How to Deal with a Luddite Boss
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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The individual who runs our advisory firm is very traditional. To him, technology is the enemy. In fact we are all told to keep our client information on spreadsheets because it is “safer” than using a CRM. He believes marketing is a waste of money and that using technology to communicate with clients eliminates the personal touch he believes our firm is known for offering.
I am not advocating for technology to run our business entirely, but I see so many opportunities for efficiency. I have had a few of our younger clients ask me directly why we don’t have more online options for accessing information and education. And yes, I have told our lead advisor this, but he says “don’t focus on the views of the minority” and dismiss these comments. I have two questions for you: is there any way to get through to someone who is this entrenched in their views, or should I be looking for another job where people are a bit more forward looking and forward thinking in approach?
Let me address your second question by first saying that I never have enough information from reader notes to firmly recommend quitting a job. My view, as a problem-solver and Human Behavior Coach®, is to always try and find something that hasn’t been tried yet in the hopes of breaking through in communication and understanding. Let’s focus on your first question instead.
While you don’t state ages or years in the business in your note, I’m going to assume there might be a generational chasm in the dynamic around this issue at your firm. Your lead advisor sees no need to do anything differently. After all, it’s probably worked to some degree and allowed him to live a nice, comfortable life. You, however, see technology as a tool – a disruptive agent that could change aspects of the business but probably for the better in terms of time savings, recordkeeping and client experience. Like any disconnect, there is typically a lot more underneath the issue than just the issue. He could view you as the “new upstart” or the threat coming into his business, and you could view him as the curmudgeon who is stuck in his ways and unwilling to try new things. These negative filters could be coloring the communication process and making clear dialogue on this issue more difficult.
If you approach each other with preconceived ideas and with emotional undertones, it will be hard to reach an agreement on anything.
Start with trying to understand why he is reticent to try these new things. Ask if he has had previous bad experiences. Ask if there are cost concerns or concerns about disruption to the business. I prefer to ask about obstacles – “What do you see as the greatest obstacles to success in making a move to X technology platform?” Often times when you ask about obstacles, people are comfortable sharing what’s really going on.
Try and understand where the concerns are based and then address those concerns in your “pitch” about the changes to make. Perhaps use some of the longer-term clients (for client facing issues) and see if they will weigh in to validate your perspective. Outside views can be very helpful when you are in a tug of war!