Morgan Stanley
  • Women Without Limits
  • Apr 14, 2022

Advancing Careers Through Relationships

Hosted by Stacie Hoffmeister
Come In, Let's Talk


Margaret Flynn-...:          So I think when people start to reach out and they want to network, I think some people the initial reaction is what do they want from me? What does he or she want from me? Right? And you really don't want to cross the line into where the connection seems forced.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           That's Margaret Flynn-Martin. She's the head of Relationship Management for the Wealth Management Division here at Morgan Stanley. And Margaret has a superpower the [00:00:30] rest of us are chasing, the ability to connect with and form relationships with pretty much anyone, to engage them in an authentic way, to make them feel heard and supported, to turn them into advocates or clients. This is the episode where leadership and relationship building converge.

                                                Coming up, how do you maintain professional relationships with dozens if not hundreds of other people? When should you get personal? How exactly do you approach senior leaders? And how do you [00:01:00] fix a work relationship that's gone off the rails? I learned so much talking with Margaret and I'm excited to share her thoughts with you. I'm Stacie Hoffmeister. Welcome back to Come In, Let's Talk.

                                                Margaret, hello. So good to have you here. Relationship management is what we're here to discuss today, and it is such a crucial topic [00:01:30] for women looking to get to the next level. And it's one that many of us just don't devote nearly enough time to, myself included. But for you, this is literally your job title. In high level, describe a bit what your role is.

Margaret Flynn-...:          Sure. And hi Stacie, and I'm so glad to be chatting with you today. So my official job title is head of the Relationship Management Group for the Wealth Management Division at Morgan Stanley. So the role [00:02:00] is basically what it sounds like, relationship management across the organization internally at Morgan Stanley, as well as externally with our third party asset management firms. So relationships are a huge part of my role at the firm. And my team serves at a quarterback, really the central point of contact for all of these firms that work with our internal businesses. So we're basically the glue that holds all of these pieces together. We have relationships with about 250 [00:02:30] external firms, and I would say that I have strong both professional and personal relationships with probably about 75 of those firms.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           If I'm being honest, having to maintain that scope or that scale of relationships over so many years for such an important reason and purpose, that sounds like an incredible effort to me. Does managing relationships come easily for you? [00:03:00] And do you find this type of work energizing?

Margaret Flynn-...:          So the short answer is yes. I think a big part of it is it's just my personality. It's just the way I'm wired. I'm also an only child. So I was encouraged at a really young age to make friends, to reach out to others to kind of take that first step. I think those skills absolutely translate to the workplace, but you still have to be intentional about it. It's not the same if you're not intentional. So one of my great mentors and sponsors [00:03:30] along the way really helped me to network and to make introductions.

                                                And I think one of the hardest lessons I've learned is an introduction doesn't necessarily guarantee a relationship. It really has to happen organically. And honestly, it's not realistic to reach out to someone in the early part of the year and expect to have a relationship by the fall when the whole promotion process is happening. I've been pretty vocal about this because I think you really need to build trust and you [00:04:00] have to have a proven track record in order to build these relationships. And it really has to be a give and take like any relationship in life, right? It's a two-way street. It can't be a one-way street.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Some of your peers have spoken about the importance of being able to know your audience and to respond and really to be in the moment and to be present with them. And what you're sharing just underscores that theme. And then you spoke a bit about the importance of introductions and how [00:04:30] your mentors and sponsors helped you network and helped you make those introductions, and so many of us are thoughtful about how to best leverage the mentors and sponsors we have in our lives. So using them to help or leveraging them rather to help expand our network is important. So thank you for mentioning that. What are some of the things that you've done to help cultivate a relationship after that initial introduction has been made?

Margaret Flynn-...:          So, yeah, look, it's a hard thing to balance, right? [00:05:00] It's not easy. And I think when people start to reach out and they want to network, I think some people, the initial reaction is what do they want from me? What does he or she want from me? Right? And you really don't want to cross the line into where the connection seems forward straight. People can spark fakeness right out of the box. So the balance of finding authentic reasons to reach out and also choosing the right people is kind of that sweet spot. And [00:05:30] what do I mean by the right people? Senior people are obviously important in this journey, but hopefully there's a business reason to connect with them. That there's something where you're not wasting time, where you're bringing something to the conversation. And I think it's really important for folks not to expect immediate gratification. That's not the way this works in personal life, it's not the way it works in professional life. It has to be a natural progression.

                                                And I think another [00:06:00] thing, a key thing really, is that you really have to build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of relationship building. It's important to do what you say and say what you do, right? Everyone talks, people talk. So your reputation is really all that you have at the end of the day. And everyone's juggling a million balls, right? No one's perfect. So being true to what you say and you going to deliver on what you say you're going to deliver is how you start to build that trust.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Are there any other thoughts on what [00:06:30] we the mentees or the sponsees have to give to someone who's more senior?

Margaret Flynn-...:          So in my opinion, give equates to follow through, follow through on discussion. So if you have a senior person who has taken the time to meet with you or speak with you or Zoom with you and you say you're going to do one or two things as a follow-up, please follow through on that. So I think to me, that's a big portion of [00:07:00] give. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've taken time to meet with folks or to network with folks, whether it be internally or externally, and we come up with a list of follow-up items and it's crickets. You never hear from the person again, or three months later, you get an email, "Hey, checking in. Wanting to get coffee or grab a drink," where nothing's happened since the last time that you met them. So I think follow through and follow-up is really, really important. I think it also means staying committed [00:07:30] to building that connection. So it's a delicate balance of following through, staying connected, and really doing what you say you're going to do.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           So Margaret, you are a senior leader at Morgan Stanley, and I'm sure your inbox is ringing with people wanting to reach out to you to be in your network or to seek your advice as a mentor or a sponsor. Can you give an example or two about a [00:08:00] instance where someone reached out to you in a really effective way, or conversely, someone really did it wrong and they came off as an authentic or forced or however it was that you reacted that wasn't conducive to building a relationship with you?

Margaret Flynn-...:          Hmm, sure. And God, there's plenty of examples here, but I'll start with an effective one. I had a gentleman who was really eager and interested to network with me and spend time and connect. And [00:08:30] to his credit, he would always ask if it was okay before he put time on my calendar. So one of my biggest pet peeves, and I think some of my peers as well is having someone just put time on your calendar without checking, without checking availability, without asking if it's okay. So right out of the gate, gold star for asking before just blindly putting time on the calendar. He always came prepared for the discussion with questions and comments or [00:09:00] a situation that he wanted to discuss.

                                                Having said that, he never overstepped the time boundaries. So if we had 30 minutes on the calendar, he was on time. Never expected for the meeting to go longer and was conscious of the time. We would reference that while we were in the meeting. And I'm happy to say this particular person was eventually promoted to managing director and is thriving at the firm. So I'm so proud and awesome. And not just because of me, just because of the gentleman that he is.

                [00:09:30] On the flip side, an example of a person or people that perhaps have done this incorrectly and have come across forced or inauthentic, and it's what I call check the box type of relationships. I can think of a person in particular who would see me at a meeting when we had in-person meetings, would wave and then go back to their senior leader who I happened to have a really strong relationship with, this [00:10:00] person did not realize that, and rave about the great meeting that they had with me and the in-depth conversation and how they spent all this time with me.

                                                And this happened not only once with the same individual, several times until finally their leader said, "This is not true. You're making this up. I know Margaret. And I actually chaffed because I thought it was so great that you had this in-depth conversation. And she was perplexed by that [00:10:30] because she said she waved to you from across the room." So again, be truthful. Don't embellish on things because it always comes back around, right? Lying does not get you anywhere and embellishing does not get you anywhere ever in life. So that was a really bad example for someone trying to build a connection because unfortunately, for me at least the door was closed, right? And I would not recommend this person to anyone else in my network because [00:11:00] of that situation.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Let's say there's someone that you've met where you don't have that immediate spark or that connection, that energy. How do you build a relationship with someone like that anyway?

Margaret Flynn-...:          So if there was no initial spark or connection, but you know there's a need to develop some sort of relationship with this person. Honestly, I think you have no choice but to figure out a way to do that, right? And it doesn't need to be a best friend [00:11:30] type relationship or one of your top 10 relationships. But if this person is a senior leader of the organization, someone who is influential for the business and for your career growth, I think you really need to make a concerted effort to do that.

                                                Now, in some of these situations, these senior folks don't make the time, right? So you can reach out all you want and perhaps you're not getting a response to your email or a response to your phone [00:12:00] call and you're really doing your best. So you're kind of at a crossroads. What do you do? I've seen a few situations where perhaps developing a relationship with the right hand person of this senior leader is a way to build a rapport and build a relationship. So I think we can need to get creative sometimes and figure out the right way to network perhaps with that person's network, right? So then you need to think outside the box [00:12:30] in situations where you're not getting a response or perhaps the connection that you're looking to get.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Yeah, that idea of leveraging perhaps someone that's closer to you or that you do have a good relationship or are able to establish a good relationship with and leveraging that relationship to help expand your network, your sphere of influence is an interesting one.

Margaret Flynn-...:          Yeah. And I think what you're doing there is you are leveraging someone that this person already trusts, [00:13:00] right? So they're going to, in theory, respect the opinion of this person and in turn give you a chance to develop some type of rapport. So I just think it's an interesting way to perhaps open some doors that you may not be able to.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           This takes time, Margaret

Margaret Flynn-...:          It sure does.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           What if I'm impatient? What do I do?

Margaret Flynn-...:          You need to develop some patience.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Develop some patience. Okay.

Margaret Flynn-...:          Yeah.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Yeah. [00:13:30] So let's talk tactically. How often are you in contact with the people that you're managing relationships with? Do you have a set schedule for how often you're trying to reach out to your contacts? Do you have a tiering of contacts that determines your level of engagement with them?

Margaret Flynn-...:          Some of the things that I do, and some may sound a little quirky, but it works for me. I have birthdays marked on my calendar. I also acknowledge milestones [00:14:00] in their lives that are important. So whether it be the birth of a baby or sadly, the passing of a relative. Just recognizing those folks and the milestones and letting them know that they're important to you I think goes a really long way and we underestimate that. Supporting folks when they're going through tough times, when they're going through an illness or when they have a loved one that's going through an illness and just being there, you'd be surprised how much just listening [00:14:30] means to someone. I make sure that I check in, I would say on a monthly basis in one way, shape or form, or they're checking in with me on a business item. On a quarterly basis, we're doing some type of real in-depth business review about what's going on with their business flow here at Morgan Stanley and how we can help and what they see working at other competitor firms that we may or may not be able to adopt here.

                                                So it's a constant cadence. I wouldn't say I have a set schedule. It almost at this point happens [00:15:00] organically. But if you're just starting out, maybe having a set schedule and a calendar is something to think about, right?

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           So let's switch gears for a moment. How do you fix a broken relationship? Something happened, there was a breach somewhere and especially if it's someone that you still need to have in your corner, how do you fix it?

Margaret Flynn-...:          Easier said than done, but definitely doable. And I think this is where you sometimes need to quite frankly [00:15:30] swallow your pride and extend an olive branch, right? And take the high road. If you know that this is a relationship that you need to mend for whatever reason, for your career growth, for your role development, your role expansion, I think you have to be the person that takes the high road and really tries to move the relationship forward. [00:16:00] And I'm not saying you have to be friends, right? There's a difference between friends and colleagues and professional relationships, but you have to get to a point where there's a level of mutual respect so that this person will support you if asked for further development.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Is there an example you can give of where you've taken a relationship that's been either difficult at best, difficult, too broken and made [00:16:30] it a productive one in the end?

Margaret Flynn-...:          I can. And I'm going to take you back to the Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney merger days. So we're going way back, like 10 years back here.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           There was a lot going on those days. Yeah.

Margaret Flynn-...:          Fun times for sure. And so it was literally like the Hatfields and McCoys, right? Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley. And we talked about the coming together and being one family, but everyone knew there was Smith Barney [00:17:00] and there was Morgan Stanley, right? So I came from the legacy Smith Barney side as we called it. So I was automatically associated with the Smith Barney leadership. And my mentor did not necessarily see eye to eye with this person that I unfortunately developed a tenuous relationship with because of the association.

                                                So my mentor leaves the firm. I basically had to start from scratch and really [00:17:30] earn the trust and respect of this other senior leader who was at odds with my mentor. And to his credit, he gave me that opportunity. I had to work really hard for it. I had to prove myself. It literally took years, and I'm not joking, years, a lot of patience, a lot of hard work, but I will tell you now he is a big supporter of mine. He's actually a mentor of mine.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           And what I hear in that example as well, Margaret, is your willingness to do the [00:18:00] work. You realized that this was a blank page, a clean slate, maybe even a deficit and you had to go in and do the work. So that-

Margaret Flynn-...:          Absolutely.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Not everybody sees that trust me.

Margaret Flynn-...:          And you know what, it's not an easy thing to say. It really is not an easy thing to see. And there were times where I thought about throwing in the towel and just walking away because I felt like my work wasn't being seen for what it was and I almost had to work twice as hard [00:18:30] to be seen.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Yeah, I'm sure, and I'm so thankful that you stuck with it and you have that example to share with us. Margaret, we would be remiss if we did not talk about the golf topic. We are in finance. Golf is a big deal. I remember last year being invited to an event that you put together where a bunch of us were invited to a beautiful golf course to spend a day getting coached in just [00:19:00] the basics of the sport. And it was wonderful. And it gave me so much more confidence and comfort where if I were invited to a golf event, I have not been, but if I were invited to a golf event, I just felt like I wouldn't be clueless. So thank you personally for that effort.

                                                But for those of us who don't play golf, I don't know if you're a golfer, but how [00:19:30] do you build relationships, let's say? The broader question is how do you build relationships where you may not have something in common with what the senior folks or the powerful folks have in common with each other? How do you navigate that?

Margaret Flynn-...:          Let me start by reassuring you, you do not have to golf, although golf and the financial services industry is a really important/popular component of networking and relationship building. [00:20:00] So I started saying yes to I would say between five to seven golf outings a year. So the way I approached that was I could not complain that I wasn't included in the conversation or the decision if I said no to all of the invitations. Meaning I was given the invitation, I was getting the look. If I continued to say no, shame on me because I wasn't putting myself in this situation to have the conversation. [00:20:30] So that's intentional by me.

                                                Having said that, I think there are other ways to network, right? We've built playgrounds, we've delivered meals to the elderly, we've done gardening work in local farm areas. So find something you're interested in and get a group of people together, but you need to take the initiative to do that, right? And again, back to our earlier comments, it all takes time, right? You have to take the initiative, you need to plan. You need to be [00:21:00] the leader in organizing some of these things.

                An interesting story, I had a colleague who was up in arms about all the golf events that all of her male colleagues were doing and how it wasn't right and wasn't fair, et cetera, et cetera. And so I said to her, "Well, we'll do something about it. If you want to do something different, do something about it." And she did. She put a proposal together for her manager. They took it to the head of compliance at her firm and her proposal was all about spa days. And why [00:21:30] couldn't networking in a spa, getting a manicure, pedicure, or whatever other treatment you may or may not want to get being approved expense the way golf outings were? And I think it took her about three months of back and forth and conversations, but she got it approved and she took the initiative, right? And so she started to trend where there were a few other of her colleagues at different firms that did the same thing, right? They made the case that conversations can happen [00:22:00] getting a manicure, pedicure as it can on a golf course.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Margaret, thank you so much for being here. I really could have spoken to you all day. This was amazing. But thank you so much. I know how busy you are. Thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

Margaret Flynn-...:          And thank you, Stacie, for the opportunity to share my journey, to share some of my tidbits that I've learned along the way over my career, and to hopefully help someone with [00:22:30] building relationships and cultivating and growing relationships as they evolve in their career. So thank you for taking the time for putting this together.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           Oh, for sure. We need what you've got, Margaret. This has been really good. Thanks.

Margaret Flynn-...:          Thank you.

Stacie Hoffmeis...:           That was Margaret Flynn-Martin, head of Relationship Management for the Wealth Management Division at Morgan Stanley. Thanks so much for joining us on this episode. Come back next time when we discuss building teams and cultivating talent. Rosalie [00:23:00] Berman, Morgan Stanley's managing director and head of reinvestment, is one of the best team builders out there and she will be my guest. Come In, Let's Talk is produced by Schleich-Hartung, executive director at Morgan Stanley, along with the team at FreeTime Media. Music is by John Palmer. I'm your host, Stacie Hoffmeister.


Margaret Flynn-Martin, Head of Relationship Management for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, maintains hundreds of professional relationships—personally, and in many cases, deeply. She is skilled at developing clients, cross-organization advocates, and champions. Now she’s sharing how she does it. And yes, she even addresses the “do I need to learn to golf?” question.

Margaret Flynn-Martin, Managing Director, Head of Relationship Management for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management talks to our host, Stacie Hoffmeister, about how she maintains hundreds of professional relationships—and in many cases, deeply. She talks about developing different types of relationships ­ clients, cross-organization advocates, and champions – and their unique value, even when hard. Stacie and Margaret also explore the flip side: how others can develop relationships with senior leaders, and importantly, common mistakes to avoid. Above all, Margaret shares with us her belief in the importance of candor and human connection, and how intricately tied those are to professional growth.

Margaret Flynn-Martin is a Managing Director and Head of the Relationship Management Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Currently, her team is responsible for managing relationships with over 250 asset management firms that distribute products across the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management organization.

Stacie Hoffmeister, our host, is Managing Director, Head of Home Office Talent and Diversity for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.