The word “leadership” summons many images. Some include national or international leaders of the past and present–individuals who brought about great change, improved lives or steered a steady course of success. Other images invoke excellence in coaching and mentoring.

In financial services, leadership encompasses all of these and more, particularly the growth and prosperity of local offices serving producers and clients. Successful field management requires individuals who not only can manage firm operations but also inspire newcomers and experienced professionals. Great managers are great coaches, trainers and communicators. They work to create a culture that breeds success, teamwork and high achievement.

Becoming an excellent manager requires a plan of action for gaining the skills, tools, knowledge and resources to recruit, select, train and develop producers and managers effectively. A comprehensive leadership development program (LDP) created for field management is critical to growing an organization’s business exponentially because it touches on all the key factors for a firm’s success.

An LDP, when combined with a targeted, innovative marketing platform, a strong product line, excellence in service and a dedicated field management team, can yield dramatic results in recruiting, productivity and growth.

Building The LDP

The first step in building a successful LDP is to talk to field management and outside experts to develop statements of what must be offered, including:

o A defined, progressive path for those individuals who are pursuing or want to pursue careers in management; and

o Identifiable phases of path development and growth opportunities with distinct timelines and clear expectations.

There are generally five phases of management: pre-management, new sales manager, experienced sales manager, high potential sales manager and new managing partner. For each phase, core competencies are defined, plus the required licenses, professional development opportunities and key benchmarks.

Progression to the next phase requires completion of the previous phase. LDP candidates must also be shown what they need to achieve, the tools that will help them, and the benefits and rewards for taking on the responsibility.

In addition to creating progressive paths, the education and training of future leaders is another building block of an effective LDP. It is important to include a mix of industry and proprietary coursework. A strong industry resource includes GAMA International’s LAMP conference. Other experts in the sales management training field, such as Kinder Brothers International, can help develop and teach a curriculum that incorporates management development into each phase of the program.

Another key is to supplement coursework with online resources that appeal to managers’ 24/7 need for information. These might include “on-demand” training modules on recruiting, mentoring, financing and contracts as well as performance mentoring and coaching. Vignettes from industry leaders on topics related to management also are quite effective.

Determining Participants & Maximizing Results

Once the LDP is built, the next challenge is to identify the candidates for the program. They typically fall into three categories: inexperienced internal candidates, experienced internal candidates and experienced external candidates. Potential participants should take part in a comprehensive selection process and be required to meet strict criteria that measure performance, leadership potential and commitment.

As part of the selection process, candidates should develop a business plan, including steps detailing how they would recruit and train, and determine the performance management measures they would use. Once selected for the program, each participant should work toward fundamental goals for recruiting, retention and productivity, with analyses of revenue vs. expense and break-even profit points.

To maximize the results of the LDP, the program’s progressive paths, training and education, recruiting, productivity, and financial management must all be linked to the firms’ vision. This vision for John Hancock Financial Network is its proprietary Client Centered Marketing Firm (CCMF) business model–the driver behind the culture, image and accelerated growth for JHFN’s offices nationwide.

For example, an LDP offers management participants a unique opportunity to learn the business fundamentals of the CCMF and develop a business plan for creating a client-centered marketing firm in their local markets. The business model is comprised of practical processes to develop marketing strategies that help producers better analyze and segment their top clientele while defining a more targeted approach to growing their businesses.

The CCMF model offers managers all the tools they need to position their firm and help their producers achieve increased success by giving them ways to form deeper, more meaningful relationships with key clients. Plus, managers have additional resources to teach producers ways to penetrate further into those markets in which they already have the knowledge and experience, and to uncover new markets.

Recognition is also extremely important in an LDP. Communication of successes and achievements should be frequent because it serves as a competitive driver for increased productivity among program participants.

In addition, special recognition opportunities, such as participation in annual management meetings, membership in high potential study groups facilitated by industry leaders and monthly recognition postings through company newsletters, offer incentives that participants have acknowledged as motivating. An effective LDP also includes special compensation and benefits programs that serve to recognize and reward participants as they progress through the paths.