Some think being a fiduciary means only dealing with money. True fiduciaries embrace the role of mentor. (Photo: Shutterstock)

They say those who can’t do, teach. On the other hand, with fiduciaries, those who do their duty, must teach.

The best of them not only realize this, but know the priorities, (see “5 Most Important Financial Concepts a Fiduciary Must Teach,”, February 1, 2018). It’s too easy to succumb to the idea that being a fiduciary means only dealing with money. True fiduciaries, however, embrace the role of mentor.

There’s a certain irony in this. America has grown strong because Americans value their individualism. Many have argued against government forced retirement – even when it’s a good idea – because they shun paternalism.

Yet, behavioral studies show the public tends to mess up when it comes to financial decision making. They might not be looking for it, but they need guidance.

They just don’t like someone (either the government or the boss) telling them they need it. The question, then, is how to offer guidance without forcing it down their throat?

As usual when it comes to pearls of wisdom, you can’t go wrong looking to Ben Franklin. He once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” The Boys Scouts adopted Franklin’s philosophy and their technique might offer insights for fiduciaries.

Picture this. You’re in front of an audience of employees told to report to their periodic 401(k) workshop. Chances are, they don’t want to be there, or at least they view it merely as a way to avoid the humdrum of everyday work. In either case, they’re hardly a captive audience. Yet, there you are. Expecting to train them to make better financial decisions. What should you do?

I’ll tell you the last thing you’ll want. You don’t want the manager telling everyone, “Listen to this speaker because you can learn from this presentation.” If this happens, that ol’ rugged individualism kicks in and automatically rejects everything you’re about to say.

Does this sound similar to the dilemma of a Boy Scout leader standing in front of a group of teenage boys trying to get them to learn valuable life lessons? Despite this, the boys are willing to come to the troop meeting every week. What’s the trick?

The Boy Scouts call what they do “a game with a purpose.” Meetings consist of activities that are both fun and instructive. Thematically, that’s what you should be aiming for at these employee meetings. To accomplish this, you need to position yourself as a mentor, not a lecturer. The Boy Scouts train adult leaders to do this by showing them how to use the EDGE method.

First, remember your objective. You don’t want to have to hold the hand of everyone every time they make a decision. You want to get them to think on their own without you. That’s how this “mentor” thing works.

The EDGE method does this through Explaining, Demonstrating, Guiding, and Enabling.

You might be used to incorporating the first two in your standard presentation. When you give the talk, you’re explaining. When you show them examples, your demonstrating.

It’s not necessary for me to elaborate. You already know what I’m talking about because you’re already doing it. Your challenge is to transform this two-dimensional program into a full four dimensions. Let’s break each additional dimensional down separately.

Guidance means allowing participants to practice in a hands-on fashion what you’ve just demonstrated. This should take up the bulk of your time with them.

Ideally, a few of the participants will know enough about what you’re demonstrating to help guide some of the others. In fact, if you paired people, they could take turns “guiding” each other. There’s a certain psychological trigger that helps people learn more efficiently if they’re doing the teaching (that’s that irony again).

Once you’re confident people have been sufficiently guided, you can now enable them to do what you’ve just taught them. You know you’ve been successful when they can do the task by themselves without your intervention. It’s OK to offer a periodic “refresher” course because this allows the experienced employees to help guide the newer employees.

It’s up to you to determine the best way to create hands-on activities for your specific presentation. The broader point here is to act like a mentor. You don’t want to be just another boring lecturer.

You want to talk less and involve your audience more as you prepare them for life without you.

They’ll never forget you if you do this successfully.