I’ve used a story in two of my books incorrectly.
The story is of a small group of WWII refugees scared so witless they have paid a guide to flee through freezing, mountainous, and enemy-infested terrain into safer territories.
The ordeal takes days.
However, an older refugee finds the pace and path too hard, and can’t keep up.
After one fall too many, he refuses to keep pace.
He wants to be left behind and maintain his own pace.
The guide will have nothing of it. The straggler will be discovered, making the whole group sitting ducks.
The guide gives the straggler an ultimatum as he hands him a baby belonging to a young mother struggling with her children – “If the pace is going to kill you, at least carry this baby until your last step.”
The straggler then carries that baby through the following nights and days into safer territory.
I used to believe this was a story about accountability.
It’s more of a story of support.
When one of us fails, we all do.
Support is essential for any progress in unfamiliar, potentially stressful territories.
Not only for refugees.
Having been conceived during the Keating/Kelty era, the financial advice profession is relatively young.
The typical growth paths today’s business builders rely upon have often been well-trodden by the profession’s rugged individualists.
These award-winning, successful, busy, and well-known individuals have built reputations from their results.
Rugged individuals typify the ‘just do it‘ mantra – a crucial mentality for start-ups when the odds of making a third small business birthday are slim.
The initial clients of rugged individuals were not buying the products or services as much as they were trusting the promises of the rugged individualist to deliver.
And they delivered.
Consequently, the rugged individualist must then confront the inevitable challenges of broadening their capacity, profits, expertise and reputation while striving to achieve a work/life balance.
They understandably believe that central to their growth is replicating themselves – i.e. finding new rugged individualists.
Unfortunately, they can’t clone Mozart.
Their tough search for new clones often parallels ongoing experiments with new hires, systems, tech stacks, outsourcing solutions, offices, joint ventures, licenses, prices, and alliances. They can get distracted by the latest brightest, shiny, new potential solution to addressing their roundabout-like hectic business life.
The greatest strengths of the rugged individualists are their greatest weaknesses.
The oft-quoted adage of a rugged individualist is if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. This attitude ceases to serve their most important plan – their own – as they push themselves and their team members to prioritise their clients’ priorities higher than their own.
The difference between a firm run on the principles of a rugged individualist and a firm run on the principles of building Rugged Teams is the respect, attention and priority paid by team members to the team’s plan.
Like my mistake with the WWII fable, many believe the role of the plan is accountability.
The #1 role of a business plan is support.
When one fails, the whole team fails.
Our chief objective in business is to belong to a team that can help all team members achieve what they are great at.
Growth is lumpy, not linear, usually requiring bigger leaps rather than smaller steps.
Leaping without support is jumping without a parachute.
The lumpy career hurdles that might first appear as insolvable problems are the opportunities sent by the business gods as the clues where to leap towards a higher destiny for individuals and teams.
Facing these breakthroughs honestly, objectively, and collaboratively with supportive team members makes the tricky, new career leaps less challenging, less isolated and with greater potential for progress.
Humans are not wired for leaping.
Going against our DNA’s native gravity to undertake difficult change and career breakthroughs without support is as safe as swimming outside the flags at the beach.
Rugged Teams make these needed challenging leaps a tad easier simply by the sense of support and belonging to the team.
Rugged Teams are everywhere in good sporting teams.
Every member of a sporting team is responsible for the progress and failure of their fellow team members. Whenever the ball is dropped, there are consequences for every team member.
The bonds of Rugged Teams are built upon the support provided for fellow team members stagnating in their career ‘red zones’.
Rather than acting “that’s her problem“, Rugged Teams act “that’s our problem” prioritising the support for their struggling team members to progress without removing the responsibility.
The strugglers who continually don’t take responsibility or fail to perform with support as the role requires to need different plans and paths.
Growth for Rugged Teams is less about increasing revenues, profits, clients or team members and more about objective, measurable progress in careers that enable higher profits, revenues, client satisfaction, team retention or more traditional growth measures.
Some business plans are like architects’ plans, destined to be discarded once the ‘build’ is completed.
Some business plans are sales plans destined to be dumped once the sale is made.
Ideally, business plans are colourful maps showing progress for individuals’ careers and firms across the four growth platforms – Teams, Financials, Advice and Reputation.
Considering the opportunities and challenges ahead for advisory teams and each team’s challenges, you would not want to progress without a Rugged Team supporting you.
What do you reckon?
Picture credit: thenounproject_4101044
ABOUT JIM STACKPOOL
For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His consulting firm, Certainty Advice Group coaches, trains and builds advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice, with fees priced purely on value. He is growing a strong and collaborative community of advisory firms aligned on Australia’s only Certification Mark advice standard for comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice. He has authored four books regarding financial advice with his latest – What Price Value – available now since release in March 2022.