Coaching Difficult Behavior

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Do you have any tips on the best way to coach and mentor someone who is the heir apparent in my firm? I have a young man who is sharp, highly credentialed and very good with clients. The problem is he rubs people in the firm the wrong way.

We have 13 team members and he is going to be my successor in 5-7 years. He and everyone else knows it. He has become too ego-centered around this eventuality. I am fielding complaints pretty regularly from other team members. I encourage them to work directly with him, but I’m not sure he really listens to what they are saying and he makes it all about them and their problems.

I need to mentor him in this area but I’ve always been able to work well with my staff so trying to help him is challenging for me. Any tips on how to get through to him more effectively?


Dear S.Q.,

It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much we are taught from a technical learning perspective but how little when it comes to understanding people and managing others’ behavior? Your struggle is not uncommon – finding a great person with the right skills and the right knowledge and then finding out that they can’t work with others.

Lately, in my work with clients large and small, I’ve had a number of discussions about aptitude and attitude versus skills and knowledge. There is a line of thinking that you can train to the skills and knowledge, but having someone “wired” with the wrong attitude and aptitude is harder to shift. In the case of financial advisory work, you do need a credentialed person, you do need someone with the right pedigree and background, but you also have to pair it with the right attitude and approach to working with others.