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Why 2021 Requires a New Mindset

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This year has been one unlike any other. While we are all looking forward to the calendar turning over and a COVID-19 vaccine becoming widely available, the truth is that we are technically still in a crisis that won’t simply go away on Jan. 1.

And we are not in one crisis; we are experiencing many. In addition to economic struggles, advisors and their staff are dealing with kids not in school, unanticipated technological issues and too much change to handle all at once.

When we are overloaded, strategic planning becomes more challenging. Therefore, as we head into 2021, advisors need to change the way they think about strategic planning.

For example, telling your clients they should make big, life-changing decisions during a transitional time in their lives would not be providing sound advice. In the same vein, now is not the time for most advisor firms to make big, company-changing decisions.

This is what advisors need to do instead: Focus on the now.

Given the amount of change we are experiencing today in both our professional and personal lives, advisory firm leaders should stay focused on day-to-day activities instead of projecting into the future.

Even though employees, partners and boards may want to know what your 2021 plan is, the challenges of 2020 will continue into the new year — and we have to continue to act as if we are in a crisis.

This means that leaders need to put their focus on the daily needs of their team, not setting goals for where they want their company to be at the end of next year  which could look very similar to the one we are about to finish.

Not ‘Normal Times’

In the current COVID-19 context, if you move beyond a daily focus then it’s all too easy to exhaust your workforce. And let’s be honest, your workforce already is exhausted.

In normal times, an owner would map out the next year’s strategies and run an analysis of how achievable they are with current resources.

But today, advisor owners should start each day by asking themselves: “What is the one small thing I can do today to ease the burden on my workforce?”

In this unpredictable environment, the only thing that matters is responding appropriately to what is happening right now. If you put your focus on the future, you’ll end up asking your team to accomplish goals that they may not realistically accomplish.

In normal circumstances, your team deals with competing priorities at work tied to client service, annual reviews, new tax policies, etc. Today, though, you have those same priorities but also must layer on competing factors as we work at home with families.

Think of your workforce as your firm’s “essential workers”. Without your advisors, operations staff and client service associates, your firm wouldn’t run at its optimal efficiency.

So when you feel yourself speeding things up, remember to pause. You can easily walk yourself or your people off a stress cliff by demanding too much during the present time of change and multiple crises.

The art of managing others well means being able to recognize when you’ve reached that cliff, standing there and then walking back  instead of rushing over the edge.

The reality is that while building strategies for 2021 might seem like a great endeavor for you as a leader, your people need the most attention right now.

By giving your workforce this attention and by putting your strategic focus on your people, you’re giving them what your business most needs today: the ability to power through and keep working as successfully as possible as we head into a new, very unpredictable year.