I don't remember seeing "Future Manager" in the original job description. In fact, I didn't plan on being a manager at all. I went to school to be a financial planner, which led to a full-time role as an "Associate Financial Planner," which somehow led to managing the next generation (a generation I'm also apart of).
Businesses grow though, and with growth comes hiring people to help. And since I'm most familiar with being the newbie myself, it only makes sense I'd be in charge of our newest hires.
Trained in Financial Planning > Manager by Circumstance
The only goal of our profession is to give great financial advice, but if you go to work for an existing firm, it turns out that management plays a key role in our day-to-day lives. On one hand, your direct manager basically dictates how happy (or dissatisfied) you are with your work. On the other, if your company continues to grow, your next promotion might be to train and develop the next hires; if you are a rapidly growing firm, hiring comes with the territory.
So now we have a bunch of trained financial planning technicians who are now responsible for molding the next set of talent as managers. And here lies the main problems: First, we are trained in the technical aspects of the job. Second, not everyone wants to be a manager, and they frankly might not be good at it.
My Early Management Failures
A few years into the job, we decided to test me out as a manager. The equivalent of training wheels as a manager is to hire a summer intern, so I ran that program for a couple summers. It's the perfect introduction because you get the illusion of controlling the experience by yourself and your ride is over before you have a chance to get lost.
After some success there, we were ready to take on a full-time Associate and take my training wheels off.
What followed was months of trial and error, with a few bumps and scrapes along the way. It turns out managing interns is child's play compared to a full-time hire.
I have a lot of growing left to do, but it's worth sharing some of my early challenges with anyone about to take the management plunge. Here are a few ways I messed up as a newbie manager:
Gave too much slack - with fear of becoming the dreaded 'micro-manager,' I passed down projects and assumed it would be fine without much oversight.
Gave too little slack - after dropping the ball a few times, I quickly adjusted and had a few micro-manager moments. I did some excess hand-holding, which took away from my own work and time.
Fell behind on my own work - the ultimate way to ensure I worked on nights and weekends. Hooray.
Had a few identity crises - when something goes wrong, how much discipline do you instill? Is my role to be the parent or the cool big brother? Are big brothers meant to be cool? I'm still learning, and expect more crises.
Created cool projects and did not execute them - before a new hire starts, everyone has grandiose plans for productivity. Then reality hits and the cool ideas get thrown in the backseat because the fundamentals aren't built yet. Hopefully I didn't lose those opportunities to make our firm better.
Did not fully define our culture - "people like us do things like this," says Seth Godin on culture. It sounds simple, but there are dozens of cultural norms you could define. What is our dress code? What is our tone in meetings? What if I don't know the answer?? It's the manager’s job to set what is commonly accepted, and more importantly, what is not accepted.
Broke the culture code after defining it - The easiest way to help define culture is to constantly lead by example. Each time those boundaries are broken, you corrode what you've built. Example: if the boss is regularly late = it's commonly accepted to be late. Guilty as charged.
I could go on and on about what I did wrong. The question now becomes, what am I going to do about it?
Being fair, I'm sure I've done a few things right along the way. No one has quit on me yet. Among my many flaws, I have chosen to care and get better. I realize I will never get it right the first time, but as long as I have the opportunity to lead, I will care about leading properly.
We Should Probably Care More
What irks me is that very few people discuss Management in the Financial Planning profession (at least no one in my circles), and I don't know why. If your business is growing, you will likely have to hire someone, and managing your hires will make or break your win streak.
More importantly, I have too many friends who have left the industry because they were mismanaged or misguided in some way. When your experience is a bad one, it's easy to associate the entire profession to it.
So I think it's very important for us to learn how to do this right. Our friends in the accounting and legal professions have seemed to figure it out. Now it's our turn.
The better we are at managing the next generation, the better off this profession will be.