The art of mentoringArticle added by Brian Boggs on May 16, 2011
brian boggs

Brian Boggs

Joined: April 03, 2011

For young people starting out on a career in financial services, hard work and talent are the keys to building a strong career, but sometimes it's the experience of someone who has been down the road before and is willing to share ideas, tips and strategies which can make all the difference to your success. Enter the mentor.

Over the last 30 years in financial services, I have worked through some serious market downturns and some stellar bull runs, gathering experience along the way about what works and what doesn't. This has helped build my knowledge base — knowledge that needs to be passed on like a baton in a marathon; I have run my 10,000 miles.

There is an old African proverb: “When an old man dies, so dies a library of knowledge.” I am determined to share our knowledge base with you. I will be commenting on a range of issues that will help you grow as an adviser, but feel free to ask me anything that is of concern to you.

For young people starting out on a career in financial services, hard work and talent are the keys to building a strong career, but sometimes it's the experience of someone who has been down the road before and is willing to share ideas, tips and strategies which can make all the difference to your success. Enter the mentor.

How do you adapt to change? If you find yourself in a situation that is foreign to you and is testing your current skill sets, or even your ability to continue your career in this industry, who can you turn to for advice? Who is your role model?

Mentoring is often used in small- to medium-sized business, but the experiences are completely different; the role of the mentor is often to show the new person "this is how we expect you to follow our processers and procedure." It doesn't leave much room for personal development, and certainly not for soft skills.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the man who wrote one of the most important scientific books of all time, “On The Origin Of Species: By Means Of Natural Selection.”

This book has been described as the most important idea in human history. The point Darwin was making is species need not be the biggest, fastest or strongest, so long as they can adapt in whatever way needed to be the one best suited to doing whatever it does.

That is why I suspect people will leave the dealer group they are with, leave employment with a bank or a corporate employer to pursue greener pastures. They have not been challenged or mentored in their current role, so they are unclear on their future progression.

The cost of recruiting the right people is very high. Have a mentoring plan in place so that the person being mentored can say with confidence, ”I know where I am going here; I know what the progression is. This is what I want and this is where I want to stay."
A mentor needs to be able to map out a career plan for the person. At times this path will be challenging and difficult, as it should be. People need to be challenged to learn to overcome problems. A mentor needs to offer guidance but not a handholding role; people need to stumble and fall before they can stride ahead with confidence.

What do I need to look for in a good mentor?

Someone that you can trust in, and who will advise you in a way that you understand.

There can be no conflict of interest with the advice they are giving you; preferably, your mentor should have 10,000 miles under his or her feet — in other words, experience in the business world and preferably in your industry.

One of the most important attributes to look for in a mentor is their ability to listen. By listening carefully, a mentor can pick up those little nuances of self-doubt and discern what are real concerns and what are simply small complaints. Don't ever waste a mentor's time with trivial issues. Save the opportunity to discuss issues of real concern; their role is to challenge you from time to time and to help you discover your strengths and your weakness in order to open your mind. Sometimes that means the mentor will push the envelope to move you out of your comfort zone.

Would you benefit from a coach or a mentor? Why do the top athletes have one?

When you wrote down your business plan, did it take into account the personal effort required on your part? How will working long hours affect your family life? How do you acquire a good balance of work and play? Consider also, what is the disconnect between what your clients perceive as your service and what you are actually delivering? Sometimes it takes someone with an outside view looking into your business, your processes and procedures to suggest to you a better way.

“The most successful people are those that are good at plan B.”

Peter Drucker observed that leaders don't think "I"; they think "we," they think "team." Understand that your role as a mentor is to make your team function, grow and develop.

The leader's role is to accept responsibility and not to sidestep it. But do we, the team, get the credit? Giving the team credit creates trust, and it is this trust that enables you to get the job done.

“Effective leadership is putting first things first, effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

Both roles need to be mentored to achieve the best results.
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