Five Tips for Managing Stress

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

What are your tips for managing stress? Financial advisory work has become increasingly stressful and neither I nor my staff do a good job of managing it.

Paul D., Boston

Dear Paul,

I could do a few columns on this question! I presented a list of options for business building and marketing during a recent webinar. I put stress management on the list as an afterthought, and the advisors voted overwhelmingly for it to be the topic of focus!

Advisors often underestimate the impact of stress. Watching the markets, being responsible for people’s long-term savings, interacting with difficult clients, trying to close prospects and dealing with employees leaves advisors with too much to do and not enough time.

Here are my five best tips for managing stress in your office:

  1. Set priorities for the firm and for each individual every week. Be clear at the start of each day the top the priorities, or “must get done-s” for that day. Having a more focused approach and being proactive, rather than reactive, is very beneficial.
  2. Work from a plan. Having a random “to-do” list can be very stressful, especially if you aren’t making progress on the list. Take your to-do list and then arrange it in order of importance. Assign who, what, when to the list so that it is clear how you will accomplish your goals. Be practical and realistic about when you can accomplish the tasks. Seek opportunities to appropriately delegate those tasks you aren’t good at or don’t make effective use of your time.
  3. Get up and take a walk! We sit for hours in front of the computer, in meetings or on the phone. Set an alarm to remind you to stand up, stretch and walk around every one or two hours or. Moving your body physically is very important. If you can get outside – do so. A change of scenery, especially on a nice day, changes your perspective.
  4. Remember to breathe ! When we get tense or anxious our breathing usually constricts. Practice deep breathing throughout the day. Focus on taking in breaths to your stomach through your nose, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. Turn your attention to it – and away from whatever is most stressful for you.
  5. Watch yourself talk and the way you deal with issues. Remember my favorite four words of wisdom: “This too shall pass.” Even if the markets bottom out, most of us have lived long enough to see them come roaring back. Nothing lasts forever so don’t get too fixated on the problems of the moment without regard for the bigger picture.

Stress can be debilitating so take some steps to mitigate it for yourself, your employees and the overall health of your firm.

Dear Bev,

We, as portfolio advisors, are brought into the sales process long before a prospect is fully qualified by our firm. I enjoy talking with prospects about our investment approach, but there have been too many occasions where we don’t get the client. We are only compensated for the assets we manage – not the ones we hope to land. I want to be a team player and help my colleagues but it is frustrating when I waste my time. Any advice on how to say “no” without being considered uncooperative?

Missy B., California

Dear Missy,

This is a complex question! There are many ways to answer it, but your goal is to talk to the folks in charge of your firm to say what a waste of time and energy this is. Your role may not be to resolve big issues, but what is happening here is due to poorly defined goals, lack of knowledge of or attention to the sales process and how best to qualify prospects – not to mention that compensation that isn’t aligned with required activities.

To your question about saying “no” and still staying a team player, there are a few things you could do.

Offer some “coaching” to the person who is asking you to join the meeting, in the form of probing and (polite) questioning. Ask them questions so you can prepare in advance for the prospect and gauge how qualified they are. If you don’t get good answers, that’s when you could tell a colleague, “It doesn’t sound like the situation is really qualified. I am so focused on serving our clients well, I’d prefer to wait until the situation is more qualified.”

Another option is to ask for a preparation call with the prospect to ensure you have the right information for the meeting. Tell the colleague who has arranged the meeting that this will help everyone to stay on track and meet the prospect’s needs most effectively (this is called the art of including the WIIFM – what’s in it for me?). If you can participate in a call directly and learn more about the prospect, you could make your own determination about the status.

Lastly, work with the people in your firm who are arranging these introductions and hold your own internal meeting to discuss the sales process. Given how important it is for advisors like you to be with clients, pose this question to the group: What really makes sense from a step-by-step process perspective for our employees and our firm?

Perhaps no one has really looked at this process to ensure it’s working as well as it could. You can spearhead something that will help everyone in the firm.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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