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Coaching? Now? Are you serious?

By Ray Sclafani | July 9, 2020


You’re the CEO of a successful RIA. You’ve grown the business from a fledgling operation to a thriving firm with a talented team of skilled planning and investment professionals serving hundreds of clients and managing hundreds of millions (or in some instances billions) in assets. So, why in the world would you possibly need to engage a professional coach?

Have you ever wondered why most Fortune 500 CEOs have an executive leadership coach? The answer is perhaps best summarized by Jack Welch’s oft-cited quote: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

With the onset of COVID-19, we’ve entered truly uncharted waters. Given the ongoing disruption to your business, how are you altering the ways in which you actively develop people? How are you building and managing interdependent accountability structures such as OKRs?

As the owner of an advisory firm, your most important job is to cultivate relationships with clients. But right after that, is your responsibility to develop the people on your team. Unfortunately, however, there’s no formal education that really teaches you how to do the latter.

The case for coaching

If you’re not proactive about continuing to learn, develop and grow, you quickly begin to get stale. A professional, credentialed coach provides you with a sounding board and collaborator to help you think through, prioritize and develop your own leadership skills – so you, in turn, can help develop the leadership skills of others in your firm.

In many ways, the benefits of working with a professional coach are closely aligned with the benefits you bring to your client relationships. Even though most clients are extremely intelligent and accomplished professionals, it’s often helpful for them to have a dispassionate third party who can act as a guide and a sounding board. Shouldn’t the same principal hold true for you?

Take a look at the following International Coach Federation (ICF) core competencies. As you read through them, ask yourself whether they resonate as skills that you, as a financial advisor, would seek to strengthen and hone to better develop your team and serve your current and future clients:

  1. Establishing Trust and Intimacy – being able to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust; showing genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future; continuously demonstrating personal integrity and keeping all agreements/promises
  2. Presence and Active Listening – committed to being fully engaged and completely focused on what the client is and isn’t saying; to be spontaneous, empathetic, flexible and intuitive
  3. Powerful Questioning – asks open-ended questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action, and which reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective
  4. Direct Communication – is clear, articulate and direct in communicating and providing feedback using appropriate and respectful language, and metaphors and analogies
  5. Designing Actions – creates opportunities during coaching and in work/life situations for the client to continually learn and take new actions that will most effectively lead to agreed-upon coaching results
  6. Planning & Goal Setting – consolidates collected information and establishes a coaching plan and development goals with the client that address concerns and major areas for learning/development that are attainable, measurable, specific, and have target dates
  7. Managing Progress & Accountability – keeps the client on track between meetings by holding attention on the coaching plan and outcomes, agreed-upon courses of action, and topics for future session(s)

Effective coaching can not only help you grow, streamline and improve the profitability of your business, it can be an invaluable tool in helping you prepare the next generation to one day take the reins and lead your firm into the future.

Coaching Questions from this article:

  1. Who do you currently turn to as a sounding board for business advice, counsel and feedback? How might a professional coach provide you with more structure to improve your decision-making?
  2. Understanding that the skills you need to successfully manage and lead a team are different from the skills required to be an effective advisor, what specific leadership skills would you benefit from strengthening and honing?
  3. Now that we’re half-way through 2020, think about the goals you set at the start of the year. How are you tracking towards completing those goals? How might the accountability that a coach brings help you accelerate your progress?

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Topics: Coaching RIAs

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