go from being up here and then you get your first promotion, and then now you’re suddenly in a position of authority at your firm. How did you guys handle that when you guys got that? Because that is a change in relationship and change the dynamics in the workplace.
Yusuf: It really is and, in my experience, it’s all about just walking the talk and being integrous. And I also love that Eddie brought up this notion of managing up. That’s certainly how someone builds trust with their management team. And no, also, if you’re a younger advisor listening to this and you’re thinking about how you can ultimately grow, the first way to do it is by managing your manager and making sure that they’re trusting you and trusting the way that you’re performing. And seeing how you manage your workload and how you’re able to interact with others.
Yusuf: And Bryan made a great point about it being a two-way street. And this notion of remembering what it was like when you were in the other person’s shoes, when you were that new employee or junior advisor. Our financial planning residents that come through our program on an annual basis, we’ve got two new residents coming through. We at least had for the past several years. And if you can just pause because it is, as Bryan mentioned, it’s really hard to remember what it was like when you were new. But if you can just pause and try to remember, it really helps.
Yusuf: And ultimately, everyone wants the same things, everyone wants to do well, everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to grow but your team is counting on you to facilitate that growth and lead. And as long as you’re leading by example and bringing that empathetic mindset, and inviting others to give you that feedback and to manage up, and do the things that we’ve talked about so far in this conversation. And I think as you transition up the ladder and grow more and more into a leadership or management role, it makes it a lot easier.
Eddie: Yeah, stuff you said. I was encouraged, when I first did my internship at Abacus back in the summer of 2003, that I should keep a journal and that I should continue that journal throughout my career. And I wouldn’t give myself an A+ on keeping the journal, but I’d give myself a B on it. But I’ve done that. I’ve written down my thoughts as, what did Eddie the intern feel like? What did Eddie the intern like about how people treated me? How did it feel being a new employee going through an on-boarding process? How did it feel going to a different company when I went over to USAA? So that I could remember what it feels like to be that new person, what it feels like to have somebody manage you.
Eddie: Over my career, I’ve had phenomenal managers and I’ve had managers that still would, probably, need to grow in that area. As I manage people now, they would probably say the same of me, both that I do a good job but I could also grow in some areas as well. One thing I’d add to what you asked Hannah is the idea of giving context. I think when you are being managed and let’s face it, everyone on this call is still being managed. Even being an owner, you’re still being managed. You still have other people that you were submitted to, they’re in a position of authority even if you’re a junior partner. It helps tremendously to have context.
Eddie: And when you’re managing somebody, if you can share with the person you’re delegating to why their role and responsibility is important and the particular tasks that you’re giving to them, how does it fit in the bigger picture of the organization. That helps the person being delegated to or being managed to understand that there they are part of something much bigger. That what they’re doing is going to help the organization move forward in this key area. I think it helps that person take on a sense of ownership of that task as well. The way that they behave doesn’t just affect them and how they’re going to do on a performance review, but it affects the entire office. Context is really important.
Yusuf: Yeah, those things are critical, Eddie. And first of all, the notion of keeping a journal, I wished I had done that. It must be so illuminating to go back and read your thoughts from years ago. I would imagine you get a chance to appreciate your growth as well, but I mean, what a great tool to have in your back pocket so that you can actually reference those thoughts from past years. I might start keeping one because it’s a great idea and I couldn’t agree with you more on the notion of, so yeah, you come on as an owner and yep, you still got a boss, you’ve still got folks who manage you. And it’s interesting being in the middle because you’ve got a lot of folks who are looking up to you and looking for you to lead, and you’re still being led.
Yusuf: The thing I’ll add to that is that I feel an additional sense of accountability to my other partners who have come on with me. And so, being managed by your peers in a sense is also part of the path and just this notion of accountability to others. And I love what you talked about as far as context. It’s critical; it’s critical for everyone. It’s critical if you’re leading, it’s critical if you’re being led or managed. But if you can see how you fit in the overall vision or the overall strategic plan, your output is going to be that much better and I couldn’t agree with that more.
Hannah: What are the resources or tools that really helped you guys since you stepped into this manager role?
Eddie: I think Cheryl probably recognized from the beginning that she didn’t have the tools to build what it is she aspired to build and so she’s gone to coaches from the very beginning. It has been very much a part of us to bring in outside consultants and coaches. And they brought us some great tools over the years. A lady named Kathy Bullarude brought us two tools that are deeply ingrained in our culture now. One is called the Six W’s for giving feedback and, we’ll joke at Abacus internally that you’re gonna get a Six W conversation. And Six W’s is giving feedback, both positive feedback but also constructive feedback.
Eddie: And, I’m happy to share that six W’s, for giving feedback with you, Hannah, if you like to post that if any of your listeners would be curious. But I’ll run through it just real briefly because I don’t wanna monopolize all the time. But it’s all about trading the frame for the conversation. When you start with feedback, you’d say something like on a scale of one to six, six being this is a major, major issue that’s going to affect your employment and one being, that I just wanna give you this whole piece of feedback that’s gonna help you grow. This is maybe a one.
Eddie: You start with I’m giving you feedback, but you can relax or I’m giving you feedback and I need your most attention right now, so create the frame in that sense. And so, then you share what happened, what took place. And again, you can use this for positive feedback or constructive feedback. What took place? What did I, as the manager, observe and what were some of the behaviors that I saw you, the person I’m managing, do? And then you’d say, okay, so that’s the first W is ‘what’ … what happened?
Eddie: And then why was it good or why was it a concern? If it’s positive or constructive, why was it good, what I saw you do? Give the big picture. That’s the context piece of why was it good and how does it fit into the bigger picture? If you’re going positive or constructive, you can see how you’re talking about just one behavior, but then you’re showing it in the bigger picture. That’s positive or constructive. Now and that’s the framework that you would use for positive feedback, it’s just what happened and why is it good.
Eddie: And that’s far better when you’re giving feedback than just saying, “You did a really good job on this.” That’s not near as meaningful as, “When you responded to the client before I even got to them because you knew I was on vacation. And the way you handled it was exactly how we want to respond to our clients. And that’s so important because customer service is a huge part of maintaining clients and our business development strategy,” something like that.
Eddie: But then moving with the constructive then you say, the third one is, okay, so if this is constructive feedback, now I wanna get their perspective. What was the person I’m managing? What is their perspective? Do they understand or agree with the fact that I have a concern about this at all? There’s a chance that here’s how I feel about it, here’s what I saw, now what did you see? What were your experiences about this? And now you’ve entered into a dialogue. And so, the third part is, okay, so what are some opportunities that come from this? What are some solutions or a different way for us to approach this is the fourth piece.
Eddie: And then, okay, so when are we gonna check in on this again and follow up on this behavior? Maybe it’s something like you’re not showing up to work on time. You can see how you can plug that into this framework and see how now we’re gonna check in and we’ll make sure in a week we’ll see if this behavior is changing. Something like that. And then the last part is, okay, so what are the consequences? If this was a chronic problem, what are the consequences of you not changing?
Eddie: And so, that’s the framework. What happened? Why was it good? What was my perspective? What was their perspective? How can we remedy this? When are we gonna check in again? And if this doesn’t change, here’s what’s gonna happen.
Bryan: Hey, let me ask, this is awesome. By the way, I’m looking at it right now because Cheryl was at a conference and she spoke, and she was talking about all this stuff, and I was fascinated, and this is like year or two ago. It’s totally fascinating. I actually emailed her. I actually lost my copy so I emailed her last month and she sent it to me so I’m actually staring at it right now. It’s awesome. The Six W’s, the gift of feedback and there’s actually seven of them, which is funny. That’s because the last one’s like an optional one, I guess, what are the consequences?
Bryan: I’m looking at it right now. This is awesome. I’m over here learning stuff. I do have a question though because one of them is why is this an issue? Why is it a concern? Is the team member aware of the issue? That seems like a question that’s really good if it’s on the critical feedback. But what if it’s on the … I don’t even know the right words for it. But what if it’s a positive thing? Because you -actually mentioned a good thing like, “I was away on vacation, you jumped in, good job.” Number one, how do you remember to have those conversations? How do you bring it up? If it’s a positive thing, do you do the 1 through 10 creating the frame? What’s the full context? How do you actually implement this?
Eddie: Yeah, if it’s positive … And by the way, giving positive feedback is just as important as giving constructive feedback. You wanna create a culture of feedback where when you do things, when the behaviors that you have I’m going to give you feedback on, be it positive or constructive. On the positive side, it’s a lot easier to do the positive in my opinion. I don’t set the zero to six or zero to 10 on the positive side unless I just wanna be hyperbolic and just really praise them in that sense. But, yeah, it’s just the two first items so what did I notice and why was that important?
Eddie: That’s all we touch on with the positive side. That framework is much larger and built out if you’re gonna do constructive because with constructive … we’ve all received constructive feedback. Well, I don’t know of you Yusuf, have you ever had constructive feedback? But we all get constructive feedback where … and there’s that part of you that tenses up and it feels bad. And your stomach starts to grind a little bit, and you want it to still be conversational so that’s why we follow this.
Eddie: It’s normal for you to get constructive feedback. You’re not gonna lose your job just because you’re getting constructive feedback, it’s normal, but we need to go through this so that we can get to the other side.
Yusuf: Yeah, I’ll speak to that. It’s not just normal, for me, I enjoy it. The feedback that I get keeps me straight. The answer that I would give Hannah, to your question about what tools have been useful, not to be trite but my ears I’m a talk first guy. But if I can figure out how to just shut up and listen to what people are saying, what I’ve come to learn throughout my career is that those around you, if you’re on a team of good people. Ultimately, again, the goals are shared and people want what’s best for you. And if you can just listen to the feedback that you’re getting and be humble about it, your team will tell you what you need to know would be better and to better serve them. And, ultimately, that’s gonna work out in your favor too.
Yusuf: The other bit here that I’ll speak on for just a moment is just relationships and I’ll speak about it coming from a macro standpoint and then internally as well. Listening to Eddie talk through the W’s of feedback, Yeske Buie has a longstanding relationship with Abacus. And I know that we borrowed a lot of the thinking behind how to deliver constructive and positive feedback. We’ve bitten bits and pieces from that framework and baked it into our own processes. And similarly with Bryan and the firm that he works at, Joe, we have conversations with their team with regularity.
Yusuf: And I know that several members of our team have a lot of respect for what Joe and Bryan are doing. And so, if you’re able to be humble and just look at what others are doing and how it’s working, that’s a tool. That’s a resource. The last thing that I’ll speak about here, just to share something that we do internally at Yeske Buie, we have an excellence log. And so the team is required to, as individuals, self-report shortfalls, learning opportunities, things that went wrong and identify, okay, how did it go wrong? What needs to be improved?
Yusuf: Is there a process that needs to be changed? Was this a one off? Is this a behavioral thing that I as an individual need to be working on? And then share that with the group at a bi-weekly staff meeting. And then we also do a pretty good job of celebrating wins. And I loved one of the bits that Eddie brought up, it’s just about what you did that was great but why was it great; making a process based feedback instead of just, “Oh Eddie, you’re a great guy,” or, “Bryan, you’re fantastic.”
Yusuf: It’s, “Bryan, it’s your exceptional in, in providing great client service when you do this thing.” And so, helping people identify those behaviors so that you can get more energy around it and repeated instances of that. Those have been impactful things for us to practice.
Bryan: Eddie, did you mention there was another resource that you also use?
Eddie: There is, yes, in terms of delegation guidelines so when I’m willing to delegate a task to you following a process for that. And I’ll send this to you as well, Hannah. I’ll spray the entire process of it. But there is a process for delegating. We’ve all been delegated to before where it just wasn’t good delegation. And for new hires we have them carry their delegation guidelines with them everywhere they go and make them go through the delegation guideline task. This goes to managing up.
Eddie: Whenever they’re delegated to, they have to ask their manager or the person delegating to them to go through this process with them. First you give an overview of the assignment so that’s that piece that we talked about with giving context. How does it fit into the overall business strategy and then talk about hard metrics and so how are we going to determine success, the soft metrics. This is like the behavioral piece of it. How risky is this project? Is this gonna make or break the entire month for the team or is this something that there’s a lot of freedom to fail on this because while it’s important it’s not a risky project.
Eddie: And then what are the resources that are available to help them be successful with that project? What are the boundaries? You’re being clear what they can and can’t do in completing this project. With their possible solutions for it, what are the boundaries? We were all kids and told what our boundaries were when we were kids and it’s kind of the same thing here. Setting the time for completion, so when is this expected to be finished by and when do we need to check in on it?
Eddie: How are you gonna report how you’re doing and what are the expectations here? That’s the guidelines that we follow. It’s a nice little tool. I think as with any tool, it’s a little awkward at first and then you internalize it and it just becomes the way that you delegate. Now, when Cheryl delegates to me, and whether she listens to this or not, I’m okay with her hearing this, oftentimes the delegation doesn’t include all of those steps. And there’s just something that goes off of my brain that says, “Well, we didn’t talk about a time for completion.”
Eddie: And so then that’s the managing up piece. “You told me you want me to do this but how important is this compared to other items that you’ve asked for me to do? How risky is this? What are my resources?” If you lock in your head that when I’m being delegated to I do need to know the context, I do need to know the hard metrics, the resources available, when it’s due, what your expectations are from me, it makes for clear delegation. I’m sure we’re similar to both of your firms here, Yusuf and Bryan, we mess this up sometimes.
Eddie: And whenever there’s a failure at Abacus it’s … 100% of the time when we go back and dissect what went wrong it’s because something got messed up in the delegation of that particular project. There was a failure in that piece of it. And it’s so important for us to delegate well. We get it right a lot but there are plenty of times that the ball gets dropped because there wasn’t good delegation. There wasn’t good communication when that baton was passed from one to the other.
Yusuf: Yeah, that’s a critical thing to bring up Eddie. And I’ll share a recent example just because it’s timely and it’s relevant. In getting back to this piece about remembering what it’s like to be new, one of the things that I struggle with doing on a consistent basis is forcing our residents to provide their plan of action for an assignment before they dive in. And so, I could think that I’ve given clear instructions about how to do an analysis or prepare a report for a client but if I haven’t and they’re off working on something and they’re missing a bit of the framing or the context or they don’t have the process lined up, then, we can end up wasting a lot of time and energy while they try to figure out what I wanted them to do.
Yusuf: If they weren’t quite clear on how important or urgent it was, they may mis-prioritize the work. I had an instance with, with one of our residents just this past week and this individual was working on something for me and it was up until kind of an ungodly hour trying to get it done. And part of the issue was they didn’t have a clear understanding of what they needed to be doing for the analysis. And they ended up doing a great job but probably could have cut down on the time spent by 40 or 50%, which would have been impactful for them.
Yusuf: And they would have been able to either get some rest before a client meeting or work on something else. And so, yeah, when we had the debrief conversation afterwards, it was something I took full responsibility for. That’s on me as a manager. If I’m not doing my job to best deploy our human capital, that’s a failure on my part. The delegation bit and the framing and explaining the process and all those things are huge. And I’ll just add one more thing about deadlines. Deadlines create priority.
Yusuf: And when you know what the deadlines are and then things come up and they may or may not have a greater sense of urgency or importance, knowing what your other deadlines are allows you to discern and reprioritize and figure out, “Well, okay, I can only do one thing at a time. What’s the thing that I have to do right now in this new context?” And that’s a great skill. If you want to manage others, that’s a skill that you need to have.
Hannah: Amy, I see you’ve joined us. Do you have any resources or tools when it comes to managing others?
Amy: My journey to managing people was the school of hard knocks. But several years ago I came across a book called Appreciative Leadership and it changed the way that I looked at managing people. I was only 28 years old the first time I was putting a management role. I wasn’t ready for that but as different jobs came along and opportunities came along one of the things that Appreciative Leadership changed my thought process was that if we focus on what people are good at and we just have them do more of that instead of trying to fix what they’re not good at, then, everybody’s gonna be happy.
Amy: Because some things just aren’t fixable. It’s just, “Now, look, I’ll never be good at running a five minute mile and no matter any amount of training that you ever give me or coaching that you give me, I’ll never be able to do that.| But if somebody coached me at doing math problems in a role like when I was an actuary then that was something I was good at. And they could give me more of that and more of that and I was good at it. And I felt good about what I did. And if people feel good about what they do, they’re gonna continue to do well and the company is gonna continue to grow.
Amy: I think, from a standpoint of tools, it’s always looking at what a person does well and really encouraging them and coaching them to do more of that and either delegate or not do things that just isn’t their God given talent.
Bryan: As far tools and resources and what I found, I don’t have too many tools and resources that I’ve been able to use. I just think that the RAA world, the financial planning world, at least the way that we do it, the way that we say that is right, the way that we’re doing it, there’s not that many resources yet. It’s still like this emerging world so the resources that are specifically made for us aren’t really there yet. The books that you’re mentioning, Appreciative Leadership, those are like classic, classic books but they don’t have anything to do with financial planning.
Bryan: You’re really just taking lessons that are made for just the broader professional world and you’re trying to apply them for the financial planning profession. That’s the first thing I would say. There’s not really too many things made for us. If any of you have actual financial planning management resources or some book out there, feel free to send them my way. And if it doesn’t exist then, maybe, one of us is gonna write it for the first time. The biggest lessons I can take or the biggest resource that I have …
Bryan: I think Yusuf mentioned like listening to like other people, listening to other firms, talking, going to conferences and talking to people, that’s a huge hack into how to do this. It’s just going to a conference, “Hey, how are you doing this? Oh, maybe I’ll do that too.” Another thing that I’ve been doing is I’ve actually been talking to my friends and maybe people I went to college with who are in completely different fields. Like, my friend’s an architect and he’s jumped around a couple of jobs and I basically just ask him, “Why did you quit your other job?”
Bryan: And he starts telling me about his manager and the system and the hierarchy. And I’m just like, “Oh my gosh, that sounds exactly like what I’m hearing from all these other people in the financial planning profession.” We’re all kind of acting the same, like there’s all these similarities in all of us. We just, maybe, forget that we can just ask our friends in accounting or our friends who are at attorney firms. We can just ask them what’s been going on and we can hear their very raw, very honest, no consequence answers and start to adopt it.
Bryan: Like I was talking to my architect friend, I’m like, “Why’d you leave your job?” This was like a week ago and I kept asking me all these questions and he was, basically, referring to the system that it was in was wrong. That’s a huge takeaway. He was like, “Okay, whatever system that we’re in defines how happy the lowest level of people are going to be.” In the unhappy system, basically, he was the workhorse. I mean, you could think of it as what some people call a pair of planner.
Bryan: You’re crunching the software, you’re doing the excel spreadsheets, you’re doing the work. You’re doing the hard work, which is what we all should be doing but that was kind of it. That was all he was doing. Imagine being behind the closed door and you’re just waiting for work and somebody gets you some work to do and they say, “Okay, have this for me by tomorrow.” And you’re like, “Okay.” You do it and you submit your work and you don’t know where that work went, it just kinda goes off.
Bryan: You know it’s probably for some client but you have no idea. He was just kind of hidden from the actual world. He was hidden from the actual business. I’m like, “Okay, well, what do you like about your new job?” And he starts telling me about, “I’m doing the exact same work but I get to see what’s going on. I get to see the impact on the client. I get to see how much money we’re charging these people, all these things, so actually being involved.” And it was just a huge takeaway because I think he’s paid the exact same amount of money.
Bryan: I don’t think anything there changed so if you’re a motivated by money that’s not the only thing. It sounds like the only real difference maker was the fact that now he’s not just feeling like some cog or sprocket in a machine. He’s feeling like, “Oh, I actually get to see what we’re doing.” Eddie mentioned contact a few times and that’s what it is. Whenever you’re a new person and you get to be involved and you get to be in a meeting or you get to actually present the things and you get to see what your work is actually doing, the point.
Bryan: You get to see how much money that clients are paying you, the whole point of what we’re doing … it changes. It changes everything. If I’m taking Yusuf’s thing of learning by listening, I’m asking other people in other fields, “How are you doing it?” Because nobody in my field is talking about it. This is, probably, the first podcast where people are ever talking about managements in the financial planning profession.
Hannah: You bring up a really interesting point and I’ve seen these trends outside of financial planning and also starting to creep into financial planning, this idea of Tim Ferris’s’ four hour work week of if you set up this great process, you can delegate everything out. And it’s this amazing practice then you just gotta get people to do their tasks. What are your guys’ thoughts on that?
Eddie: Maybe I just need that to grow more in that area but I think that’s a little bit of a pipe trim because you don’t delegate and then walk away. I learned that early on. I had a client who was a general surgeon and his children were about the same age as me. And so while he respected what I was saying in the work that I did, he knew that I was part of a bigger group and I was the one getting the work done but not ultimately giving the advice. And I forget what happened but it was something to do with moving some money from his current place of employment, transferring that over to his new place for his disability insurance.
Eddie: And, anyway, I had … Basically it didn’t get done but it got lost within their HR but I was responsible for getting this accomplished. And so, I told him … When we debriefed on it I said, “I called the HR person and set this in place.” And he said, “Well, when did you hear back from them?” I said, “Well, I didn’t.” And he said, “Eddie, let me tell you. I learned this a long time ago,” and here he is talking about doing surgery. But he said, “When I delegate something, I’m not finished with it. I still own it.”
Eddie: And so that’s how it is with us. As we delegate, you can’t delegate and walk away because then you’re putting your putting your clients in the hands of that more junior person. You’re not taking the ownership of being responsible for the task going to completion. Maybe we’ll get to the point where we can just be in the office a fewer hours. I know right now, we’ve got to be accessible to each other. We rely way too much on each other as a team to just delegate and walk away. Others might disagree with me.
Yusuf: Not me Eddie, I’m with you. And I think the keyword there is accessibility. Those who are being led by others need to feel like they have access to leadership. That’s the benefit of having all this institutional knowledge and experience and all that kind of stuff. If your team can’t tap into that, what’s the point? I would very much enjoy the day where I could delegate all my work out and then absolutely, I still would feel the need to check in. And not just on making sure that work was being done but I think to me more importantly is keep the relationship with the team and strengthen it over time.
Yusuf: And I think that’s where a lot of the value that leadership can provide is in building a strong relationship that ultimately feeds into the culture of your firm and enables everyone and empowers everyone to do their best work.
Amy: I think one of the things that we’ve done along those lines because when you start growing from a solo-preneur … Starting my company a couple of years ago and then growing the number of people that we’ve added, trying to figure out how to provide that direction sometimes is a little bit of a challenge. But one of the things that we did, as far as going back to the tools conversation, is I actually added in addition to the one-on-ones that we’re having with people to help them develop is office hours. It’s that assess-ability side of things.
Amy: We have our team meetings and we have our one-on-one meetings but there’s times where we just need to be able to plug in and ask questions. And if time were completely focused on staff and not on clients as well, then, yeah you could be available whenever somebody had a question. But when you’re also running a firm and you’re seeing clients, then, you’ve gotta figure out what that balance looks like and how to be able to treat the people that you’re developing just like they are clients and give them the respect and development and coaching that they need.
Amy: And so one of the things we started doing was the office hours approach so that three times a week for 45 minutes, if you have questions that are burning that just haven’t been able to get into the schedule or you feel unconfident about something or unclear about something, you can just dial in to that time and get clarification.
Bryan: I think you just nailed it Amy because you used the used the perfect word, because you used the word develop. I think there’s really two schools of thoughts. You can use the word delegate and I actually think it’s kind of a dirty word just the way some people are using it. If you take the four hour work week approach … I’ve read the book; I’m a big Tim Ferris’s fan of productivity hacks and all that stuff but a big portion of the book, Four Hour Work Week, which is like a business classic is how to delegate.
Bryan: And he’s giving suggestions on, you’re outsourcing and delegating to people who are in India because they’re super cheap and it’s all online and you’re just giving the work away or you’re delegating all the work that you absolutely hate doing. And that’s great because now you don’t have to do the work that you hate doing and then it’s period, that that’s it. That’s a lot different than actually developing a young person, actually developing somebody who’s really trying to get good at this job, who wants to get good at this job and who is totally capable and you hired them because they are capable.
Bryan: That person deserves to be developed. You hired for capability and if you didn’t think they were capable, you wouldn’t have hired them. If you hire him, you should be developing and cultivating that person so that they can turn into this great planner or whatever it is that they want to be. But still developing is so much harder than just delegating. Developing means that you’re helping somebody grow in their career, you’re helping them not just get better at the job but you’re helping them earn salary raises.
Bryan: You’re helping them be a better person. You’re their coach, you’re the mentor. You’re everything. And that’s just so much harder than just pure delegation.
Hannah: As we wrap up, are there any final thoughts that you guys have about managing others that you wanna be sure that our listeners take away from this conversation?
Eddie: I think as a manager, it’s really important to know the trajectory that the person you’re managing desires. Just in the same way with our clients, we go through goal setting with them and we know what they’re headed toward, what their hopes and aspirations are. I think when I’m managing someone, the more I can just understand about what makes them tick, what drives them, why did they get into financial planning in the first place, where do they want to be five years from now?
Eddie: If I know that I can be a little more thoughtful about how I spend my time with them, the things that I talked to about with them. I think with our clients, you can have a transactional relationship, you can have a consultative relationship or you can have an advisory relationship. It’s kind of the same thing with the people you’re managing. You know what I mean? If they just wanna punch a clock and you just wanna get it done and you wanna treat them like the four hour work week and treat them like an object, I don’t know anyone at Abacus that wants to be treated like that.
Eddie: They’re all there and they all have something that they’re aspiring toward. But to know the people you’re managing at a very human deep level, it helps you with setting their goals, giving them resources, coaching them. Everything Bryan was just saying about having that deeper relationship with them, I agree with that completely. But, anyway, that’s what I’d say. Get to know the person you’re managing a little bit better than you do right now and it will lead to a healthy relationship.
Yusuf: If I could just build on that, we work in the financial arena. We’re constantly looking at return on investment and returns within a client’s account are finite. Returns on investment in the person are truly infinite and it takes time and effort and commitment. But if your objective is to maximize someone’s output and help them self-actualize, now that is the kind of work that we do with our clients. I love that point that you made Amy and treating our team in the same way I think is, ultimately, the best way to approach management.
Amy: I think, from our perspective, one thing that I would wanna say is to encourage people to fail with a drop cloth underneath them. Obviously, we’re in an environment that we don’t want the client to definitely feel that there was any kind of ‘failure’. But allowing a person to not get it right the first time and to understand why it wasn’t necessarily right or to allow them to own the job enough that they feel comfortable, that they can explore what it is that they’re doing and feel okay to fail, I think that’s gonna allow them to self-develop a little bit on their own.
Amy: My biggest lessons come from my biggest failures, right? And so if we can … My vision for this next generation of financial planners, very different than the vision or they experience that I’ve gone through. I’m not one of those people that says I walked up hill five miles with no shoes in the middle of winter and home that way. I’m of the mindset that we all need to be there and support each other and encourage each other and allow each other to experience failure and yet have somebody there to say, “You know what? It’s okay.”
Amy: I’m gonna guide you and hopefully you don’t make big mistakes but it’s okay to fail. That’s not the end of the world. Just let me be the drop cloth that’s here for you, to catch you and to listen to and to explore ideas. I think good managers or good coaches or good mentors ask the question, “Why do you see it that way?” Or if it’s internal, “Well we’ve always done it that way, yes, but do you see a better way or should it be done that way?” And allowing the mind to explore a little bit will really create an amazing, amazing profession in the future.
Bryan: I think I’m gonna work for Amy after all this stuff. You’re nailing everything that I’m thinking. I think the sign of a really confident manager is how easily they give opportunities for their people to pass or fail. And if you fail that’s okay, we’ll get it right next time. But it’s so hard for a manager sometimes to even give the opportunity, give somebody the chance to present over long-term care insurance and tell somebody if they need it or not and just see how they do. And that’s your clients so that’s kinda risky.
Bryan: What if they’re not into it? A sign of a truly competent manager lets you have those opportunities and they know in the back of their mind that they might fail and that’s okay. That’s a big lesson. The difference between a good manager and a bad manager is kind of everything. It’s your daily experience at work, which is most of our lives, at least if you’re putting in the hours I guess. That’s a lesson that they don’t really teach early on. You go to school to learn the trade and the framework of the profession but they don’t teach you about this management stuff.
Bryan: They don’t tell you that the most important question to ask in a job interview is who is my direct manager and who do I go to for feedback? And are they good at feedback? And all those questions. A good manager and a bad manager will dictate your entire trajectory. I don’t think the firm that I was at before, whether they knew how to handle me. I’m kind of a handful. I’m kind of a slow learner too. I wanna do blogging on the side and I wanna talk on Twitter. And in the wrong hands I’m a piece of work but in the right hands and a little elbow grease into me, somehow, I’m eligible for partner within half a decade of being here.
Bryan: And that’s because management and truly developing somebody is everything. It really is everything so that’s my biggest piece of advice for anybody who is even going on a job interview. It’s who’s your manager.