Dealing with Your Less Experienced Team Members

August 5, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.
Dear Bev,

Are we the only place where the soon-to-retire advisors struggle to communicate with the newer staff members? We are not as tech-savvy or are marketing-savvy as they are, but they could learn a lot from our experience too. They seem too cocky to me, and I don’t know how to get through. Any suggestions?

Frank F.
Dear Frank,

Are you sure it is only the newer advisors that are hard to reach? Do you think they may experience the same issue getting through to the older, more-experienced advisors? I hear a great deal about multi-generational issues. We’re living in times when three or four generations can work side by side, and life-expectancy projections say that we may have a time where there are five. That means that an advisor could be working with colleagues who could be their great-great-grandchildren! This is a very real issue for this industry as well as many others.

There are some obvious differences among the generations, as you point out in your note to me – technology being the biggest one. Communication styles and approaches could also differ, though it’s harder to chalk that all up to age.

It’s very important to make sure you don’t treat your younger team members as if they have nothing to share because they are newer than you are. They may have insights and ideas that you have not thought of. They may be much more willing to listen to your ideas if you are willing to listen to theirs. Create an environment in which advisors – of all ages – are sitting together and talking about what’s working and what’s not. You don’t have to share all of the information about the firm with everyone, but have open meetings so that everyone can learn from one another.

Get to know each person and his or her needs. As younger advisors raise concerns or struggle with issues, provide coaching or mentoring from someone outside of the firm to help them. Sometimes bringing in a third party can be a good alternative to telling them what to do and how to do it.

In my personal experience, if you treat people with openness, honesty and respect, you can’t go wrong no matter how old they may be.


Dear Bev,

Is there an easy way to teach our advisors how to be problem solvers and not problem finders? I tell them to bring me solutions, not problems, but all I hear are the problems.

Dan G.
Dear Dan,

Count yourself lucky that they are still coming to you and telling you what’s going wrong! I advise clients to be thankful when they hear from their staffs. It’s the problems you are not hearing about that could cause you the real headaches.

That said, I agree that most people are not taught good problem-solving skills. In addition, some office cultures actually punish people who try something but then fail. If that’s the case in your firm, you won’t find many of your advisors stepping out with new ideas unless they are certain of the outcome.

Here are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Ask your employees to have a facilitated session (you can use an outsider or have someone in the firm do this) and raise the three biggest obstacles to the firm’s success. Ask them to brainstorm ways they could overcome these obstacles and then agree on the best ideas to bring forth to you. Your job will be to listen well, reward the brainstorming and not be overly critical of what they bring.
  2. Institute a reward system for new ideas. Publicly acknowledge those people who do suggest things that are helpful to the company and can solve a problem.
  3. Seek to listen and learn. If there are people who are telling you things aren’t working, seek them out and engage them in conversation. Try to understand more about the issue. What is the impact? What have they tried? Engage in a dialogue, so they know you are interested and want to be helpful in the brainstorming and problem-solving process.

You do not have to solve all of the problems, but you can do a lot to create an environment where people feel confident in suggesting new ideas, implementing them and bringing forth solutions.


Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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