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Effective leadership

A key ingredient in building a strong advisor practice

 “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.

They are the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." 

– Ronald Reagan

It can be said that the primary role of an advisor is to have meaningful and relevant conversations with clients, because ultimately what you do for your clients drives revenue. However, there is much more to running a successful advisory practice than simply conversing with clients. Think of all the day-to-day tasks, such as processing new business and transactions, following up on client inquiries, keeping notes and records of all communications, marketing efforts for your firm, and more. 

It’s a lot for just one person to juggle – some may say it’s darn near impossible. But as the saying goes, many hands make light work. Effectively growing and operating a business requires a team. 

Image: John Stewart

John Stewart

Field Director, Practice Management, Advisory Services

John Stewart has been in the financial services industry for over 30 years. As the Field Director Practice Management with Manulife Securities, John develops and delivers strategies and programs to help advisors drive overall business and revenue growth. John’s strength lies in his ability to understand, relate to and communicate with advisors.

Go team!

Having an engaged team can mean the difference between a practice you desire versus a practice that simply exists – and a great team starts with strong leadership. Your team looks to you to chart the direction and set the pace. And employees will also look to you for professional development that enables them to be fully engaged in the operations of your business. 

The first step towards effective leadership is quite simple: focus on being the type of person you’d like to work for, not the type of person you wouldn’t want to work for. Which type are you? How would people describe your style? Now ask yourself, What are the attributes of someone that you would want to work for? Do you bring those qualities to the office? 

 Along with being the type of person that others like working for, another key aspect in building an effective team is being able to help people focus and be engaged in the business. As their leader, it’s your responsibility to get the most out of employees by encouraging them to grow in their respective roles – along with developing personal interests. Your leadership can help increase team performance and engagement, while also helping to grow your practice. Let’s take a look at some attributes of an effective leader and some actions you can take to create a great team. 

Attributes of an effective leader 

Do you know what it takes to be considered an effective leader? Here’s a checklist to help you in developing a team that’s effective and engaged in your practice.


  • Recognize your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly. Who’s a great communicator? Who is ultra-organized with office processes?
  • Fully understand what they do in a day and what they love about their role, along with what they don’t enjoy.
  • Know what motivates each employee – it might be different for everyone. Is it a private pep talk? A competition among peers? If you aren’t sure, ask your staff for feedback on what they need from you.
  • Understand their goals and ambitions: What’s important to them and what would they like to achieve?


  • Generate enthusiasm and motivation for employees to deliver results. 
  • Everyone likes recognition for their contributions. It can be something as simple as telling someone they’ve done an excellent job, or as substantial as a gift card or bonus. 
  • Get your staff engaged in the recognition process – what are their suggestions?
  • Create a positive environment that makes team members want to come to work each day. Happy and engaged employees are effective employees.

Skills development

  • Draw out each person’s innate skills and abilities. Invest in your team’s development.
  • People won’t grow just because you want them to. Give each employee a reason to develop and grow.
  • Consider mentoring and job shadowing options for employees who are eager to expand their skill set.

Embrace change

  • The industry is constantly changing, and firms need to be able to change with it or be left behind. 
  • As a leader, set the example by treating change as a positive learning situation. This will encourage your employees to accept and embrace change as well. 
  • Get out ahead of the curve – look for ways to improve and grow your practice. Don’t be afraid to evolve and try new things. 
  • Tap into insights that your employees may have on novel ways to grow your business or develop new niche markets. 

Communication and feedback 

  • Your team members need to understand what is expected of them and be comfortable offering suggestions on how things can be done better. 
  • Be available for employees when they need help, and have regular conversations with them. 
  • The best business ideas can come from your employees. Ask them for suggestions and feedback on ways to improve your practice’s operation. 

Actions to help develop team members

Have regular performance reviews 

Hold regularly scheduled reviews with each employee to discuss performance and goals. Have an open discussion and get feedback from the employee. Discuss areas of strength and areas for improvement. Understand what the employee’s goals and objectives are and what motivates and energizes them.

Hold effective weekly team meetings 

Have weekly meetings with all team members in attendance. Set an agenda with discussion items and give employees the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions in a safe environment where everyone’s input is valued. Effective meetings allow for candid, creative discussion from all team members about the practice and how things are going. 

Celebrate the simple successes 

Make a concerted effort to celebrate successes big and small – everything from positive client testimonials and thanks, to getting a new client or a great new prospect. Create an environment where your team understands that even the small successes are important.

You are the advisor and this is your practice. You are also the leader, and your leadership style will determine the attitude and effectiveness of your team. Remember, be the type of person you would want to work for, and not the type of person you wouldn’t want to work for.



Copyright Manulife


© 2020 Manulife. As one of Canada’s largest integrated financial services providers, Manulife offers a variety of products and services including insurance, living benefits, segregated fund contracts, mutual funds, annuities and guaranteed interest contracts. The persons and situations depicted are fictional and their resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. This media is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific financial, tax, legal, accounting or other advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. Many of the issues discussed will vary by province. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation. E & O E. Manulife Mutual Funds and Manulife Exchange‑Traded Funds (ETFs) are managed by Manulife Investment Management (formerly named Manulife Asset Management Limited). Manulife Investment Management is a trade name of Manulife Investment Management Limited. A division of Manulife Asset Management Limited. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in the Manulife Mutual Funds and Manulife ETFs. Please read the ETF facts/fund facts as well as the prospectus before investing. The Manulife Mutual Funds and Manulife ETFs are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Any amount that is allocated to a segregated fund is invested at the risk of the contractholder and may increase or decrease in value. Manulife, Manulife & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by it, and by its affiliates under license.

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