My Top Ten Tips for 2016 – Part One

Beverly Flaxington

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

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Readers,

The end of the year offers a chance to reflect on what’s worked well and decide what you’d like to do differently in 2016. For the last two columns of the year, I will provide my “Top Ten” list of advice I’ve given, common issues I’ve heard and ideas that come up over and over again. Part I -- the first five -- appears here, and Part II -- the second five -- will run next week. I hope you find something helpful and useful in these lists as you prepare for a successful new year.

On becoming a better communicator:

  1. Hone your communication skills. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” You may have excellent client satisfaction scores and your team may prioritize serving clients to the highest order, but on a day-to-day basis, are you communicating as well as you possibly can? Financial professionals tend to take things like active listening, being clear in delivery and using confident body language for granted. This year, choose to work on these skills. Identify your Achilles heel when it comes to listening. For example, do you get easily distracted, multi-task while on a phone call or think about what you are going to say instead of listening to your speaker? Write down this weakness, and then commit to what you will do differently. Emphasize clear communication. State a desired outcome at the outset of every interaction, and then wrap up to confirm the desired outcome was met. Organize your thinking and your speaking with a logical flow. Choose two interactions the first week of the year to observe, learn and practice.
  1. Modify your delivery to match your audience. “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou said. You can deliver the most compelling, fact-based information, but what someone will remember is the way that you delivered it. This speaks to the important issue of preferred communication style. Many advisors spend hours putting together a great presentation filled with excellent material, but fail to focus on the style of the listener when delivering it. You might, as an example, be a thorough, step-by-step individual presenting to a fast-paced entrepreneur with no patience. Instead of going slowly through each slide, ask the listener what he/she cares most about. Change your presentation to match the style of your audience. In contrast, if you have someone who needs time to digest and wants to consider ideas before responding, give them the time to do this. Know your audience – not just what they know and what they want to know, but how they need the information delivered so that they can understand and relate to it.
  1. Become an excellent storyteller. There is a Native American proverb that resonates with the financial advisory profession: “Tell me the facts, and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth, and I’ll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.” Too many advisors fall back on the facts and data instead of the stories that truly engage listeners. Advisors can retell stories, see themselves in stories and get the “ah-hah” that rarely comes from an overload of information. Think about the clients you best serve and the ones you’d like to replicate. Who are they? Why did they come to you? What did you do for them? How did they think or feel when working with you? Spend time with your team evolving stories that best describe your firm and what you do for clients. Give prospects and clients a “window” into what it is like to work with you by sharing examples of those whom you have served well.