Coaching is a pivotal part of any branch manager’s role as a leader—of course. Being truly effective at it can make all the difference in the morale and success of your branch office. As one BOM puts it, “If the world’s greatest athletes need continual coaching, why wouldn’t even the very best FAs?”

For pointers on the subject we asked clinical psychologist Alden Cass, a PhD in psychology, author of The Bullish Thinking Guide for Managers, and head of Competitive Streak Consulting, which specializes in the financial services industry. We also spoke to Paul Werlin, founder and president of Human Capital Resources, a financial services industry consulting, training and executive search firm. Cass organized his ideas under the acronym, LEADER, as seen below, and Werlin weighed in with his thoughts. We all know that the BoM job is getting harder, but it is key role. (For more on compensation issues and pressures of the job—the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll habits the job can create—click here.)

L: LISTEN to your advisors’ struggles, goals, frustrations, Cass says. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how poorly some BoMs listen, he says. Be an “active” listener, which means, helping them to create solutions and ideas. “And, if something appears to be objectively wrong with-- or different about—an advisor, address it,” he says. “There may be difficulties occurring in his personal life that are affecting his performance at work.”

People’s professional and personal lives are so closely intertwined, Werlin says, that it pays for managers to really get to knowtheir advisors. If an FA doesn’t volunteer much personal information, however, he says you needn’t pry. “You might say, ‘Joe, I want you to know that I’m here for you if you ever want to discuss anything, and I assure you it will remain in the strictest of confidence.’ The best branch managers not only lead their teams, but help them deal with the stresses and of everyday life.”

E: ENCORAGE growth and motivation. Do this with your top advisors, Cass says, not just those who aren’t performing up to par. “Managers tell me they’re seeing a lot of apathy lately--even among their top people. These folks seem to be taking a ‘good’ is ‘good enough’ approach. It’s understandable that, in economic times like these, advisors might be lacking a sense of purpose.” But managers, he says, should try and help them restore that. “Redefine the critical role they play in their clients’ lives. Remind them of how much youdepend on them.” He suggests using what he terms “thought anchoring” to bring your seasoned FAs back to the early days of their careers. “Have them discuss why they first got into the business, and what drove their enthusiasm back then. Then, try and see what may be blocking them from feeling that way now.”

Ask open-ended questions that uncover obstacles or barriers to your team's success, adds Werlin. “A question like, ‘How are things going?’ will most likely tell you nothing,” he says. “Consider instead: ‘Which sales strategies been best working for you lately?’”

And, follow-up, he advises. “If you know an FA is weak on retirement planning, and you ask him about new retirement accounts he’s opened, answers like, ‘I’m working on it’ or ‘I’ve got a few in the in the pipeline’ could really mean, ‘I’m still having problems and need help.’”

A: ACCEPT that your advisors are all different under the hood. Know what makes each of them tick, and deal with them accordingly, Cass says. “This is the best way to be sure they hear you. One advisor may thrive on competition, for example, while another may dislike it and benefit more from some hand-holding.” In his book, Cass categorizes advisor styles and says that appropriately relating to them will yield the best results for all.
Werlin agrees on the importance of what he calls individual rapport. “There’s a strong sense of trust and connection that develops when you feel someone understands you as a person. What FA will listen to you, respect your guidance and follow you if they don't really think you ‘get’ them?”

D: Have a DOOR OPEN POLICY at all times, Cass says. “Your advisors may feel you’re too busy to approach with small problems. It’s important to stress that you encourage it since many seemingly small problems that go unaddressed often escalate into much large ones.”

“Manage by walking around, and not just from behind a desk,” Werlin adds. “Look for the behaviors, activities and skills that your FAs need to succeed. Do they fully understand the features of a new mutual fund or variable annuity? Are they asking for referrals in a positive productive manner? The best way to find this out is by watching them at work.”

E: EDUCATE your younger advisors—and all of your advisors—on best practices whenever you can, Cass says. Put them in meetings and seminars that you feel will benefit them as often as possible. “It’s fine to tell them you feel that everyone can benefit from these courses, so that no one feels singled out.” And attend them with your advisors, he says. “This demonstrates your support for them, and it will almost certainly result in a higher turnout rate.”
From observing and analyzing your advisors, you should be able to determine where each may need help, Werlin says. “As manager, it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for your FAs to get the knowledge they need to succeed.” Your product partners can be an excellent source for product and sales training seminars, he says.

R: REINFORCE positive incremental successes or a behavior that you’ve been looking for. “Be vocal and immediate with your acknowledgment that an advisor is making the branch and/or himself more successful,” Cass says. “Develop young talent—and help experienced folks maintain success with regular meetings to discuss additional goals and timetables for attaining them. Ask them where they’d like to see themselves in five years. And, always take time to praise their successes and hard work.”

Werlin, who was once an assistant branch manger for EF Hutton, adds, “It’s
easy for managers to rationalize not doing so by thinking that, since advisors are rewarded by commissions, they don’t need to go beyond that. But, we know there is a lot of ego in this business. And, there are 1,000 different ways to recognize achievement. Doing just one thing—such as writing up someone’s achievement in a branch newsletter, for example—can have very strong positive results.”

A good producer can produce anywhere, Werlin says. “Studies have shown that the number one reason advisors change firms has to do with their relationship with their immediate supervisors.”