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Michelle Hoskin: Have you got what it takes to be a leader?

Some of the smartest financial planners struggle to make it as business owners and leaders of teams

Running a business in financial services is no walk in the park. There is no amount of technical qualifications that will help you with this one. It does not matter how technically smart you are, it is not enough. So the question is: have you got what it takes?

Aside from a bucketload of passion and energy for the profession as a whole, you are going to need a ton of other skills to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. And, worse still, you will have probably got this far and no one has ever really taught you the other stuff.

It can be like the blind leading the blind. Indeed, over the years, I have seen some of the “smartest” financial planners on the planet struggle to make it as business owners and leaders of teams. But why? There are two main reasons.

Identity crises
First and foremost, many businesses in our magical profession are suffering from an identity crisis.

Are they a lifestyle business? Are they an all-grown-up firm that can function without the main planner or business owner?

Sadly, the former identity crisis is more common, as clarity of this position is rare.

Without firmly placing your marker in the sand, the business and all those within it will simply swing from one model to the next, never really achieving anything significant. What makes it worse is that this is the biggest cause of stress and unpredictability in firms today.

People skills
I know this sounds crazy, as we are in a people and relationship business, but the skills that make you an amazing financial planner are not the same set of skills that will make you an amazing company and team leader.

When you take off the financial planner hat, you need to put on the hat of the innovator; the ideas person who comes up with the groundbreaking concepts that will transform and accelerate your business.

You need to understand your team and know how to get the best out of them by unleashing their own personal passions and goals.

You need to appreciate the importance of processes, procedures, systems and controls, all of which will secure the consistent delivery of the amazing service clients have come to trust and love.

And that is not all. You then need to be able to understand advancements in technology, while establishing effective workflows, task management and internal service promises like your life depends on it. I could go on.

Some of the more forward-thinking business owners and firms recognise this and have put provisions and plans in place, surrounding themselves with key people who can bring these amazing skills to the party.

Worryingly, the majority of the profession think they can do it themselves.

I sit on the leadership team and board of several firms as the head of operations and business development. Success in the areas I cover – operations, standards, quality, excellence and getting the best out of every single one of the team members – is fundamental in the success of the firms I support. The role is a joy.

Are you missing these skills in your business, on your board or within your leadership team?

Look inside your firm – do you have a member of your team that has the potential to grow? A member of the team that has the passion to drive these areas and add value to the strategic direction of the business?

Oh, and just to add, not everyone on a board or a leadership team has to be a practising financial planner or have an ownership stake in the business. In fact, it is sometimes better that they do not.

Financial planners make amazing financial planners. But it is effective leadership teams that can change the world.

Michelle Hoskin is founder and director of Standards International

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