When owners of independent advisory firms ask me to help them set up “mentoring” programs for their new professional employees, I always try to talk them out of it. Here’s why.
The basic problem with “mentoring “ programs in advisory firms is that they send the wrong message.
Think about the dynamic of mentoring: A wise and experienced older person takes a younger and much less knowledgeable younger person under their wing to impart their wisdom.
While mentoring can be very helpful to younger people, it is not a professional relationship.
When you bring new advisors into your firm, they may be quite a bit younger than you and your other senior advisors, but typically they have a professional degree and often some experience. They are like resident physicians at a hospital — full-fledged doctors who just don’t have as much experience as senior staff.
Consequently, when you hire a new advisor and then start treating them as if they just graduated from school, you run a very real risk of offending them. Obviously, this isn’t going to help your relationship, and at a time when there’s a talent shortage in the industry, it’s generally not a wise move.
What’s more, starting a professional relationship off on the wrong foot can get in the way of the learning process, which isn’t to say that young advisors don’t have a lot to learn; they do, and they usually know it.
Still, these are adults, not children. And they understandably want to be treated accordingly — with some degree of equality, and a measure of respect.
To build positive, productive relationships with your professional employees, keep in mind that a significant part of your job at the firm is to build up your employees rather than tear them down.
What to Do?
A far better alternative is “training.”
That might sound like word games to you, but in practice, I’ve found that training programs dramatically change the employee/employer dynamic for the better.
While mentoring programs create images of novice and guru, training programs suggest educated professionals, who lack knowledge in specialized areas but have real world experience to apply it.
Training programs are designed to give young advisors both additional knowledge and a degree of on-the-job experience that can completely change their perception of their new firm.
For instance, we’ve found that our Diamond Teams program, which puts new advisors into client-facing meetings along with more experienced advisors, dramatically changes new advisors outlook on their new firms and new jobs.
I also encourage firm owners to take time to share their own story with young advisors: how they started, their ups and downs, what they did that proved to be right and what they did that didn’t work out so well.
Not only will this give them a better insight into their bosses and into the advisory industry in general, it will help them see that they don’t always have to be right, or every step be successful. What they learn from their mistakes and failures can be the keys to their eventual success.
Of course, not all mentorship programs are bad; they’re just not a good fit in a professional business. If you really feel the need or desire to mentor someone, go volunteer for your local CFP program.