As I’ve stated in previous columns, advanced planning for affluent families requires a detailed discovery step to even reach the point where discussions about solutions can take place. Those discussions, which are most properly conducted with an ad-hoc team of appropriate professionals, can run smoothly leading up to comprehensive solutions and documents. Or, they can get stuck in the muck of egos and interpersonal politics, taking much longer to arrive at something resembling consensus. Most advisors have probably experienced more of the second variety, and they can relate many stories of the one member who derailed the team proceedings with his own need to control meetings. A team of experienced advanced planning collaborators, however, works thoroughly and efficiently, even as members engage in deep debates about the appropriateness of various solutions to particular client goals.
Leaders vs. managers
One central factor of successful teams is intelligent leadership, which is distinct from good management. “The leader’s job is to mobilize, focus, inspire and recharge the energy of the team they lead,” says Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of the Energy Project and the author of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance.” “That’s as relevant if you have three people in a group as if you have three thousand. The qualities of a great leader are found first in the qualities of a great human being.”
Schwartz identifies four capacities for leadership that have direct applicability to advanced planning teams:
1. Leaders recognize strengths in others that they don’t necessarily see in themselves.
An estate attorney in New York with excellent interpersonal skills—and patience—was particularly good at explaining wills and trusts to less sophisticated clients who typically didn’t deal with financial and legal matters. An advisor who worked with him on client solutions greatly appreciated these strengths since he often had to explain the legalese and its implications to other clients when another attorney prepared the documents. Another way leaders demonstrate this capacity is by mentoring junior professionals, noting when they’re ready to observe and perhaps even participate in advanced planning.
2. Leaders understand what drives others to a higher mission and sense of personal fulfillment.
Leaders are emotionally intelligent and know that how they make people feel directly influences how they perform. One extreme example is the efficient, but insensitive office manager who barks instructions to the staff, but doesn’t understand or even recognize the resentment this approach creates. In an advanced planning group, a leader acknowledges the contributions of each member to show that they’re valued.
The higher mission is often satisfied by the long-term financial security and risk reduction a good plan can provide for the client’s family and from fulfilling admirable philanthropic goals.
3. Leaders provide a clear vision of success and enlist everyone’s talents to achieve it.