You’re the boss

By Philip Porado | January 17, 2014 | Last updated on January 17, 2014
2 min read

Great managers care.

They’ll notice an employee is sick and send her home before she even asks to leave. They can read moods, turn discouraged staff members around, and take genuine interest in the well-being of people whose careers they’re responsible for.

They know details count, and can rattle off quite a few about an employee’s family, her interests, where she hails from and what her parents were like. And the best managers keep one eye on where an employee is, and the other on where she’s going. They’re bona fide mentors who take fiduciary interest in people’s careers.

Researchers have identified two distinct types of mentoring: career (which prepares a protégé for advancement); and psychological (which trains a person to navigate an organization’s twists and turns, and deal with the myriad personalities she’ll encounter on the job).

And a 2004 study, conducted by University of Florida brainiacs and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, compared mentored and non-mentored groups within business organizations.

The study’s preamble says researchers expected to consistently find psychological mentoring would foster greater feelings of self-worth within the organization, leading employees to stay in jobs longer. Career-based mentoring, meanwhile, was expected to lead to skill development that paid off in the form of frequent promotions and rising salaries. Turns out there was often overlap: traditional methods, like giving employees increasingly challenging tasks, also led to higher levels of self-worth and sparked loyalty; and psychological coaching, such as lessons for dealing with difficult work peers, spurred higher confidence that translated directly into significant and frequent promotions. These outcomes should sound familiar to anyone who dispenses advice. In many ways, advisors are the ultimate managers.

As a team-leading advisor, you have to educate both people who work for you and the clients you serve. Both roles require you remain open-minded enough to let people say what they think, and be straightforward about successes, fears and failures. And, either way, you’re constantly called upon to fight off human nature, and provide enough of the big picture so nobody feels left out.

Leading a team means keeping employees focused. Clients get distracted too, by market noise and life events. When that happens, it falls to you to step into a teacher’s role and ensure they actually grasp how your efforts help them meet investment objectives. Adopting this mentality takes you to a place where you aren’t just managing your clients’ money; you’re also developing best practices to help them achieve lifestyle goals.

Mentors approach their days with an eye toward ensuring their charges eventually know as much as they do. While the time spent with clients doesn’t permit this level of knowledge transfer, it’s worth setting the bar high and truly caring about outcomes. So look at both your team and your clients. Then ask, “Who have I mentored today?”

by Philip Porado, a financial columnist based in Toronto.

Philip Porado