Solidarity and networking with like-minded professionals can help any individual overcome challenges and achieve sought-after success. For women in a male-dominated field such as financial services, women-only small groups can provide camaraderie, encouragement and accountability — all integral pieces of long-term professional and personal growth.
Several years ago, four women and I created an all-woman study group designed to help members overcome hurdles. This group is responsible for immeasurable individual achievements and some of my most meaningful relationships. A career in financial services can be rewarding, but it requires dedication and fearlessness. A formal study group is a great way to surround yourself with impactful individuals and align every group member for greater success, which you can pass on to clients.
Curate Your Network And Support System
To start, find like-minded professional women from shared professional or local associations to make up your group. Expect to take some time to identify the special mix of members and personalities needed to create a nurturing environment for professional and personal growth. The women in my group met through our involvement in MDRT, but it took years of planning before we formalized our study group.
Consider members’ personalities and how they’ll blend to impact the group’s overall dynamic. It’s important for each person to get to know the other women on personal and professional levels to develop trust and confidence. An ideal dynamic will help members feel comfortable sharing their flaws, concerns and challenges, and feel confident providing guidance and comfort to others.
Expand Beyond Geographic Boundaries
Membership in industry-specific support groups likely will extend across geographic lines. This can be challenging to overcome, but technology and commitment can ease the burden and ultimately align the right people to achieve success. Each group should have an optimal meeting schedule and method to help keep its members engaged and motivated.
The women in my study group live across the U.S., but we’re all at similar points in our careers.
We make up for this distance through monthly video conferences, phone calls and (pre-pandemic) semiannual in-person meetings. These meetings allow for holistic personal and professional updates to the support system. We report our progress and collectively discuss plans to further our successes and confront our challenges.
Before the pandemic, my group would regroup after the MDRT Annual Meeting, held in June. We debriefed on our personal goals, key conference takeaways and next steps for our practices. In early December, we met in person again to reflect on our progress and to finalize individual and group plans for the coming year. These meetings helped me apply new business strategies and grow my practice.
Develop A Group Objective
It’s important to have a group structure to follow, and group objectives should evolve with each member’s needs. For example, advisors may want to concentrate on certain insurance products, practice management issues or business development strategies in addition to general mentoring and group support. Collaborate to identify a calendar that breaks annual objectives down into measurable monthly goals.
The subjects your group studies will change over time, and it’s best to embrace that change. Together, we explore areas such as journaling or healthy eating to round out our nonprofessional skills and become better leaders and advisors for our clients through greater work-life balance.
Identify A Common Starting Point
It’s helpful to identify a common journey or cause for group members to embark on together. We each completed The One Page Business Plan by Jim Horan as a first step in our collective goal of professional development. From there, we employed a business coach for two years to join us for monthly coaching calls and guide us through individual goals and challenges. Our coach led us through the process together without being a formal leader, which gave us breathing room to grow.
We stayed on the same page because we started from the same place and leveraged the same plan. This approach provided much-needed stability to our group. We experienced firsthand that the best thing you can do to help a business grow is work on it, rather than in it. Monthly calls and the support of our sisterhood helped keep us all focused on our goals and objectives for our individual businesses.
In the years my study group has been together, we’ve reached countless personal and professional milestones. Women-led networking groups and support systems provide a unique and powerful environment that fosters development and builds confidence. If you’ve considered joining or starting a group in the past, reach out to a few like-minded women to start the process.