3 Ways to Build a High-Performing Advisory Team

by HighTower Advisors on September 11, 2019

What’s the difference between a group and a team?

In his keynote speech at the 2019 HighTower Advisor Summit, Jon Fussell, former Navy Lieutenant and founder and CEO of Patriot Leadership Development, asked attendees to consider this question.

According to Fussell, while any collection of people who have regular interaction and frequent contact with one another can be a group, a team is made up of highly-interdependent people with complementary skills who share accountability for achieving their goals.

A lesson he learned during his long career in the military, Fussell deeply believes in the importance of creating and maintaining teams. Over the course of his presentation, Fussell answered audience questions about the hardest thing he’s ever done, talked at length about the ways his Navy training created a team out of his fellow SEALS and explained how advisors can use these lessons to build out their professional teams.

Key points from Fussell’s presentation:

#1 – Good leaders play to individual strengths

In an effective team, everyone brings something special to the table. Whether that’s a keen eye for detail, quick problem-solving, or a skill, a good leader understands how to hire talented people and give them the space they need to shine.

“If you have very capable people, you need to place them in an environment they can thrive in,” said Fussell. “Give them the tools and the autonomy to do their jobs, and they will produce for you.”

#2 – Understanding your environment is critical to success

In addition to being aware of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, you need to be aware of what kind of environment you place them in – basic, complicated, complex or chaotic. Ultimately, this is key to making good hiring decisions: Someone who thrives in a chaotic environment is going to be bored in a basic environment, and someone who does well in a basic environment is going to be out of their depth in a more complex or chaotic workplace.

“The real money makers are the folks who live on that line between complex and chaotic and can cross that line,” he said. “Identifying individuals who can keep their head focused on the job at hand is critical.”

#3 – Every functional team must be founded on integrity, humility, responsibility and accountability

“A group trying to pull something off doesn’t usually end well,” said Fussell. “They’re just in it for themselves, making decisions to preserve their own safety or their own egos.”

Members of teams, on the other hand, are willing to take risks to protect the herd. While in Fussell’s military experience, these risks were often life-threatening, the same concept applies to less intense team building situations. Whether you’re in a team that’s asking you to risk your life or your professional reputation, effective teammates put the bigger picture over their own personal fears.

“You behave differently when you’re a part of a team,” said Fussell. A team with a strong sense of mutual commitment can generate performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.

To learn more about the benefits of joining HighTower’s supportive and collaborative team, email us at

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