August 20, 2013

3 Mission-Critical Questions for Advisors

Ted LeClair, head of Natixis’ Advisor Academy and a Navy commander, has three key questions for advisors to ask themselves

When an advisor sets out on a mission in life or work, he or she must first find the answers to three essential questions.

Ted LeClair, Navy Reserve commander and head of Natixis' Advisor AcademySo says Ted LeClair (left), who as a Navy Reserve commander as well as head of Natixis Global Asset Management’s Advisor Academy spends plenty of time thinking about his own answers to those questions before he sets out on any mission.

“I use my Navy training a ton, and advisors want to know all about it,” LeClair said in an interview with ThinkAdvisor last Thursday as he described the “Winning Formula” talk that he shares with thousands of advisors across the U.S. “I tell them that I’m all about setting goals, but you and your team have to have a mission first.”

Certainly, LeClair’s resume is an impressive one, with plenty of evidence that he has set and reached goals in his lifetime: A native of Scituate, Mass., he was commissioned through the NROTC program at Villanova University as an undergraduate before moving on to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he received a master’s degree in public administration in 2004. More recently, LeClair graduated in July 2012 from the U.S. Army War College, where he received a master’s in strategic studies.

Yet LeClair believes that one of his most valuable experiences in life came from his failure to become a Navy SEAL because he was unable to pass the training course. (The failure rate is 75% to 80%, but LeClair says the failure rate for junior brokers at wirehouses such as Merrill and Morgan Stanley is even higher, at 90% in the first two years.) While coming to terms with his SEAL setback, LeClair asked himself why he didn’t make the grade and ultimately realized that his failure came from lacking a sense of mission.

“With advisors, that sense of mission applies both to building a team or a durable portfolio. Advisors used to talk a lot about their pitch books, but they would usually lack a sense of purpose and meaning for the client,” LeClair said.

As a senior vice president of Natixis’ Client Solutions Group and director of the $783 billion global asset manager’s Advisor Academy, LeClair delivers keynote presentations at major industry events and trains managers in the qualities of successful leadership.

For a “winning formula,” read on to learn about the three questions that LeClair urges advisors to ask themselves:

1) Who Is My Nightingale? The Nightingale’s Song, by Robert Timberg, is a true tale of five graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy — John McCain, John Poindexter, Bud McFarlane, Jim Webb and Oliver North — and how the Vietnam War shaped their characters.

The “nightingale” who sings his song and inspires these vets is President Ronald Reagan, a man who was straightforward in naming and following his mission, according to LeClair. The takeaway for advisors, he says, is that they should ask themselves: “Am I aware of my moment or not?”

2) What Is My Mission? Any mission begins with a thoughtful framing of goals, LeClair said. That includes setting the goals themselves, determining a “servant leadership” structure within a team and a preference for goal-based transformational change over merely transactional business dealing.

3) Am I a Lincoln? This third question is all about asking “do I have the will to get it done?,” according to LeClair, who used the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War as a prime example.

“All this comes back to a passion for learning and doing,” LeClair said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, as a lifelong learner himself, LeClair is currently enrolled in Advance Joint Professional Military Education through the Joint Forces Staff College with an anticipated completion date of October.

Read 4 Tips for Effective Client Communication at ThinkAdvisor.

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