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How to Boost Innovation, Performance and Leadership: FSI Speakers

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This week’s Financial Services Institute OneVoice 2019 conference in New Orleans served up a full plate of regulatory and industry updates for independent advisors and brokerage firm executives. But it also featured two keynote speeches with healthy servings of tips on innovation and leadership.

Jay Shetty, a motivational video blogger (or vlogger), former Accenture executive and ex-monk, told the crowd on Monday that he likes “to test companies … and see what is happening inside the minds of innovators and the mindset they have developed.”

These insights can help advisors and broker-dealer leaders, he says, so they can see — rather than miss — opportunities “that are right before our eyes.”

We now have technology like robo-advisors that can be placed in our cars and talk to us and online mortgage-savings programs, he said.

But we “are so locked into our daily lives that we miss the things that come up behind us and steal the show,” Shetty said, referring to Blockbuster’s three chances to buy upstart Netflix. “We see this consistently. Opportunities are right in front of us, and we miss them … because we don’t have the mindset of an innovator.”  

A poll of 3,000 executives conducted by Harvard, he explains, finds they believe the future of leadership is tied to being a connected thinker — being able to “find associations between seemingly non-associated things, finding patterns and anomalies.”

And these connections aren’t obvious, Shetty adds; they come from broad networks and different fields — such as how Steve Jobs mixed art and computers at Apple.

When looking for innovation and direction, “The answers in technology do not always come from technology; for finance, not from finance; and for media, not from media,” he explained.

In other words, “You need fresh eyes.”

His second message is to “go all in” with your personality and to fully embrace it in your coaching and support of others.

If you are an introvert, extrovert, taskmaster or people-pleaser, work with those attributes and don’t focus on changing them.

In addition, Shetty said, “Be childlike, not childish.” And when it comes to tackling tough projects and problems, keep in mind that “the brain cannot be logical and truly creative in the same day.”

Trying to accomplish too much at once can lead to burnout and stress, he adds.

Finally, the speaker urged indie advisors and firm leaders to “have a coding mindset, meaning be a consistent, innovative learner.”

Since coding changes constantly, high curiosity and thinking like a student are required.

Shetty suggests diving into different issues and following varied news items and trends on Twitter.

“Be curious and refresh the mind continually. Adopt a behavior of learning by keeping the mind active, stress-free and on a path of progress. Constantly learn and grow,” he said.

Looking at the future, economists suggest the following traits for success, according to Shetty: being a complex problem solver, thinking critically, being creative and being comfortable managing people.  

“All of [these four traits] will help you to be an innovator of the future,” Shetty said.   

‘Tours of Duty’

Author and tech entrepreneur Ben Casnocha says it’s time for financial firms and advisors to talk honestly with employees about their careers.

When businesses “treat people like free agents,” they do not get much commitment or great results from them. Instead, it’s best to work with employees as allies.

“On the first day or so, have honest conversations about what is realistic … and take it slow” as you would a personal relationship, Casnocha said at the closing general session on Wednesday.

In an article he wrote with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh in 2013, the speaker discussed a new framework for working with employees around specific projects or multi-year plans, aka tours of duty.

Tours of duty have four elements: a mission objective, benefits to employees’ careers, benefits to the company and a concrete time horizon or duration.

“No one has to leave the company” automatically when this task is done, Casnocha said. Rather, the framework serves as “an ethical compact to describe expectations.”

It also aims to be a way for managers to have “high-quality career discussions” that can be referred to on a regular basis for “check-ins” with staff.

Managers can ask employees, “What do you want your resume or LinkedIn profile to look like in two years? What should be new?”

And, he stressed, “Make this discussion really concrete. Look at marketable skills, which recognizes the open, free market for labor” that exists today.

It’s also advantageous to help employees expand their “soft assets,” which includes having a robust professional network, strong skills and knowledge, as well as a formidable reputation or brand.

“If you grow your soft assets … you make more money over time,” Casnocha said. This makes it valuable for employees to know and to receive coaching on, rather than being focused on the next raise or change in job title.

“Look at the big picture,” he explained, “which produces both wealth and satisfaction.”

The popular speaker admits that it is “very hard to be a manager today,” when employees are looking for self-actualization, a purposeful life, professional success and more.

“You may hire employees, but human beings show up,” Casnocha said.

If you want your advisory practice or wealth firm to be more than “a career parking lot, make it a career launching.”  

As advisors do with investor clients and prospects, they should do with staff: Craft conversations carefully, be honest and open up on your vulnerabilities to build trust, he adds.


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