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Report from the Professional Paraplanner Team Leader Seminar

2 March 2020

Professional Paraplanner’s first Team Leader Seminar took place on 6 February 2020. Here we pick out some of the highlights of the day and from the peer-to-peer discussions

The Seminar was held under Chatham House rules allowing reporting of what was said but not who said it.

This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

The Professional Paraplanner Team Leader Seminar was a mix of presentations, practical and interactive sessions and peer-to-peer discussions. Often paraplanners become team leaders as part of the expansion of a firm’s paraplanner capability but they receive no formal management training. The Professional Paraplanner Team Leader Seminars aim to help paraplanners with the transition, their management style and techniques, as well as providing the opportunity to discuss issues with their fellow team leaders in a supportive environment.

The Seminar was hosted by Fidelity FundsNetwork and delegates heard from Jackie Boylan, Head of UK Advisor Platform FundsNetwork on her experiences as a manager and her insights into what she termed her ‘non negotiables of leadership’ – [Read more here.] These included treating people how you’d expect to be treated, listening to others, recognising leadership qualities you appreciate in others, being honest in self-appraisal, having the best people around you and, above all and at all times, communicating with those around you.

Head of HR at Fidelity International Nella Mereu talked though key areas for team leaders, such as mental health awareness, “team leaders are often best positioned to know colleagues and when something is not right” and the wellbeing not just of your staff but of yourself as an individual.

Interactive sessions were delivered by leadership and management development specialist Mark Nobbs, who took delegates through some practical tasks to demonstrate how teams work together and how management styles come through when people have problems to solve.

Watch highlight video here.

Peer-to-peer discussions

In the peer-to-peer discussions delegates had the opportunity to talk to several topics identified as specific to their roles as paraplanner team leaders, including what’s required of a paraplanner team leader in today’s advice firm; when to stop being a hands-on paraplanner; becoming a boss; getting the most productivity from your team; and happiness in the role. Here we pick up on some of the points raised.

One of the biggest issues raised by individuals when moving from paraplanner to manager was that they were promoted into leading a team but with no structure or support in place to help them do so, in some cases including a defined job description, meaning they had to learn as went along.

“I was thrown in the deep end. It was very tough and a huge challenge,” one delegate said, while another described being given the job “and a list of things that needed fixing”.

What is important in this situation, delegates advised, is not to rush in and try to address everything from the word go. Taking a step back and some time to review the strengths and weaknesses of the team and planning how you want the team to look are good first steps.

If necessary, write your own job description, covering areas such as management tasks, technical work and training/development. The act of getting things down on paper can help clarify the tasks to be done and which ones need to be tackled first.

On a personal level, another clear issue for those transitioning into a management role was their passion for paraplanning itself and a “concern” that their new job was taking them away from what they like to do best. “I’m not comfortable with that,” one delegate admitted.

“It can be difficult,” another delegate advised, “but at some point, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. You have to let it go.”

One way suggested to do that was to focus on training others as a means of passing on your knowledge and experience.

Linked with this issue were two other related ones, not wanting to give up control and “being too nice”. They are related in that they both resulted in team leaders retaining too much day-to-day paraplanning work and not passing on tasks they should no longer be doing if they are to properly manage their team.

Disadvantages were identified as:

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