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High Performing Investment Teams: How to Achieve Best Practices of Top Firms

High Performing Investment Teams: How to Achieve Best Practices of Top Firms

4.6 11
by Jim Ware

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High Performing Investment Teams shows you how today's leading investment firms create "positive/high energy" at each level, increasing the decision-making skills of their employees while dramatically reducing the politics, bureaucracy, and hand-wringing that breed only negativity and failure. Written by a team of today's leading authorities on investment industry


High Performing Investment Teams shows you how today's leading investment firms create "positive/high energy" at each level, increasing the decision-making skills of their employees while dramatically reducing the politics, bureaucracy, and hand-wringing that breed only negativity and failure. Written by a team of today's leading authorities on investment industry leadership, culture, and teambuilding, this results-focused book explores the seven behaviors evident in some form in virtually every top performing organization and provides you with hands-on actions you can take to rebuild your organization around those behaviors.

Those behaviors include:

  • Curiosity—Knowing when you are becoming defensive and shifting back to an open and receptive attitude of learning
  • Accountability—Taking 100 percent responsibility for the results created as opposed to expending energy searching for scapegoats
  • Candor—Engaging in courageous truth-telling to increase power and speed in decision making
  • Authenticity—Discarding facades, then addressing actual conflicts to eliminate needless intrigue
  • Awareness—Understanding, and tapping into, every emotional and intuitional resource for decision making
  • Genius—Discovering and allowing people to do what they do best, thereby leveraging their natural areas of genius
  • Appreciation—Expressing gratitude and fostering an across-the-board culture of sincere cooperation

While decades of research into psychology and organizational development have identified dozens of factors that contribute to organizational excellence, it is these seven behaviors that are consistently demonstrated in top performing cultures—and, conversely, are often absent or disregarded in struggling firms. Adopt at least some of them, and your long-term opportunities will expand and grow exponentially.

Ignore them? Your results will be just as striking, and more than likely permanent.

All of the innovative theorems and approaches in the world will do little to support an unhealthy internal culture. High Performing Investment Teams shows you what you must do now to build success in your firm by first improving the fundamentals that make up its most important assets—its employees.

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From the Publisher
It was relatively easy for any money manager to prosper during the 17-year bull market, Jim Ware, principal at Focus Consulting Group Inc., Long Grove, Ill., told a group of chartered financial analysts in New York in January 2005.

"During the ’90s, Forrest Gump could have managed a successful investment firm," Mr. Ware told the assembled CFAs. One wag in the audience responded: "He did!"

Mr. Ware relates this story and others in "High Performing Investment Teams: How to Achieve Best Practices of Top Firms" (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 210 pages). Co-written with Jim Dethmer, also a principal at Focus, the book discusses how a money manager can build a lasting and successful culture that relies on teamwork. Their previous book, "Investment Leadership," dealt with how top management can build a strong culture.

Mr. Ware writes that CEOs no longer quiz Focus professionals on why they should worry about soft issues: "Even the thickest-skinned, toughest-minded investment leader understands that the so-called soft skills are critical in attracting, retaining, and motivating talent."

Focus’ client list includes leading investment institutions such as UBS Global Asset Management, Northern Trust Global Investments and Analytic Investors Inc.

It’s no mean trick guiding investment professionals, which Mr. Ware likened to herding cats in a recent conversation.

In the new book, Mr. Ware cites Chris Argyris, a Harvard Business School professor, on why it’s hard to manage smart people. Because many professionals rarely fail, they don’t know how to learn from the experience.

"Instead, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the ‘blame’ on anyone and everyone but themselves," Mr. Argyris wrote in a famous 1991 Harvard Business Review article quoted in the book.

Members of high-performing investment teams recognize when they’re being defensive, and choose to return to more open attitudes, Mr. Ware wrote. Changing that defensive behavior is tough, but simple things such as moving around, deep breathing and listening carefully to others can shift the mood, he explained.

Many of Messrs. Ware’s and Dethmer’s guidelines boil down to lessons that may appear naive. That’s because open-mindedness and candor and praising others can be very tough standards to live by.

Here’s their advice in a nutshell:

• Be curious. Be open to learning from mistakes.

• Take 100% responsibility — no more, no less — for your actions. Don’t play the victim or the hero. Firms that don’t waste time finger-pointing are more nimble and creative.

• Make agreements only that you want to make and for things over which you have control. What’s more, write them down.

• Be candid. That includes separating fact from fiction, which yields superior analysis.

• Eliminate corporate drama, which siphons away energy and creativity.

• Use your intuition as well as your intelligence.

• Focus your and your staff’s efforts on their natural strengths, instead of spending countless hours trying to improve their weaknesses.

• Appreciate and praise your staff. Research shows that, in the most successful firms, positive feedback outweighs the negative by a ratio of 5-to-1.

Reducing Messrs. Ware’s and Dethmer’s lessons to bullet points does them a grave injustice. That’s because so much of their message has to do with the process of how people deal with conflict and with each other.

So stop the finger-pointing, the cringing, the over-the-top heroics. Read their book.

By Joel Chernoff, Pensions & Investments

Meet the Author

JIM WARE (Glenview, IL) C.F.A. is the founder of Focus Consulting Group, a specialized firm dedicated to helping investment leaders understand, articulate and shape their firm’s investment culture. A frequent keynote speaker at CFA Institute, Mutual Fund Educational Alliance, Investment Adviser Association, and U.S. Institute among others, Jim is recognized for his insightful presentations. He has a Masters in Business from the University of Chicago and a degree in philosophy from Williams College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

JIM DETHMER designs and delivers leadership training and coaching to investment professionals around the world. He has delivered speeches on this topic for the CFA Institute, Investment Advisors Association, and many leading investment firms.

JAMIE ZIEGLER has over twenty years' experience as a marketing consultant, specializing in branding and communications for investment management firms. She holds a BA in English from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA in finance from DePaul University.

FRAN SKINNER, CFA, CPA, has over twenty years' experience in the investment industry, specializing in measuring and incenting performance of investment industry employees. She earned her MBA in finance and marketing from the University of Illinois–Chicago.

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High Performing Investment Teams: How to Achieve Best Practices of Top Firms 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
DrScottDS More than 1 year ago
I read this book quite some time ago and it is not just for investment teams, but for anyone interested in understanding and living a life that is committed to accountability, responsibility, authenticity and creating a world in which all work as a team. Mr. Dethmer's work and training in these areas are unparalled and if you are truly interested in taking 100% responsiblity for your life, several chapters in this book will put you on the right path. In this current environment where a lack of personal accountability can seem commonplace, especially in the financial world, this book and Mr. Dethmer's contribution to it, show another path for managing and buidling excellent teams. I have worked personally with Mr. Dethmer in my company operations and can speak to the pure results that have been gained through a positive team building approach.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a tailored version of the concepts in "Radical Change, Radical Results. " This book is great for an Investment team looking to take responsibility and operate at a new level of curiosity and collaboration. After reading the book, I did some coaching with an author (Jim Dethmer) on my zone of genius. The results were transformative!
StewSF More than 1 year ago
I work in the investment industry and have worked personally with one of the authors, Jim Dethmer. The work I've done and the lessons I learned have literally changed my life. I learned how to achieve integrity and how to take 100% responsibility in my life. I learned how to listen to my physical reactions to situations and deal more effectively with fear. These lessons have challenged me and helped me grow. Based on my experience, I would recommend buying this book. Not only if you are in the investment industry where it is most applicable, but also to learn important life lessons, as well.
KeepGrowing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book overall and one part made a big impact on me. In one of the chapters it talks about allowing people to stay with a job they love and allows them to be working in their genius. This caught me by surprise because my view had always been to do well and move up the ladder even if it meant going into positions a person didn't like or perform at their full potential. I feel this is a life lesson and not just restricted to the investment community. In fact, I think there are several points made in this book that can be used in all areas of life.
jkp14 More than 1 year ago
I read this book shortly after meeting the co-author (Jim Dethmer) for a coaching session at the insistence of my wife. Jim had recently started working with her company and she was 100 percent convinced that he was someone I needed to talk to about my career path (funny how wives are always so right). At the time, I was in a well paying senior role with a large hedge fund but I was generally unhappy in the environment. In my first meeting with Jim, he sat for 30 minutes listening to me explain the complexities of the organization and the difficulties I was facing in my role. His presence and listening abilities were like nothing I had ever encountered and his insights on how I needed to address my future were bold but exactly what I needed to hear (and very much in alignment with the themes in this book). This meeting was life changing for me. Two years later, (after reading this book and continuining regular coaching with Jim) my career (and my life) have simply never been better. I attribute so much of the positive shift to Jim's guidance, coaching, listening, and his skill in helping me "dissect and disolve" my most stressful problems. As a investment professional with 15 years of experience, I highly recommend this book. It will help leaders and managers focus on the importance of the often overlooked softer sides of managing complex investment teams.
Grant-K More than 1 year ago
I have had the opportunity to work closely with Jim Dethmer and Fran Skinner (two of the co-authors) on multiple projects for our company. Their combined expertise and truth seeking work ethic is world class. I am grateful to have worked with both of them and our company is much better off because of their passion for unleashing potential and opportunity in organizations. I have collaborated with Jim Dethmer on a professional and personal level and he is one in a million. He has a genuine interest in you and is one of best listeners I have ever met in my life. This, combined with world class experiences and coaching tools makes him an absolute expert in his field. I would find it hard for anyone not to benefit (both personally and professionally) being in the presence of Jim. One of his greatest essence qualities is to bring out the best in people and support them in seeing their own true potential.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book presents a proven set of core practices to build a winning culture for long term success. The authors are themselves highly talented consultants who specialize in helping investment organizations assess and improve individual talent and team performance. I remain especially impressed with Jim Dethmer, with whom I had the opportunity to do one-on-one coaching at one of the investment management firms featured in the book. I was a professional problem solver but there were problem areas in my life which I couldn't solve on my own. I needed help; a coach, a teacher, a mentor, a truth teller and a trusted advisor. I found all of these in Jim Dethmer. Jim showed me that there was another whole set of tools which were readily available, easy to use and highly effective. These tools are the set of practices presented in this book. Jim is also a living example of the change that was possible and the joy and happiness that can be achieved when you begin to live in your genius. With Jim's help, I learned to use these practices on a daily basis to transform the important dimensions of my professional and personal life to a place beyond my wildest dreams!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jim Dethmer is a man of the highest character. His commitment to a life of candor, authenticity, consciousness and being present is awe-inspiring. I have worked with Jim in two different investment organizations (both over $100 billion in assets) and have seen the positive impact on productivity, teamwork and communication. I have also used Jim as a personal coach and he has been deeply loyal, challenging in the best sense, original in his thinking and a wonderful teacher. This book can be of great service to those outside the investment business and anyone who treasures teamwork and wants to break through self-imposed ceilings. Our management teams began to address the hidden elephants, the scary issues and the tough personal interactions in a positive, respectful, safe and direct manner. We were able to clear through obstacles and come to win-win solutions much faster after working with Jim. He will absolutely challenge you and if you want a rubber-stamp experience, then he will not be for you. If you are committed to excellence, advancement, growth and increased productivity, then this book and Jim Dethmer are ideal companions for the journey. This is a hugely valuable tool for personal and organizational growth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first met Jim Dethmer and Jim Ware while working for a large money management firm where they provided consulting and executive coaching services. As a senior executive at the firm I saw first hand how their guidance and insight helped transform the organization. They taught principles such as accountability, direct and open feedback and communication, curiousity vs. defensiveness and other essential tools to becoming a high performing team and individual. Over time their contributions showed measurable results. I also experienced tremendous benefits not only professionally but personally working closely with Jim Dethmer. As a result, I believe I am much more self aware and have found more enjoyment in my work and more balance overall personally and professionally. I highly recommend their book for investment firms committed to investing in their most valuable assets: their people.
Jeff-H More than 1 year ago
Jim has worked closely with our company (outside the financial industry) to instill the behaviors discussed in this book. His passionate approach to coaching our team has been outstanding. Jim has guided us through core purpose development, discovery of our company values and the behaviors that allow our company to thrive in a competitive market. It is difficult to put in words what Jim has done for me personally... He is a world class person and coach and has opened me (& many others) up to all of the possibilities for personal/professional growth. Anyone that is open to to his teachings will benefit in ways they can't imagine possible. I highly recommend this book and Jim's teachings to anyone interested in becoming a better person.
CEE1900 More than 1 year ago
Please take the advice of this book in small doses if you actually choose to pay for it. I have worked with one of the contributors of this book. I do not feel that Jim Dethmer has the ability to guide any person who is seeking success in this lifetime. This man is very good at befriending CEO's, Board Members, and other persons involved in elite company management. The issue I have is that he lacks any sort of insight as to improving a company. Jim can point and click at any employee who might be failing, especially when computer generated quizzes (which he is a fan of) categorize employees as simply "Good" "Mediocre" or "Bad". Jim Dethmer is a fraud. He will take your money and run to the next opportunity, leaving your company in a disarray of unhappy, untrusting employees. Those employees lose faith in the company and those that employ them. Jim changes faithful employees into resentful, angry, and slacking employees. Jim is involved in an Illinois extremist Christian cult. He is divorced, and married to another divorcee. Jim lacks intuition. He bases his work on statistics - he lacks personal experience. Simply put, he is not a trustworthy man.