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By David RichmanManaging Director, Advisor Institute

Winning teams are teams in harmony. They form when a culture and construct optimizes the synergistic potential of all team members.

Consider an orchestra analogy—each musician has a well-defined part and they all play from the same musical score. The byproduct is one, harmonious sound that pleases anyone within earshot. As our ears can detect harmony in music, clients and prospective clients can detect whether it's present on a team.

Here are two ways to test whether your team is in harmony.

1. "Cocktail party test." If I meet you and a colleague separately at an event:

  • Will it become obvious to me that you are on the same team?
  • Does your messaging harmonize?
  • Do you describe your team similarly; perhaps deploying the same vocabulary?

2. "Client perception test." Put yourself in the shoes of your clients. When they walk into your office, what do they see, hear and feel? Is there a sense of harmony?

Scoring poorly on these tests is usually a result of inconsistent, misaligned messaging.

One way to address misaligned messaging is with isms—timeless, pithy sound bites that communicate your team's foundational beliefs in a memorable, repeatable way. Isms are a valuable part of team messaging for three reasons:

  1. They connect the dots between your team's belief system and the financial advice you provide to clients.
  2. They ensure consistent messaging across team members.
  3. They can help generate referrals as you organically pop up in conversation between clients and their acquaintances when you are not in the room.

Have a working session to establish your team's isms. You will likely have different isms for investment strategy, financial planning, estate planning and other themes.

Imagine your team comes up with this message about your core investment strategy: "We practice active asset allocation and tactical rebalancing." While this explains what you do, it is not an ism. With further refinement, perhaps this insight turns into an ism, such as: "Buy and hope is not a strategy."

Once you have developed your isms, be sure each team member understands how they should be deployed in conversations with clients and prospective clients.

Bottom line: Isms can help your team have consistent messaging and ensure clients and prospective clients experience a team in harmony.