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What I learned from the soft skills Howwow

20 November 2019

Andy Schleider, owner and paraplanner at Haven Paraplanning, reviews the recent Soft Skills Howwow

On 12 November 2019 I attended a first of its kind event: an all-day Howwow relating to soft skills, called ‘This Time it’s Personal’.

It was designed specifically for paraplanners by paraplanners and throughout the day we were discussing subjects like how to communicate with confidence, developing trusting and respectful working relationships and helping others to understand what we do as paraplanners.

We were asked to think about some things before the Howwow. These thoughts were written ahead of the day:

1. Describe what you would like to achieve from the day.

As with everything, I try to approach things with an open mind, so I’m not really sure what to expect. Aside from catching up with fellow paraplanners, emotional intelligence has been a development point for me in previous employed roles.

Currently I don’t manage any staff, however if I can defuse any potentially difficult situations that arise in future, that could prove to be a big advantage.

2. Describe the impact of this.

There were three parties that were referred to in this statement: 1) me, 2) those I work with and 3) the clients I look after. For me, 2 and 3 are interchangeable as I do not manage any staff.

The impact of this for me would (could) be better working relationships with potential and existing clients. Actually, all 3 parties point toward the same thing, certainly in my case!

3. Focusing on the learning outcomes for the day, how will developing in these 3 key areas support you within your role and those you work with?

I hope it will help to more easily engage with people that I have difficulty getting on with initially. I like to think I get on with most people, however this is not always the case. This could be down to personality styles, and the different ways in which different people work.

4. Capture any specific examples you may be facing

The main example that springs to mind was a conversation with a prospective client. The client is a very demanding person, and I would never work for them as an employee, but happy to work with them in my capacity as a paraplanner. We spent a long time on the phone with the initial conversation, and it was possibly the most uncomfortable call I have dealt with since I started trading.

The day itself

The day was split into three sessions, which were run by a team of gurus, appropriately called the Guru Team: Rachael Hurdman, Len Horridge and Sarah Purves.

Rachael discussed with us how to give and receive meaningful feedback. We talked about asking for feedback on feedback, which meant asking the recipient how they would like to receive it. Some people prefer to receive it straight, and others prefer a softer approach. It was suggested that when you receive it, assume it’s being given with good intentions. The purpose of it is not to ‘crush’ you, but to help with your development.

The main thing I took away from this session with regard to feedback, was to take three things to develop and three things to continue doing, as there should be positives as well as development points to think about.

Sarah’s session was about contracting and building trust, and peoples’ different personalities and how to communicate with the different personalities. There were discussions about negotiating and being clear about any relationships from the outset. In my role this is important as I need to be clear with my clients what I can deliver, and also my expectations of them in terms of providing the information I need to be able to deliver.

The statement that stood out for me in this session was ‘What can I do for you to help us both meet our objectives?’. This is a good negotiating tool as it means that both parties have to do something for the benefit of both.

Len’s session was about helping others to understand what we do. The role of a paraplanner differs massively from company to company and it’s not always clear where a paraplanner’s role stops and an administrator’s begins; indeed in my previous company the roles were conducted by one person as there wasn’t the capacity to employ an additional member of staff.

It’s easier in an outsourced paraplanning company, as you can be clear about what you do from the beginning of the relationship (referring back to Sarah’s session here!).

The thing I took away from this session was to work on my elevator pitch. I do a lot of networking so need to convey what I do in a short space of time, more often than not to people outside of the industry. In fact, my very brief explanation of what I do is saying that the adviser does all the talking, and I do all the real work!!


All in all, I really enjoyed the day and it gave me plenty to think about. It was great to speak to people who I only communicated with from behind a keyboard, plus those I have met before.

I think some of the things that we discussed will be more relevant to me in the future when my company expands and I have staff to manage, however it was useful to reinforce the idea of contracting and explaining better what I do to a wider audience.

Professional Paraplanner