Managers are constantly challenged to grow their offices in the most effective manner. As a manager, you are faced with corporate demands to embark on certain initiatives, sell more products, and develop the office. However, you cannot do it alone. You must rely on your registered representatives and staff members to develop their business in a way that supports your efforts.

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This introduces the P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S. model as a tool to promote continuous improvement in your financial services office and in the practices of your producers. Using this approach helps ensure the success of your efforts by avoiding many of the pitfalls that cause the failure of good people and ideas.


Financial consultants are continuously bombarded with so many new educational programs, financial and sales products and techniques that it can be overwhelming. Dealing with clients, colleagues, and the home office provides its own set of challenges. This is done while striving to maintain high quality and dealing with day-to-day problems. Because of such factors, we are facing a crisis in practice management and personal development. However, as the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” implies, there are two potential results of any crisis: Danger and Opportunity.

The Danger

So many new products and services have been introduced that it is virtually impossible to keep up with more than a mere handful of them. New sales approaches and practice management techniques are regularly introduced, but are often counterproductive unless one takes into consideration the entire system. In fact, some business practices, although they may look good and seem logical, are mutually exclusive to systems that you may already have in place. The net result of instituting an ill-conceived idea, may be personal and professional sabotage.

Despite the viability of a new idea, sales associates may respond with a less-than-enthusiastic attitude when asked to change procedures or to implement new strategies. You, yourself, may hesitate to get involved with a new product, promotion, or problem for a host of reasons. Conscious or unconscious responses can sabotage even the best programs and represent a key danger that must be addressed. The feeling that a new program or approach is merely the latest fad may preclude active endorsement. (After all, why expend a lot of effort on a program if another program will be introduced with the next manager, or training program, or within the next few weeks?) Effective teamwork cannot occur if certain team members haven’t bought into the concept.

These and similar factors represent a professional crisis of epic proportions and has resulted in the failure of many of your peers. While most readers of this publication have already attained a relatively high level of professional success, the potential for a crisis (sometimes called burnout, loss of productivity or market share, etc.) constantly exists. Mediocrity is always an available option to those who do not constantly push themselves to higher levels of achievement. The adages, “If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward” and “That which is not growing, is dying” are appropriate here.

It is impossible to emphasize these points too strongly. When dealing with people, unconscious, and sometimes totally unreasonable, reactions occur which have nothing to do with logic. “The way I feel about it” can be the basis for support or rejection of any plan. This is true of all people—yourself, your manager, and your sales/administrative assistants. Just think of some of the reactions you’ve heard to various ideas—good, bad, and indifferent. Each of those reactions was a response to “the way I feel about it” and determined whether something is accepted or rejected. Just because something is logical and beneficial to an office/group/family/individual does not mean that it will be supported. Remember that for many new business approaches to work, many people will have to change the way they are doing many things. For example, certain responsibilities may shift and people (including your administrative team) may be hesitant about any change that can result in (real or perceived) political and/or personal suffering. The possible ramifications are too extensive to be dealt with here. Suffice it to say that unless many important factors are taken into consideration, a new approach is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Before implementing any new approach, it is wise to consider the potential ramifications of that approach to avoid creating more problems than you’ve solved. Here is where the P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S. model is useful. This method is unique in evaluating the issue.

The Opportunities

The opportunities in the word crisis are also quite numerous. Cultural changes, staff development, increased proficiency, and a continually improving business are only a few. Again, the P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S. model will help streamline the accomplishment of your personal and professional goals. Let’s expand on the opportunities a bit.

Most of us can truly appreciate that higher levels of accomplishment are possible in all aspects of our lives. We see it everywhere. Olympians, kids playing sports, adults first learning how to read, people at the highest levels of any profession, business owners trying to maintain excellent service and expand their businesses. Depending on the situation, each is striving and putting forth a strong personal effort. Each person is moving towards a personal “10.” (Of course, what constitutes a “10” changes as our proficiency level increases. A “9” or “10” this year, may only represent a “6” next year.) Those at the top never rest on their laurels, and avoid complacency like the plague. That’s a primary reason that they are at the top.

The readership of Broker Dealer Journal represents some of the best managers within the financial services industry. Yet, regardless of your personal level of attainment, you can become even better. Those who are already superstars can improve through subtle, yet significant, enhancements. Those striving for substantially higher levels of productivity, can certainly streamline their efforts through careful planning and precise implementation of their plans. The P.R.O.G.R.E.S.S. model series will assist you.

The following is a brief overview of each of the components with sample applications for the financial services industry and personal performance. Each segment will be substantially expanded in future articles.










Problem: The current situation is described in objective terminology. If possible, the problem should be stated in a single sentence in order to boil it down to its simplest form and avoid extraneous thoughts. “We’re not getting enough business” should be refined by identifying what type of business/orders you are trying to obtain. Additional questions such as, “What would be enough?” “What is low?” and “What is the basis of comparison?” should be asked. Lack of precision here may actually cause us to solve the wrong problem, or even worse, to create a bigger problem.

Many of us have a tendency to automatically react and try to correct a situation without further analysis such as: Is this a temporary aberration or has sales been declining over a period of months? Is the lower production within office or market norms? Applying specific questioning techniques and other models of “problem identification” allows us to know specifically what we are trying to resolve, thereby significantly increasing our probability of defining the real “root” problem rather than the “surface level” problem.

Reason(s): The causes of the problem are analyzed. The problem should be thought of as a “symptom” of a more complex issue. What is the issue? An employee who misses deadlines may be expressing dissatisfaction with the job. Perhaps there is a problem at home. Forcing the issue may result in “symptom substitution” such as illnesses or being discourteous to clients.

Very rarely is there a simple reason. For example, low client satisfaction ratings might be the result of a change in monthly statement format two or three years ago. The missing deadlines may be the result of an argument with a team member months ago. The point is that there are usually a host of obvious, and not so obvious, reasons. They try to identify as many as possible to insure that your solution will be successful. Rather than concentrating on the symptoms, concentrate on the root causes.

Outcome(s): Outcomes are thought of in two ways. (1) The positive result of fixing the problem or changing the situation. That is, what benefits will be attained through the resolution of the problem? (2) Any “positive intention” that supports the problem. For example, take the sales assistant who never completes her paperwork on time because she wants to give the clients additional time and attention. Dictating that the paperwork be completed, without taking into account the underlying motivations, may cause ill feelings or even client dissatisfaction.

One of the key questions to ask is, “What would stop us from achieving the goal?” The answer often highlights a key reason that must be taken into consideration. Asking this question also points out the resources you need to solve a particular problem. Another question to ask is “What are the possible positive and negative results of this outcome?” That is, what is the outcome of the outcome? For example, a simple solution to reduced business is to work more hours. But, that may have negative consequences for your family, social relationships, health etc. Asking the “outcome of the outcome” question often helps us maintain the necessary balance we need to enjoy our lives. On a purely business or organizational level, it often helps us discover unrealized consequences that may develop.

Goal(s): Goals are statements of the desired outcomes that direct our attention to where we want to go, what we want to achieve, etc. However, goals must meet four key criteria to be effective. They must be:

stated in positives

within your control



Again, examining the outcome of the outcome allows us to consider the domino effect of our solutions. Look at both the positive and negative results that may occur. In a future issue, you’ll see that it is wise to go even further in this analysis.

Resources: Available resources are now considered. Resources may be internal (money available, staff talents, computer capability, research services, etc.) or external (community support, centers of influence, additional funding, mutual fund sponsorships, etc.) It is vital to understand that allocating resources to the achievement of one goal may drain resources from another goal, causing a new problem

Effort: Time and effort must be considered. Staff must be assigned responsibility. Work must be done, changes made. You may have to reduce staff responsibilities in some areas or risk overloading people. An overload may sabotage your new effort. For instance, asking someone to do a new mailing may take him away from other important tasks. What is the outcome of the outcome?

“Is it worth the effort?” should always be asked. Will the effort create additional stress and additional absenteeism? Was the decision to redo the organizational system considered with the entire system in mind?

System: The entire office system is considered here. Many changes (including achievement of certain goals) may have positive and/or negative effects on the entire organization. Stresses on any system fall into a few distinct categories and should be addressed. For example, updating client files may squeeze the capabilities of the support staff. Asking people to become computer literate may drain time and effort from other activities. There is a price for everything, not only in the effort involved but in how the system is affected.

Synergy: Synergy is used here in three ways: (1) the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts; (2) the momentum or multiplier effect (positive or negative) that occurs; and (3) the teamwork required to achieve the goals.

Effective teamwork requires people to merge their capabilities and often give up some individuality. Team leaders need certain skills to motivate and persuade rather than dictate. The former leads to active cooperation and concerned employees, the latter to resentful or uncaring workers. Effectively motivating and persuading people is a skill that few have learned. To accomplish this, leaders must master four areas of Essential Personal Skills — some of which have been addressed in previous articles over the last couple of years. They are:

Relationship Skills

Effective Listening and Questioning

Motivational Management

Maximizing Personnel and Personal Performance

Effective teamwork is further enhanced when interdependence among groups, individuals and processes is demonstrated and emphasized, creating a “dynamic organizational chart.” Once momentum has begun, maintaining these positive shifts can be accomplished through a series of strategic and tactical approaches.

In conclusion

If you apply this developmental model, you’ll find that you will have to do a lot more thinking and planning than you might have otherwise done. The results will be worth the effort. Your goals will be attained because of the contingency planning and the focused attention given. Equally importantly, many errors and false starts (which cause huge amounts of wasted time, effort, and money) are avoided.

Your possibilities are limitless. The potential is enormous. As an individual, you owe it to yourself to make the maximum gains in the most efficient manner. As the leader of your own business unit, your goal must be to create the environment and teamwork conducive to your long term goals.

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Steven Drozdeck is a business consultant and founder and director of both and He has written over a dozen books on sales and management for financial professionals, has trained over 60,000 advisors, and is a regular contributor to numerous industry magazines. You can learn more about him on He can be reached at 435-753-8848.