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Know Your Boss's Personality Type

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Branch managers are charged with knowing their advisors. Advisors, however, may not know their branch managers quite the same, or be able to distinguish the personality styles of their leaders.

Ideally, managers can guide advisors by generating business ideas and removing obstacles in the way of their goals. However, if advisors fail to connect with their branch managers, it can interfere not only with their financial success, but also with job satisfaction and comfort with their own firm.

Therefore, a better understanding of both the personality style and motivators of branch managers can be critical for financial companies hoping to create a good fit to ensure advisor loyalty and engagement.

Advisors who have a clearer picture of their manager’s motivators and personality style, along with strategies for communicating with them more effectively, will allow advisors to have a greater opportunity to achieve success and satisfaction in their work. 

As a psychologist and consultant to the financial industry over the past 20 years, I have observed hundreds of branch managers. Depending on the financial firm, the branch manager role can range from a full-time commitment to a high-producing advisor who has agreed to assume the  responsibility of the compliance aspect.

To better understand the priorities, motivators and patterns of behavior exhibited by these leaders, I have identified four types — the engaged manager; the collaborative manager; the focused manager and the reluctant manager. 


There are also four key behavioral qualities I have found to be critical to a branch manager’s success. They are: being a visionary; their level of affiliation and commitment to advisors’ lives; their level of responsiveness to others; and how data driven they are in decision making.

 Additionally, a manager’s willingness to seek expertise and outside resources within his own firm or from wholesalers to help their advisors achieve their goals can be vital and therefore are incorporated into these descriptions.

Looking at engaged managers, these are visionary and proactive. They are most likely not producing managers, but rather view management as a full-time job. They have a high level of influence on the advisors, prioritize the affiliative aspect of their roles and respect data. They are invested in mentoring motivated advisors and are open to new opportunities to help them achieve this goal.

The engaged managers not only have an overall vision for their office, but also have identified specific goals to achieve this vision. They are willing to give time to outside “vendors” if they believe they’re knowledgeable and can help advance the office’s goals. They want outside financial “partners” to be the “expert” and have specific suggestions and behavioral strategies for using data that will aid in the growth of themselves and their advisors. 

Collaborative managers are balanced in their approach to management. They’re likely to be producing managers but take the business, compliance and sales aspects of their roles seriously. Because of their divided roles of advisor and manager, they’re looking for outside relationships that can help accomplish their goals.

Collaborative managers may have a vague idea of the direction they’d like the office to take, but may get sidetracked because they’re often reactionary and responsive to the issue of the day.  As a result, collaborative managers are not always consistent with their set goals. They have a moderate level of influence on advisors, particularly with advisors they mentor. These types of managers support a proactive program if they can rely on consistent support to ensure the program’s success. They prioritize the affiliative aspect of their role and appreciate data if it helps their advisors reach their goals.

Focused managers may or may not be producing managers; however they’re most interested in their roles’ business and compliance aspects. Their priority will be avoiding crisis and managing risk. They are more reactive than proactive.

Focused managers will offer support, but don’t consider mentoring a primary  responsibility. They have a minimum level of influence with the advisors in their branch. Focused managers will most likely be neutral about outside partners working with advisors, but  won’t necessarily be interested in getting involved in the process. They appreciate data especially if it can help advance their goals.

The reluctant managers are high-producing advisors that take on managerial responsibilities. They’re interested in data as a means of keeping track of goals and are focused on efficiency and want structures in place to help the office run smoothly. Reluctant managers are unlikely to view mentoring as a part of their job description. They’re reluctant to start new programs, and have a minimum level of influence on advisors. When deciding whether to support an outside expert to work with advisors, they’ll want specific questions answered of how will it be done, by when, and how much will it cost?


To decide where your branch manager falls in these profiles, you may want to  explore their behavior patterns in the four key areas identified: visionary, level of affiliation, level of responsiveness and data driven. You will want to look for examples where they have shown specific actions that support your assessment.

The following questions may help you determine where they fall:

• Do they have a vision for the branch and are comfortable setting specific goals to achieve this vision?

• Do they get energized interacting, helping others and prioritizing their mentoring role?

• Are they responsive to new ideas and willing to initiate action?

• Do they respect the use of data in decision-making and understand the role it can play in an advisor’s success?

Once an advisor understands a branch manager’s personality style, that advisor must learn to communicate more effectively, based on the  manager’s motivators.

For example, when speaking with an engaged manager, an advisor needs to appeal to the manager’s curiosity and desire to effect change.

You want to avoid focusing too much on rules, structures and procedures, but rather show how your specific need relates to a bigger picture. Provide opportunities for engaged managers to ask questions and seek new information. When discussing issues, be sure to focus on their long-term plans and vision. If you are looking for them to make a change, be sure to use precise language and help the managers make the connection between your request and improving processes in general.  


The collaborative managers appreciate learning about new opportunities that resonate with their values.  Keep communications brief and give specific examples. It’s best to speak with this type of manager in a one-to-one setting, to gain their full attention. When making a request, approach the situation in a personal and appreciative way. You will want to be sure to focus on short-term rather than long-term consequences of any actions. Finally, when possible, provide opportunities for them to adapt or improvise on your suggestions.

The focused managers require advisors to be direct and concise. Advisors should explain ideas logically and focus on the specific goals, actions and results of a request. Organize data presentation efficiently and study all possible outcomes. Don’t be surprised if managers make decisions based on rules set by their firm. Finally, focused managers prefer to solve problems, so allow them to give their input.

Reluctant managers respond best to detailed and accurate information.  Avoid surprises, ambiguity and provide step-by-step structured explanations of your requests and actions. Finally, be sure to provide enough time for them to understand and agree with rules or standards before expecting them to take action. 

Denise P. Federer is a clinical psychologist, executive coach and founder of Federer Performance Management Group in Tampa, Fla. She has consulted with financial services firms for 20 years.

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