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Financial Services Exam Priorities: Hearsay Compliance Shares What to Expect in 2021

In keeping with annual tradition, the US Financial Industry Regulators have published their respective Examination Priorities for 2021 (See SEC, FINRA, NAIC, OCC). Not surprisingly, they share a number of overlaps, with the pandemic and the implications of a potential continuation of remote work playing a large role across the board. Regulators continue to examine how financial services firms interact with their audiences, in order to ensure a responsible approach  geared towards fair and balanced outcomes.

Although they’ve clearly outlined specific activities they view as counter to fair and balanced outcomes, it is clear that regulators are moving more towards principles-based enforcement. The perennial reminder to include appropriate disclosures, robust supervision regimes, and consistent books and records is, of course, restated within these priorities letters. However, an important call-out is that the regulators are becoming more explicit with regards to checking for non-monitored activities, in the spirit of refocusing towards outcome-based priorities.  

FINRA, in particular, has expressed the most explicit requirements around proactive monitoring for communications with the public. Not only are member firms required to monitor unapproved channels, they’re also required to stay abreast of new tools, features and channels, and must ensure their policies are up-to-date with regards to what’s permissible on existing and future channels. 

Not all firms are required to adhere to FINRA’s strict requirements; however in our view, this is a critical development, as firms have historically been able to remain confident that a policy-based prohibition on certain communications channels was sufficient for regulators. As the regulatory environment progresses, firms should review their policies and procedures to expand their prohibition policies. Ideally, firms should update their electronic communications surveillance systems to monitor for “channel-hopping” (moving from monitored to non-monitored channels, e.g. email to text), and include robust testing procedures to establish a reasonable basis for disproving channel-hopping.

For assistance updating your policies and procedures, or preparing for upcoming regulatory audits, don’t hesitate to reach out to Hearsay’s in-house Compliance practice, or your sales representative.

Webinar Recap: Highlights from Putnam Investments’ Annual Social Advisor Survey

In a recent webinar, Mark McKenna, Putnam Investments’ Head of Global Marketing, joined Hearsay’s VP of Marketing, Leslie Leach, to highlight key findings from Putnam Investments’ 8th Annual Social Advisor Study, along with year-end data from Hearsay’s platform. Not surprisingly, this year’s results were a little different, as agents and advisors alike pivoted their strategies to adapt to a socially distanced world.

Here are four key findings from the program: 

Social media not only sustains, but drives new client relationships
With a huge shift away from in-person communications and events, digital noise on traditional channels increased significantly, with an accompanying decrease in engagement. Although advisors may have already been connected with clients on social media pre-pandemic, the crisis drove an increase in sheer volume of interactions. Not only were advisors expected to communicate with current clients, they also leveraged their online presence to garner new business, exploiting features like LinkedIn’s view of 2nd and 3rd degree connections, InMail and Sales Navigator to effectively prospect to an expanded network. The study also found that lesser-used networks like Instagram had higher engagement rates, highlighting an area of opportunity for advisors.

Retaining authenticity remains critical for breakthrough
Being able to stand out among the noise is now a crucial day-to-day consideration for advisors. Not only do they need to provide thought leadership via social media, they also need to be more personal, striking a balance between providing corporate content and connecting on a more authentic level with clients. Advisors who shared more personalized content were rewarded with higher engagement rates across their social media accounts. 

Pro tip: Leslie recommended leveraging Hearsay’s modified content templates as a scalable solution. “By their nature, modified content templates are easier and faster to review from a supervision perspective, combining corporate scale with the ability to easily personalize content at an individual level.”

Direct messaging satisfies the need for speedier response time
Because advisors could no longer hold in-person meetings, the use of digital tools like social DMs, text messages, mobile calls, and emails, grew significantly, along with a more pervasive client expectation for quicker response times. 

An advisor’s response time can make or break a client relationship, and advisors rose to the challenge. Texting conversations on Relate, Hearsay’s compliant texting solution were up 3x compared with 2019, while the average response rate was 13 minutes, versus the industry standard of 14 hours for an email. With more widespread acceptance, and the ability to enforce compliance, in-app messaging is proving to be an indispensable tool for field teams. 

Support from the home office matters
With a shift to remote work, advisors still require the same amount of support—if not more—from their home offices. Advisors all learn differently, so remembering that different training modalities work for different people, and providing various learning tracks, templates and models, helps to speed adoption. It’s important for advisors to connect where their clients want to connect, and with proper support for the home office, advisors can be more efficient in their client engagements.

A huge thanks to both Mark and Leslie for sharing the key findings and observations from Putnam’s Social Advisor Study and Hearsay’s 2020 platform usage and results! Sign up to access the on-demand webinar here.

Retain and Grow Relationships

This is the final post in the “Last Mile of Digital Maturity” series. Read part 1 here, part 2 on reaching and attracting the right prospect here, part 3 on scale and orchestration to target the right prospect here, and part 4 on nurturing and converting new business here.

While new client acquisition is important, meeting overall business targets demands that firms maintain and build on existing relationships. The best leading indicator for continued business growth and retention is a steady volume of 1-to-1 conversations with clients. More consistent, personal communications translate to deeper relationships which build trust. 

Establish a Cadence

We all know that relationships are built over time, whether personal or professional. It’s critical that your field regularly engages with clients—reaching out on a birthday or graduation, proactively scheduling annual reviews or recommending coverage changes—while also staying top of mind during less predictable moments of market volatility or turmoil.

To develop these communication rhythms, firms need to embrace digital channels that encourage usage, promote the right behaviors, and measure adoption, as digital programs are of little value if they’re not being utilized. 

Surface the Right Behaviors

Core systems like CRM are important to the enterprise, but self-recording activities are time- consuming and take away from a rep’s core business. Often, data doesn’t get entered unless automated, and many firms have no idea how frequently and effectively their reps are engaging with prospects and customers. 

Without this data, corporate marketing messages can be off-target or tone deaf. To truly understand the last-mile engagements that deliver an authentic experience, firms must arm themselves with the data that enable them to deploy a more advanced, personalized content strategy aimed at cross-sell and up-sell. Likewise, sales and distribution leaders can better assess the success rate of various techniques. 

Mature firms are addressing this process head on by automating this process, ensuring interaction data feeds business intelligence, CRM and core systems to guide actions. Data holds the key to these insights—but firms must invest in an infrastructure that automatically captures this activity. Only then can you identify the opportunities that truly optimize your approach. (Learn more about how strategic integrations allow firms to enrich CRMs and turn every rep into their best rep in our white paper.)

Deliver a Best-in-Class Client Experience

In financial services, the most telling indicator of client retention is last-mile engagements. Most programs should aim to facilitate a minimum of 10 personal touch points per client, per year. The most mature firms leverage a digital platform and data to guide the field to deliver a consistent experience to every client, maximizing the value of these touch points to drive optimal behaviors. By guiding and lightly prompting field outreach during key moments, they’re increasing the likelihood of more consistent outcomes that translate to deeper, more entrenched client relationships. 

Interested in helping your field build deeper relationships and grow their business? Download our white paper now

Nurture and Convert New Business

This is part 4 in a series on the “Last Mile” of Digital Maturity. Read part 1 here, part 2 on reaching & attracting the right prospect here, and part 3 on scale and orchestration to target the right prospect here.

Content strategy has evolved, and it’s big tech that’s set the agenda. Clients and prospects demand a personalized—-and cohesive—experience across channels. Winning firms that use targeted, timely content seamlessly between channels are accelerating business conversion and growth, thanks to a coordinated engagement strategy.

Know Your Audience(s)

Marketing departments (rightfully) invest heavily in getting to know their end customers. But effectively communicating with them requires understanding and balancing the needs of the advisors and agents who take care of them. Not surprisingly, their diversity—across age, gender, race, interests and specialties— is indicative of a variable understanding of, and appetite for, digital adoption.

Since no two advisors are alike, it’s critical to tailor your approach when building digital programs. A good foundation takes advantage of segmented user groups to coach digital behaviors and design content and channel strategy. 

Foundations of a Balanced Content Strategy

  • Balance automated (campaigns) and personalized (modified, original) strategies to engage clients, across channels, including social and texting.
  • Develop a comprehensive content tag strategy to cater to your advisor/agent population and inform client preferences.
  • Embrace data. Define targets at the outset, and ensure the infrastructure is in place to measure your efforts and evolve your approach.
  • Build a strong partnership with compliance. Find balance between innovation and risk by inserting compliance directly into the ideation or strategy phase. (Learn more about why compliance is your ally in our white paper.)

Having a foundational understanding of your clients and user base will help you develop the systems to improve your program at scale.

Develop your Infrastructure

With a balanced content strategy in place, it’s time to ensure that you have the tools and systems required to drive relevant, powerful messaging across the key channels of social, websites, mobile calling, and text messaging. Clients demand choice, and your field needs to be ready and willing to meet them where they are.

Mature programs are also syncing customer engagement activity with core systems (CRM, CDP, CMS, etc.) to gain a comprehensive omni-channel view of customer engagement. For example:

  • Social programs can sync engagement data to enrich systems like their CDP or CRM, which allows for a more complete view of contacts and leads. 
  • Texting and mobile calling programs can connect with a CRM to initiate two-way activity sync, which allows measurement of engagement frequency with contacts and leads. 

Developing an integrated ecosystem puts firms in position to reach clients with the right message on the right channel. But to truly optimize these efforts, they need to guide their field to engage at the right moment.

Initiate Proactive, Omni-Channel Workflows

Leading firms are leveraging their digital platforms to systematize field outreach seamlessly across channels in pursuit of outcomes like improved conversion and business growth. 

By leveraging omnichannel workflows triggered by CRM and other core systems, firms can optimize lead management by engaging leads quickly, effectively, and measurably. 

Are you ready to win higher conversion rates, more satisfied customers, and more loyal advisors and agents with better nurture and conversion? Download our white paper now

Are You Ready? FCA Restatement Puts UK Social Media Programmes on Alert

The FCA recently published guidance reiterating a long-standing mandate of the regulator: the onus is on FCA-regulated organisations to monitor employee behaviour for bad actors. Therefore, even if conduct isn’t tied to a specific rule, poor behaviour that results in someone getting harmed will see the FCA take action.

For firms doing business in the United Kingdom, it’s time to ask whether you are sufficiently prepared for the restatement of this mandate. Essentially, the FCA is putting those firms on notice that certain activities that pertain to conduct—including communications across social networks—will now be under greater scrutiny. 

In conjunction with the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (“SMCR”), which makes senior management accountable, the FCA’s restatement puts further responsibility on leadership to ensure their employees are acting in a way that is consistent with their policies.  

To proactively manage this risk, forward-looking programmes should review their compliance and supervision policies and procedures to ensure that they account for the FCA’s guidance, and that the four pillars of a robust compliance programme are fit-for-purpose.

Anyone involved in a client engagement programme (marketing, compliance, sales) can utilise the questions below to assess the readiness of their existing programme.

  • Policies
    • Have you outlined acceptable behaviour as it relates to electronic communications?
    • Have you defined which channels (SMS, social media, instant messaging) are permitted, and by whom?
    • Do you have a procedure in place to periodically review and update your policies as needed?
    • Is your senior leadership involved in the sign-off of those policies?
  • Content
    • Do you have controls in place to ensure you’re distributing only fair and balanced (not misleading) content?
    • Do you have a way to monitor for recommendations that may not be appropriate for either content or audience?
    • Have you held training sessions with your employees on policies, including recording attendance?
  • Supervision
    • Have you assessed your pre-approval and post-approval breakdown of financial promotions to ensure appropriateness for your business model?
    • Do you have lexicons in place that block or flag problematic content?
    • Are there people in the approval workflow with the requisite training and/or experience?
    • Does your Senior Management have sufficient insight into your electronic communication regime, including social media or text messaging, to satisfy their Duty of Responsibility under SMCR?
  • Archiving
    • Are you capturing all of your social media posts, profiles, and audit trails for each step during the approval workflow?
    • Are they being stored in a way that is consistent with the applicable regulations (e.g. durable media for MiFID-related communications)?
    • Do you have a way to reliably and quickly retrieve these records in the event that you need them?

While these are not the only questions that a Senior Manager should ask, they can lay the groundwork for an internal dialogue that reassesses your response preparedness. All firms should strive to understand the implications of this restatement, and enforce effective policies and procedures as part of their ongoing oversight. 

How Scale and Orchestration Can Help You Target the Right Prospect

This is part 3 in a series on the “Last Mile” of Digital Maturity. Read part 1 here, and part 2 on reaching and attracting the right prospect here.

Reaching and attracting the right prospects calls for a strong digital presence with credibility. Once that’s established, it’s time to to turn to scale and reach. At the program level, firms need to encourage repeatable behaviors that position advisors and agents to achieve sustained reach, while cultivating the mindshare required to attract business. 

But as social selling grows increasingly competitive—with more entrants and more sophisticated network algorithms—programs must help their users build and evangelize best practices. Firms in this stage of maturity can look closely at a few areas: weekly publishing targets, campaign subscription rates, and monthly new connection targets. (Learn more about which usage and impression indicators deliver scalable trends in our white paper.)

Improving Scaling and Consistency with Integration
Once best practices are in place, firms should seek to strategically integrate digital programs with their core technology. Key integrations improve ease of use and can improve field efficiency and productivity. For instance, at Hearsay, we’ve partnered with firms to:

  • Centralize social, websites and web listings management into a single workspace. A consolidated offering across these channels ensures consistency and boosts SEO.
  • Configure websites to capture contact/lead information and integrate with CRM or other lead management platforms. This allows for more seamless, authentic lead engagement by accurately assigning leads to the appropriate advisor/agent for follow-up.
  • Sync texting programs with CRM to make contacts more accessible and accelerate usability and adoption. This also allows for the capture of last-mile interaction data.
  • Evolve compliance programs to ensure risk is accounted for as your digital efforts scale. Properly managing compliance risk requires regular assessment of the compliance strategy, fine-tuning of policies & procedures, and technology.

Integrations like this pave the way for firms to further optimize their efforts.

Orchestrating the Optimal Approach
Of course, reaching your audience is only half of the equation; you also need to attract the right clients into your funnel. This is easier said than done, particularly when your advisors and agents have other responsibilities beyond new business generation. 

To optimize the funnel and attract the right prospects, mature firms are taking steps like the ones below to become increasingly targeted in their approach. 

  • Social campaigns can be tailored by region, persona, or area of expertise to align more appropriately with your audience.
  • Web traffic click through rates and website attribution targets can measure the efficacy of your content and approach.
  • Daily active usage of technology is a strong indicator of results. Your field is more likely to keep coming back when they see tangible value.

Even after a target audience is captured, mature firms leave nothing to chance. They have a cohesive social and website experience that locks prospects in during the discovery phase and strategically routes leads to the appropriate advisor or agent in real time. They prescribe digital prompts to guide proactive communications, ensuring a consistent, authentic approach across the field. 

Deploying best practices in the field while integrating core technologies with a targeted approach can vastly improve scale and reach to your target prospects.  To delve into why this is so important, and some specifics around follow-up timing (it’s everything), download our white paper on“Last-Mile Digital Maturity.

Reaching & Attracting the Right Prospect

The First Step in Developing Last-Mile Digital Maturity

As we shared in our first blog post of this series, a new phase of digital maturity is underway. Transformational financial services firms are proactively orchestrating how the field engages with clients in the “last-mile” and guiding seamless handoffs between channels to deliver business outcomes.

Guiding your field to deliver outcomes at scale is difficult. It takes time to set up the right framework, mine the data, and leverage technology to scale efforts across a distributed network of advisors and agents. COVID placed immediate pressure on firms to rethink service offerings and accelerate digital adoption; these changes will be entrenched amongst the most digitally mature.
But transformation doesn’t happen overnight: The first step in the digital maturity journey is building the consistency and scale needed to cultivate brand awareness and acquire leads.

The Building Blocks of Reach & Attract

In this age, a credible digital presence and robust social media profiles are table stakes for advisor and agent validation. Recent research shows it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand once they’ve seen your profile or website. Not surprisingly, consumers frequently visit a number of sites to conduct research on financial services decisions. Prospects in an investigative phase will gravitate toward advisors with a strong digital presence. Think of it this way—would you go to a restaurant that wasn’t reviewed online?

How can firms help their teams meet this demand? It starts by building a strong social presence across the corporate brand and the field. Tapping into the network effect of social media, firms can reach a wider range of clients and prospects across demographics and regions. But credibility is key: In our analysis, advisors and agents with professional-quality profiles are 7x more likely to be called for a referral.

A cohesive strategy around social and web programs helps drive leads and increase conversion rates – that’s why it’s critical to empower your field with personalized, content-rich and SEO-optimized websites. Leads in financial services are predominantly sourced at the individual level, so a firm’s ability to deliver their field personalized websites at scale, while remaining aligned with corporate messaging, can promote a seamless client journey that captures leads while maintaining a consistent and rich brand experience.

Establishing Digital Credibility

In working with enterprise clients over the past decade, we’ve found a few consistently clear indicators for social media presence success:

  • Personalized, content-rich and SEO optimized websites for >90% of field teams.
  • At least 75% of the field has a complete social media presence. This includes: a professional photo, branding, and information detailing areas of expertise.
  • At least two major social networks are activated. While firms may gravitate toward a particular network, embracing the flexibility to connect with customers on their preferred network—which may be Instagram—is important.

These measurable steps to establishing digital credibility are the building blocks for achieving the consistency and scale needed to build your brand and acquire leads.

Attribution and Measurement

You’ve no doubt heard that what gets measured is managed. Yet one metric that is often underutilized is click-level attribution, which allows firms to evaluate the effectiveness of content, segmentation, and users, as well as assess ROI.

With Hearsay’s URL Attribution tool, firms can tag social media content with unique UTM codes to monitor inbound website traffic from social media down to the hierarchy, user, and content level. This can then be compared to organic, paid and referral traffic, and assigned a tangible ad equivalency value.

For one Hearsay customer, this level of data granularity underscored a significant increase in social traffic, and click-level attribution is now consistently a top driver of overall web traffic. This has had a tangible business impact—alongside their single customer view (a consolidated database which ingests information from their CRM, email and website analytics), social analytics help drive a deeper analytical understanding of their investor base. For instance, they now know prospects arriving on their website from social are more likely to invest than those arriving from other channels.

Supervision to Mitigate Risk

Finally, to mitigate risk and, where necessary, properly supervise client engagement activity, channels need to connect with a platform that allows for scalable monitoring, supervision, and potential remediation of client engagement activity. An essential building block for any digital engagement program is a framework for risk mitigation. When client engagement channels are connected to a unified supervision platform, your teams have a single platform to review multiple channels, streamlining efforts so they can focus more effectively on risk control.

With these foundational pieces in place, mature firms are integrating core technologies to build economies of scale and reach even more clients and prospects.

Next time, we’ll take a look at achieving scale and consistency in the reach and attract phase of lead generation and client engagement. And just like last week, if you can’t wait to learn more, download the full white paper now.

Stop the insanity! What financial services firms can learn from the GameStop frenzy

Accessing—and acting upon—financial advice seen on social media platforms is nothing new. But not until the recent trading frenzy around GameStop has this new reality come under sharp scrutiny. After retail investors on a Reddit discussion board drove an astronomical increase in stock value, GameStop stock is now sharply falling. The resulting volatility has led to a market valuation swing of over $30 billion for the company in just this year.

The potential for outsized risk and high-stakes consequences resulting from crowdsourced actions born on social media platforms has never been more apparent. And while the reputation risk for firms that must oversee advisors’ social media behavior has always been a concern, the legal risk is real as well.

To protect themselves and their advisors on social media, financial services firms can implement three key steps:

  1. Communicate a clear social media strategy for personnel. This should include how and what channels they can use, the content they can publish—including which original content or corporate-provided content they may modify—and what supervision process they need to undergo. Additionally, the policy should address firm expectations pertaining to the use of social media during non-business hours, any prohibited use-cases, and include the repercussions of not abiding by the policy.
  1. Employ automated supervision workflows to review advisor-created content prior to posting. This can be made more efficient by using a tool like Hearsay, which surfaces and remediates sensitive communications via an AI-powered alert system, so that supervisors can focus on high-risk violations. 
  1. Test adherence to the policy. In addition to having advisors attest to their understanding and adherence to the social media policy, firms should implement a program to test that social media usage aligns with the policy.

One takeaway from the past few weeks is that there continues to be a huge desire for financial advisors and their clients to connect and communicate using social media. At Hearsay, we saw a 24% increase in advisors actively using social media across our platform in 2020 vs. 2019. And a 2020 advisor survey by Putnam Investments found that 9 in 10 advisors say that not only has social media changed the nature of client relationships during the pandemic, but that this change is here to stay. Given the potential impact to an organization’s reputation and the viral nature of this medium, firms need to establish and secure proper guardrails in order to support and enhance the connections enabled by social media, while minimizing the risks.

Welcome to the “Last-Mile” Digital Maturity Series

A new phase of digital maturity is underway. Transformational firms are optimizing across the client journey, proactively orchestrating the way in which the field engages with their clients in the “last-mile” and guiding seamless handoffs between channels to deliver business outcomes.

To help you get there, Hearsay has developed a framework for how you can evaluate your path to digital maturity. Along the way, we’ll provide insights and identify opportunities to accelerate your progress along the maturity curve. 

Over the next few months, we’ll share weekly blog posts with the framework components. This framework allows you not just to identify where your program sits, but to illuminate key areas for program growth that deliver the outcomes your business demands. 

But first, let’s start with why it matters.

The most digitally mature firms are enabling frequent and targeted engagement between advisors and clients. These interactions deepen the relationship between the advisor and client, and are what we call the “last-mile.” In a crowded, commoditized marketplace, this is the most differentiated experience you can offer so advice must be delivered in a human way to resonate.

As the ways to digitally engage clients have proliferated, leading firms have begun to recognize the need for an integrated and cohesive technology ecosystem. Their digital programs have become more systematic, and their digital platforms more integrated across their core technologies. 

Our aim is to align your program with your business objectives – centered around three key outcomes – shifting your focus toward the digital actions that drive the most success.

  1. Reach & Attract – Achieve the consistency and scale needed to build brand and acquire new leads
  2. Nurture & Convert – Optimize engagement to influence new business generation.
  3. Retain & Grow – Leverage digital to drive better client support and boost loyalty and retention.

Guiding your field to deliver these outcomes at scale is difficult. It takes time to set up the right framework, mine your data, and leverage technology to scale your efforts across a distributed network of advisors and agents. 

A new breed of marketing organizations, alongside a new generation of advisors and agents, are leveraging digital channels to find new ways to reach and attract clients and prospects. COVID-19 accelerated this transformation. Digital activities are more critical than ever when the field cannot participate in physical top of funnel activities like local sponsorships etc. COVID has put immediate pressure on the industry to rethink service offerings, and explore digital as a way to keep their business moving forward. Looking to the future, these behaviors will be entrenched amongst the most digitally mature. We’ll get started next week by discussing the foundational elements you need to Reach & Attract prospects. 

If you can’t wait to learn more, download the full white paper now.

Leading Through Change: How to Motivate and inspire Teams into 2021

Across the course of 2020, a multitude of articles have been released sharing leadership strategies to help us navigate through uncertain and trying times. Leaders across organizations have devoured this guidance as they found there to be no playbook for 2020 and craved expert insights. But now, as we turn into 2021, leaders are asking themselves, how can I do more than just progress into the new year; how can I bring a renewed sense of motivation and inspiration to my team?

We asked Kim Sharan, former CMO and President of Financial Planning and Wealth Strategies at Ameriprise Financial, current board director, and consultant, to join an intimate roundtable discussion with senior financial services leaders to explore exactly that. What strategies can we bring with us into 2021 to break free from leadership fatigue and burst into 2021 revitalized.

To start, Sharan suggests we shift our mindset around work/life balance and move towards the concept of designing a work/life integration. Especially in times when there is no clear break or boundary between these two worlds, it’s necessary to reframe our approach and adjust our viewpoint. For example, as these two worlds meld into one, it is critical that we take intentional breaks. As we all lose control of our own calendars and impromptu conversations have morphed into scheduled calendar invites, it’s important to pay special attention to time management, plan your day, and be intentional about it. Schedule time blocks for activities that would naturally be happening as you commuted or walked from the bathroom back to your desk. Schedule walk breaks, nourishment breaks, and especially time to think. Science shows that some of our best work comes when we’re unintentional, and we need to create white space to ignite our best creative.

Sharan also proposed that to succeed in this new environment, we don’t need to create a completely new leadership playbook, but should consider revisiting the basics and reframe them in today’s world. Referencing Covey’s ‘Big Rocks’ paradigm shift, Sharan encouraged attendees to focus on the big rocks and get ultra clear on the most critical priorities. Only when you have a clear line of sight to, and alignment on, priorities can you truly differentiate between productivity and busyness.

Aligning on priorities is just the start of the battle. Accompanying those priorities with a strong project plan and project management is crucial to success in a remote work dynamic. Sharan emphasized the importance of taking the time to develop a clear, clean, accessible project plan including tasks, owners, milestones, timelines, and goals and metrics. Bringing together the right cross-functional team, creating a reasonable recurring meeting cadence, and keeping a maniacal focus on consistent communication are all critical components of bringing the plan to life.

So, give yourself permission to take a beat, go for a walk, find a way to connect with your team members on a more personal level, and reset for 2021. Leaders will need to continue to strike a delicate balance of moving the business forward and supporting our teams – and we need a clear head to hit the ground running.