A close up image of Becca Timmins who is standing and leads a workshop session at the Big Day Out 2022
With a background that’s rich in paraplanning experience, Becca Timmins (pictured above at the Big Day Out 2022) is ideally placed to lead a session on personal development power-ups for paraplanners. But what’s in it for paraplanners – and the financial planning practices they work for?

What’s the one thing Becca Timmins wished she’d mastered when she started out as a paraplanner in 2003?

How to give feedback.

“I’ve been in an operations role since 2010, but was paraplanning for quite a long time before that, and I would have massively benefited from thinking about how to give feedback.”

“I’m not thinking about the kind of feedback you give to a team member as a manager – or vice versa – but the ‘the-information-you-gave-me-on-this-file-is-crap-and-this-is-why-I-need-it’ kind of feedback you needed to share with advisers. I just didn’t have those skills.”

These days, the coach and facilitator – and operations director of financial planning practice, Emery Little – recognises that the exchange of feedback relies on a vital quality that she would have loved to have been given techniques to practice earlier in her career too: “I wasn’t taught to listen. To REALLY listen. And that’s a skill that is massively valuable for giving and receiving feedback.”

“Take the crap file example. If I’m going to a planner and saying ‘this is a problem, the file isn’t good enough’ there’s a danger that all they hear is ‘there’s a compliance problem’ and the quality of the conversation is just doomed.”

“But if you can frame and share feedback constructively, and then sit back and really listen to what a planner says, more often than not you realise that you’re both trying to achieve very similar outcomes for clients but are just approaching it in different ways.”

“Paying attention to what people are actually saying and considering how to give feedback – both contribute massively to fostering understanding that results in healthier and happier working relationships.”

A close up of Big Day Out 2022 participant, Cormac, in conversation during one of Becca Timmins’ workshops
Big Day Out 2022 participant, Cormac, in conversation during one of Becca Timmins’ workshops
Becca is checking her mobile phone during a break between the workshops she facilitated at the Big Day Out 2022
Picture: Becca taking a break between facilitating workshops at last year’s Big Day Out. Becca’s sessions gave participants a chance to work with one another on the ‘Art of challenging conversations’

Giving feedback, learning to listen and another essential skill – time management – aren’t issues unique to Becca’s experience as a former paraplanner. They’re issues that have cropped up over the past year or so when Becca has been facilitating a small gathering of paraplanning team leaders for the Paraplanners’ Assembly.

And it’s the frequency with which they featured as a challenge for paraplanners during those team leader discussions that led us to invite Becca to develop a three-hour workshop – called ‘Personal development power-ups for paraplanners’ – that’s designed specifically to help paraplanners gain and practice those skills. 

Made possible thanks to the support of Aegon, and taking place online, the workshop begins at 9:30am on 12 May 2023.

Despite being online the format will echo the interactive style of the workshop sessions that Becca ran at the Big Day Out in September 2022. (To see what paraplanners thought of those sessions, scroll down and take a look at the post-it comments pictured at the bottom of this page.)

As for the power-ups, here are three things – in Becca’s own words – that taking part in the workshop will offer you and the business you work for.

1. Give feedback confidently and listen effectively

“I often hear people say they’d like to be able to communicate better. Or I don’t feel heard. Or I don’t feel like I can get my point across very well. Or I don’t feel very well listened to. One of the things that I think people will walk away with is a way to frame feedback in a way that others can hear more easily and so listen in order to reach a better outcome that takes into account both people’s points of view.”

2. Take away practical tools to help manage your time

“Because paraplanners sit in the middle of the organisation – between clients, planners and administrators – they’re pushed and pulled in all three directions. It means they have many demands on their time and often it’s things that are important but not urgent.

Meanwhile, investing time to make things better in a way that will save everyone time – like fixing those report templates, for example – that’s the kind of investment of time that tends to slip.

I want people to walk away with a different way of thinking about time management because, for me, it all comes down to priorities: it’s not that I don’t have the time, it’s that I’m unable to prioritise my time in the right ways or in different ways. Take part and you’ll leave the session with tools to take and try out the next day – practical methods to distinguish between important and urgent tasks and how to prioritise them.”

3. Good for you at work – and good for the business you work for

Historically, I think there’s been a greater emphasis on acquisition of knowledge technically, what exams do you need to pass to be a paraplanner, how do you write better reports – that that sort of thing. Or, for administrators, go and see such-and-such a brand for a day to find out more about their platform.

But the more you and the business you work for looks after the whole person, the better they’re going to perform at work. When we learn to listen to each other better, then we can begin to talk in ways that other people will understand. For instance, as a paraplanner, if you talk about the outcomes for a client, and wanting to give a client a great service, a planner is far more likely to listen to you than if you come from a ‘well-the-file-check-says-that-the-file-needs-to-look-like-this’.

As an employer, if you’re giving people to chance to learn this stuff, giving them the space to learn, and investing time and money for this sort of training. you’re affecting the lives of the people who are working for you in a much bigger way than just what they can do for your clients.

The phrase 'The art of challenging conversations' is placed at the centre of the image and is surrounded by multi-coloured post-it notes with handwritten observations and comments added by participants in the workshop session
Picture: Post-it notes featuring observations and comments from paraplanners who took part in Becca’s session on the ‘Art of challenging conversations’ at the Big Day Out 2022
If you liked that, here are two things you can do right now which we think you might like too

Take part in the power-up workshop

If you’d like to join Becca at the Personal development power-ups for paraplanners – a 3-hour online workshop starting at 9:30am on 12 May 2023 – just tap the link.

» Book now

Meet up with other team leaders

Team leader? Then you can join our sessions too. But there’s a waiting list. To join it, tap the link and post a message at The Big Tent thread.

» Visit the thread