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Is journaling the key to mentoring young planners?

SAN DIEGO — Sure, it's tough to get started at any new career. But young financial planners have an exceptionally large hurdle to clear: gaining their clients' trust.

"Young planners struggle because they're new," said Stephen Brody, senior financial planner with Greenville Financial Advisors, told attendees at the FPA's annual retreat. "Because of that, it's a circle. If you don't have the experience, you can't have the conversations."

Brody has chosen to focus on what he can control — a lesson he believes is essential to new advisors seeking mentorship. "There's a way for young planners to jumpstart their career and level of wisdom — and it's all about their way-of-being," he said. "What we want to focus on is the idea of how it is you as an individual walk through your morning, noon and night."

Answering these questions helps planners find their "way-of-being," Brody said.

New advisors should ask themselves if they connect “head-to-head and heart-to-heart” when they meet prospective clients, Brody added. “That’s what you lead with — that's what shows up that very first second."

Those who look to mentor younger planners can find guidance in a 450 year-old principal called the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm. Teachers worldwide use this practice, based on experience, reflection and action, to guide learners — no matter the subject or the industry.

This Jesuit principle is one of the most important "underpinnings of mentorship," he says. "As an aside, understand this is coming from a nice Jewish boy," Brody joked.

But how can advisors put practice into action?

FPA-Retreat-Notes

In his mentorship program, Brody uses a two-phase process of journaling and reflection, designed to develop his mentees’s skills with its emphasis on a “continual cycle of experience, reflection and action," he said. In the first phase, mentees are tasked with journaling for 15-20 minutes about their work every day. The second phase shifts the cadence of the journaling from daily to weekly. For both types of journals, the mentees are provided prompts from their mentor.

The mentor will promptly provide comments in response to the journals, which the mentee will be able to respond to (and should do so in a timely manner).

Brody said planners should not hold back. "Reading the comments is not meant to be easy, it’s meant to be a look-in-the-mirror experience," he said. "You have to be willing to do the work, you have to be authentic in your desire to grow."

Since mentees are sharing vulnerable information, the mentors should take their work very seriously, Brody said. That means trusting mentees — are going to find their way. The same is true for the advisor-client relationship, he adds. "You have to give them the resources and the guidance and let them loose to succeed or fail. Any planner with experience knows that in a client-planner relationship, when the planner cares more about the success of the client it's a broken relationship and it needs to stop," he said. "If I as a mentor care more about the success of the mentee than the mentee does, it's not going to work."

For one of Brody's mentees, the process didn't yield benefits immediately. "I thought I wouldn't have to make my own mistakes, that I could just learn from his mistakes," said advisor Sidney Divine of Divine Wealth Strategies. "Although I started off skeptical, it won me over. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for this process."

Divine nearly quit the business, he said. But taking the time to truly reflect on the work he was doing — and the difference he was making for his clients — truly shifted his mindset.

"If you're young, you want to make your mark on the world. You want to make tons of money," Divine said. "[This helps you] think more about the work that you and your clients do."

Now, thanks to Brody's mentorship, Divine says he's focused what allows great planners to help their clients the most. His primary goal is to "leave [clients] better than how I found [them]," he said.

For Brody, the soul of the process is about helping young advisors connect their way-of-being and the work they are doing to the people they are serving.

"We as financial life coaches and financial planners are servant leaders. We are there to work with people and in turn because they worked with us, they become better servants themselves," he said. "Overall, it's the best of the heart and best of the head coming together."

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