More and more people seem to describe life today as feeling like the roller coaster ride that never ends. Between political polarization, market volatility, bizarre weather, and daily scandals of one sort or another, it seems as if disturbance is everywhere. In a world where pessimism may seem to be at every turn, it’s time to seek ways to regain a positive approach to your practice, your clients, your family, and your community.
Maintain perspective—both personally and professionally—and draw inspiration from various sources. It’s time to take charge of that which is in your control; step up to that plate, lead by example, and make a difference.
Take Control of Your Time
Time seems to have become the most precious resource. Adding more hours to the day is not a viable option, so you need to manage the time you have.
Get organized. Engage in the activities that will lead you to achieving your goals. There is no single, right organizational system; find one that fits your practice and works with your team. Be sure to include your personal or family activities in your organizational system.
Don’t set yourself up for frustration. Ensure that your daily activity plan is realistic and don’t let others take control of your day.
Define what’s important. Once you define what’s important, make it your reality by creating and executing a balanced calendar.
Take Control of Your Communication
Lack of communication remains the No. 1 client complaint in our profession, and miscommunication is typically what fuels personal relationship issues. This should be an easy item to fix, but clearly this is not the case. When the markets take a wild ride, financial professionals must proactively communicate with their clients. No hiding in your offices and asking your team members to take a message. Get out there and let your clients know that you are actively taking care of their financial situation.
Delivery is key. When downbeat news needs to be shared, delivery is key. It is important to not only use the right words, but also to deliver the message with the right tone. Perpetuate the positive and remember the difference between being realistic and being negative.
Be transparent with your team. Also, this is not the time to skip your team meetings. Be authentic and transparent with your team and be sure they have a voice within the practice. When internal team communication falters, errors, stress, and dissatisfaction all increase. Likewise, while at home, be sure that you are listening and sharing with all members of your family on a regular basis.
Take Control of Your Client Service
In a commoditized industry, the service experience you offer your clientele is fundamental to retention. Clients are also more susceptible to the attention of other financial professionals during times of financial, social, or political uncertainty. We recommend that every financial planning and advisory practice builds a service model that articulates, demonstrates, and validates the value that your team offers.
Show appreciation. Take the time on a regular basis to let clients know how important they are to your practice. Simple thank you cards, personalized notes, and small tokens of appreciation can make a big difference to them personally and also to your client retention ratio.
Exceed expectations. Exceeding clients’ expectations from a service standpoint will make a huge difference, especially when performance expectations may not be met. Service is more important today than ever.
Take Control of Your Perspective
When times get rough and you need something to get through the hectic day, gratitude and being thankful for every little thing in your life can help provide your fuel. Your clients, team, centers of influence, family, and even smiling strangers can contribute substance and value to your life. Acknowledging others, performing random acts of kindness, or giving small gifts to others, are great ways to put a smile on someone else’s face and provide a sense of fulfillment in your own life.
Do something nice. Instead of getting caught up in depressing headlines or non-constructive attitudes, create time to do something nice for others. Make a donation to a client’s favorite charitable organization. Take a team member out to lunch. Meet a center of influence for coffee. You can also make an enormous difference in someone’s life by visiting a senior’s home, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or just listening when a person needs a friendly ear.
Focus on what you can control. Create a work and home environment filled with encouragement, recognition, and the ‘pass it forward’ concept. You’ll breed more loyalty along the way, feel good about yourself, and make a positive difference in someone else’s life. By focusing on things that are in your control, you will create a more pleasing environment for all around you.
Take Control of Your Actions
It’s very easy to get caught up and follow the crowd when you are surrounded by negativity. Don’t fall into this trap; dare to be different and unique. Avoid the water cooler conversations, turn off the TV, and don’t take out your frustrations on others. Misery loves company—don’t accept the invitation!
In your practice, focus on the long-term plan and objectives of your clients, not the idea of the day. Don’t worry about what everyone else in the office or neighborhood is doing; live your dream, not someone else’s.
Adopt a positive mindset. Attitude may not be everything, but it is a good starting point. Without a positive mindset, we do nothing but perpetuate the cycle of negativity that surrounds us. Changing other people’s attitudes and actions is out of your control, but you can certainly respond in a more affirmative and confident manner. Always try to take the high road and do everything in your power to create an environment that breeds encouragement, whether it is at work or at home.
Don’t let others bring you down. The only attitude you really have control over is yours, so don’t let others bring you down, don’t follow the crowd, and don’t ask “where did the fun go?” Take control and re-create it. Yes, financial services is a serious industry, but professionalism and fun do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Make the best of your time, communicate often and effectively, serve others, and appreciate the small stuff in life. Be sure to celebrate the good fortune that you have, laugh at yourself, deepen the relationships in your life, and be the difference.
Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions. They are team development coaches for the FPA Coaches Corner.