Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Power of Mentoring in Cultivating Trading Success

An interesting meta-analysis (a study that statistically combines many different research studies) found that mentorship is associated with a number of favorable outcomes, including positive attitudes and career success.  That study found academic mentoring to be particularly effective, enhancing the motivation, performance, and goal-setting of proteges. 

In the recently published Forbes interview, Charles Kirk points out that tenacity--the ability to hang in there during challenging times--is an essential component of trading success.  He makes a very important point about mentoring.  The mentor teaches and supports, but also provides that push in the right direction--particularly when things aren't going so well.  In modeling persistence, mentors help their students sustain tenacity.  Many times a student won't give up because their mentor refuses.

I was recently speaking with Mike Bellafiore of SMB Capital about an interesting development on their trading desk.  Senior traders have been taking on junior traders for mentoring, creating their own groups within a group.  The senior traders are provided additional financial incentives based on the success of their proteges, and the proteges learn trading at the side of an experienced professional.  It's a powerful model, one that lies at the heart of medical education and any career field that draws upon apprenticeships. 

Mike mentioned that several students have made significant progress under their mentors.  In one case, the mentor threatened to shut down a junior trader if he made a mistake a second time.  Instead of coming across as punitive, that threat came across as a supportive kick in the pants, much like a basketball coach might give to a player who lapses on the court and fails to properly run the called play.  

The fatal shortcoming of most efforts in trader education is that they provide teaching but not mentoring.  We learn by example, not just by the textbook.  Good firms recruit good talent; great firms grow talent.  A close look at the Tiger Cubs who have learned under Julian Robertson finds that his involvement in vetting their trades has been essential to their success.  There is no better path to winning than studying under a winner.

Further Reading:  Finding the Right Mentorship