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Think, Feel, Do: The Benefits of Hiring a Leadership Coach

Advisors can also benefit from the kind of guidance we bring to our own clients.

Susan Chesson, MBA, CTP and Helen Modly, CFP, CPWA, 05/22/2014

We have no problem in seeing our value to our client relationships. We help them to overcome the fear and greed cycles of investing. We keep them focused on their goals and add the discipline that many would lack on their own. Why then, is it so hard for us to see the benefit of using a leadership coach?

As a registered investment advisor, I am comfortable that I add significant value to my clients' lives. Now that I have become the newest of four owners of our wealth management firm in northern Virginia, I have new management responsibilities along with my work with clients. These new duties began to weigh on me, and I quickly realized that I would need to master new skills to rise to this challenge.

Completion of the Certified Financial Planner designation prepared me well for client meetings, but not for long-term strategic planning for my business and my work/life goals. Issues that seemed perfectly manageable during daylight hours morphed into long sleepless nights. A different approach was required here.

Our firm has a clear vision and strategy for growth that I understand and fully endorse, but like an individual investor, when your own career and work/life balance is impacted, it's easy to get diverted and head off in a million different directions. So recognizing this, like many corporate executives before me, I hired a leadership coach.

A coach is an independent and objective listener, without necessarily any specific knowledge or experience in your particular field. Coaches who are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) have completed certified training programs, met experience requirements, and are subject to a Code of Ethics that requires them to maintain confidentiality, security, and privacy, and to avoid conflicts of interest at all costs. Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes, and managing personal change. A study performed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the ICF found that clients benefited from coaching in the areas of work performance, business management, time management, and team effectiveness.

A successful coaching engagement must start with a specific goal or focus. An example in our industry could be a career transition from operational support to advisor, or from employee to business owner. Our firm vision is to continue to grow our business, with an internal succession plan that requires hiring and training younger talented advisors. We identified five areas of focus that are key to our long-term success in realizing that vision:

> Grow the business (clients, revenue, and employees)
> Increase client satisfaction
> Maintain our desired level of profitability
> Enhance our firm culture
> Monitor employee satisfaction and provide a clear career track

I continue to hold biweekly meetings with a leadership coach. The day before our appointment, I prepare for our meeting, which takes an hour by phone or in-person. At the beginning of the engagement, we discuss the five areas listed above and hone in on a couple that require immediate action. The goals that we established at the beginning of the coaching engagement have kept me focused, and her coaching style is one that works well for me.

Susan Chesson joined Focus Wealth Management after a 20-year career in corporate treasury, fixed-income investing, and banking operations. She is a wealth manager and the director of business development. 

Helen Modly, CFP, CPWA, is executive vice president of Focus Wealth Management, a fee-only registered investment advisor in Middleburg, Va. Modly has more than 25 years of experience providing wealth-management services. She is a member of NAPFA and president-elect for the National Capital Area chapter of FPA. She can be reached at info@focus-wealth.com.

The authors are freelance contributors to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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