As any young advisor knows, it only takes a few client meetings to realize that our profession is one of the most whole-brained businesses on the planet. Our ability to synthesize technical, emotional and relational competencies (left- and right-brained or “whole-brained”) is what makes us one of the most valuable relationships in our client’s lives.

Our clients deserve the most technically competent advisor they can find, but if that advisor does not also have relationship skills, they cannot build the trust and dynamic that is necessary for their clients to make truly wise choices. At Brightworth, we endeavor to develop the whole person. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain motto is: “We are ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen.” I love that and I think it captures a great development ethos: “We are whole people serving whole people.”

What: The Raw Material
Probably the most important part of any good development process is evaluating and understanding the quality of the talent you are attracting. Studies show that the highest probability of any individual’s future success is indicated by one’s level of motivation, curiosity, insightfulness and relational skills. While all of these traits can actually be developed after the fact, you are much better off recruiting for these characteristics because they provide the raw material for someone’s trajectory, and in particular, their motivation. Individuals who demonstrate these skills across both their technical and relational competencies have a fast trajectory to becoming a great advisor. A motivated, curious person develops quickly, both technically and relationally.

The Map: Giving Them A GPS
Our profession is fundamentally built on an apprenticeship model. While still effective to a great degree, it is necessary but not sufficient. Young professionals need and desire role models but also want to develop as effectively as they can and not take any longer to become an advisor than necessary.

If you want to attract great talent, candidates have to know that you can provide the tools and road map to where they want to go. Being able to explain in detail how a planner moves through their first years to become not only an advisor, but also how they become a partner, is the easiest way to attract and retain the talent you are looking for. The larger your firm, the easier that is, especially if you have developed a succession plan, as well as a process and resources for on-boarding partners as we’ve done at Brightworth. This is a clear advantage that small firms can’t deliver on.

The Goal: The Whole Person
We focus on four broad dimensions or development competencies:

1. Managing oneself: The first and most important skill that a young professional can learn and few have mastered (let alone even attempted to address) is an understanding of how to manage themselves. Famous management guru Peter Drucker wrote that managing ourselves is one of the most important skills for success. High-performing individuals know the answer to the following questions:

1. What are my strengths?
2. How do I learn and perform?
3. What are my values?
4. Where do I belong?
5. What should I contribute?
6. How do I take responsibility for relationships?
Helping the young professional address these questions and how they align with the trajectory and success at your firm is the fastest way to jump-start their development.

2. Technical skills: Most firms have some type of process for developing technical skills. There is nothing that can compare to experience. Giving young planners increasing exposure to complex challenges (with an appropriate level of review) is motivating and productive. As a firm continues to grow, it needs to stay on top of processes to ensure that before a planner becomes an advisor, they have been exposed appropriately to each of the firm’s client types as well as the complexity that comes with each type of client.

The typical career path at Brightworth begins with the planner, who is responsible for providing the analysis to support financial decisions and strategy development. This individual follows up with clients to ensure they act upon recommendations including participating in meetings with clients’ other trusted advisors including CPAs, estate planning attorneys, etc. Planners typically work with and assist wealth advisors, who have the primary relationship with the client. Wealth advisors are responsible for identifying and implementing the best strategies in all areas, including taxes, investments and cash flow savings, as well as meeting needs and managing client expectations.

We use developmental checklists to ensure each planner understands that the issues our executive clients face are much different than those confronting business owners; understanding the planning techniques required for them is critical. Firms should consider the role of the planning software they use and its effect on how planners will think in the future. Letting younger planners spend time working in spreadsheets, while time consuming, helps them develop the important skills that more senior advisors intuitively understand.

Another behavioral skill that is not intuitive is ensuring young advisors don’t give advice when they don’t fully understand an issue’s complexity. Make sure your environment encourages them to tap into the more experienced advisor. The worst thing an advisor can bring to a client relationship is arrogance and pride.

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