How do we get better as financial planners?

What exactly is it that sets a successful Financial Planner from one who is struggling or failing in their career? Can success as a Financial Planner be chalked up to intelligence level or sales skill or experience or is it just good fortune? There is no one correct answer for these questions but we will use a hypothetical example to illustrate how to best answer these questions. Success is not necessarily defined so much by the amount of income earned, but rather by the quality of life of the Financial Planner and his/her ability to help clients to make and achieve their own long-term financial goals.

Take Samantha and Patricia – two recent financial services graduates both graduating with almost identical credentials. Both have access to the same resources and access to the same opportunities and both are in good health. Both establish their own Financial Planning businesses in the same city, with access to the same target markets, and both ladies are self-motivated and are driven to succeed. But after the first year of operation, it is obvious that Samantha has achieved a significantly greater level of success than Patricia has. Her portfolio of clients has trebled during the period and she has a steady flow of work. She has become known for her talent and is thinking of expanding her services. Patricia, on the other hand, struggles to keep the few clients that she has worked with, and is thinking that a career as a Financial Planner may have been the wrong choice for her. She is ready to call it quits and to try another career. What accounts for the differences in the success levels of these two Financial Planners?

In Financial Planning, Purposeful Practice Makes Perfect

Like most other professions, financial planning is regarded as a “practice” because it entails the repeated performance of an activity or skill. The financial planner will find him/herself performing the same types of activities on a regular basis. As with any other profession, the more practice that is done, the better one should become at it. But not all practice is effective. As we saw in the case of Samantha and Patricia, Samantha’s practice was effective while Patricia’s practice was not. One type of practice that has proven to be greatly effective is “purposeful practice”. This may be defined as committing to doing something for as many times as it takes to achieve mastery. One purposeful practice enthusiast believes that “the most effective and most powerful types of practice in any field, work by harnessing the adaptability of the human body and brain to create, step by step, the ability to do things that were not previously possible.” How can a Financial Planner benefit from purposeful practice?

While working as a Financial Planner may be the best way to gain practice and experience, it may not be the best way to achieve mastery. If less than perfect techniques are consistently applied, the desired results may not be achieved. In the case of Patricia above, she was obviously doing something wrong. She just failed to identify what was wrong or to correct the wrongs that were being made. One proven way for a Financial Planner to become successful is through purposeful practice which could involve consistent and regular role play outside of the office setting. This type of role play allows Financial Planners to develop and to hone the soft skills that are necessary for success in the field of Financial Planning. Guided by a fellow professional Financial Planner, role play exercises allow for a safe, low-stakes learning environment in which Financial Planners can work through weaknesses while leveraging their own strengths. Since Financial Planning involves far more than simply offering financial advice, it is beneficial to master the relevant soft skills that are necessary for attracting and keeping your clients. The investment that is made in purposeful practice will surely help a struggling practitioner to become a successful Financial Planner.

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you are good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.

What are you doing to get better?

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