Where You Start Doesn’t Determine Your Success, But These Three Things Can
I often joke that when it comes to running a business line at a big wealth management firm, I am the least likely candidate for the job.
For much of my life, the concept of “wealth” was truly foreign to me. Growing up in a blue-collar family, my parents worked multiple jobs to ensure we had everything we needed. But there wasn’t a lot of room for the extras.
Unlike many of my peers at the time – and many of my colleagues today – I wasn’t a high-caliber athlete, a great scholar, or president of anything in school.
I was, however, the daughter of two incredibly hard-working people who taught me how to be resourceful, to have the humility to acknowledge my limitations, and how to set and achieve goals by developing a plan of action.
What I’ve learned over the course of my career is that the people who exhibit these characteristics have the greatest ability to succeed – no matter where they started from.
When I decided to go to college after graduating from high school, I was the first in my family to do so. That meant I had to figure out where I wanted to go and how I would pay for it. I didn’t know where to start.
I managed to pull in a little bit of scholarship money and worked full-time as a checker at a local grocery store. I would schedule all my classes in the morning and go to work after class each day. As I looked around at the kids whose families could afford to help them out, who didn’t have to work, I admit there were days when I wished my life was more like theirs. Looking back, I’m glad it wasn’t. I learned how to be resourceful, becoming really good at time management and building a lot of self-confidence in the process.
As leaders, we have to be resourceful when we’re trying to accomplish big goals on a limited budget. We have to be resourceful with our human capital. We have to be resourceful with our own time. Time and time again, managers will turn to the resourceful people on their team, because they know those are the people who can take a challenge and come back with a creative way to solve it.
There's a lot of merit to figuring out things for yourself, but there's a limit to what most of us can do well on our own. Accepting those limits isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength.
One of my limits is patience. I tend to lose patience quickly when I’m unable to formulate an approach to a challenge, or when things go off the rails.
Patience is a gift, and there are many people who possess it. When I find that my lack of patience is getting in the way of success, I try to be humble enough to admit that I may not be the right person for that particular task. Instead, I rely on the members of my team who have the patience to tirelessly and constructively work through difficult issues.
Clients come to financial advisors because they want better outcomes in their lives. These are incredibly intelligent people with their own talents. But that doesn’t mean they know how to exercise their stock options or establish a trust. They know what they are and aren't good at, and they’re comfortable saying so.
By accepting our own limitations as leaders and relying on those who are strong in the areas where we are weak, our teams and companies can arrive at better outcomes.
When I returned to RBC Wealth Management in November 2016 in a much-expanded role under a new leadership team, there was so much I wanted to do. And with new regulations governing our industry, there was a lot that needed to be done.
I wanted some “early wins,” to quote Michael Watkins in his book The First 90 Days, but I knew I couldn’t just dive right in. Instead, I spent a lot of time getting up to speed on the organization. Gathering this information allowed me to define specific goals, and setting goals is the first step in making the invisible, visible.
In order to achieve those goals, you need a plan. Thoughtfully consider what you really want to achieve, and then determine what it will take to get there. This will increase your success rate exponentially. A plan also provides a compass for everyone in the organization, allowing them to contribute and help achieve the organization’s goals.
This sequence – set a goal, make a plan, and execute – applies not only to leadership, but to life. This is the approach our financial advisors take with their clients, helping them identify, clarify, and prioritize their goals, and then developing a plan to achieve these goals.
Everyone has goals that they want to accomplish. But most have limited resources, whether it's time, knowledge, or money. Determine what’s really important, set your goals, and develop a solid plan.
It doesn’t matter where you start from. With a little resourcefulness, a whole lot of humility, and a plan, you can get to where you want to go.
Ann Senne is the Head of Advice and Solutions at RBC Wealth Management – U.S.
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