Detroit: “I think we run a really good business. I’ve got two partners, we’re all veterans and we know what we’re doing,” said Curtis as he greeted me.  He then signed in and picked-up his workbook for the full day workshop I was about to conduct and he was attending.  He wasn’t finished however; as he slowly walked to his seat, he casually remarked, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’m not sure I want to put forth the effort to initiate any of the changes you’re going to suggest.”

It was that casual remark that gave him away.  Curtis was tired, cynical, and didn’t want to change.  Could you imagine a cardiologist attending a workshop addressing the latest research on the human heart making a comment like that?  It wouldn’t happen.  A cardiologist with that mindset would either retire or be a malpractice lawsuit waiting to happen.  Advisors operate in a different world.

Curtis is considered by his firm to be a top advisor.  He was selected along with a group of his peers, all defined as “top performers,” to attend my workshop.  He also was quite knowledgeable, with expertise in planning and estate law.  But he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was, otherwise he wouldn’t have been so transparent.  I was face-to-face with a burned-out advisor.

Our research is very clear, today’s affluent expect their advisor to have a depth and breadth of industry knowledge.  They also expect their advisor to be open minded and able to understand their current needs and expectations.  They do not want an advisor who is burned out, cynical to the new world order, and not keeping pace with our ever-changing financial world.

Curtis’s comments got me thinking about leadership, or a lack thereof.  Today’s affluent investor is looking for trustworthy leadership – someone who can gather and assimilate information, transform that information into knowledge, and offer unbiased advice regarding the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s financial affairs.  They don’t want somebody who is cynical and resists change.  They want an advisor who possesses personal integrity, professional competency, up-to-date knowledge, and a dedicated work ethic. 

Leadership isn’t a term often used to describe financial advisors, but elite advisors have changed that train of thought.  Elite advisors manifest leadership in many ways:

·      Lead by modeling for others:  Understand the importance of leading by example, elite advisors keep their energy high, are life-long learners, passionate, and a positive influence on the people around them.

·      Lead clients:  Proactively and personally communicate with clients, filter the noise, provide peace of mind with the knowledge that someone is looking after their family’s finances.

·      Lead team members (support personnel):  Keep morale high and focus on solutions rather than problems, they are able to instill a client-first culture.

·      Lead prospects: Help them to make better financial decisions and enable them to fully understand their options.

·      Lead professional alliances: Maintain ongoing contact and take the lead in sharing current information.

The Curtis’ of the advisor world are challenged by everything I’ve outlined above, while elite advisors shine because they take their profession seriously, whether they’re a veteran of 7 or 37 years.

Our research has identified five everyday leadership qualities that can be found in any well run practice.  With Curtis in my vision, I had these top producers take a quick self-assessment as we began the workshop.  As you read through those listed below, you can conduct your own self-assessment.  How active are these everyday qualities in your financial practice?

5 Everyday Leadership Qualities

1.    Inspire and direct – This is all about having vision and being able to communicate that vision in a manner that support staff, team members, clients, prospects, and referral alliance partners understand and buy-in to.  This is a tell-tale signal of having a strong grasp of today’s realities and insight into the future.

 

2.    Solve problems -- Nothing is more important in strengthening the loyalty of today’s affluent investor; it ranked #1 in our research. This is a quality found in all effective leaders.  They don’t pull a Curtis and whine, blame, and complain.  Hardly.  They solve problems and keep their focus on their vision.

 

3.    Open minded – Change is a constant in our high-tech life and it’s been picking up speed thanks to this Great Recession.  Elite advisors have always been open to new ideas.  Why?  Because they are always looking to the future -- their glass is half-full, which is the perfect antidote to getting burned-out.

 

4.    Knowledgeable – To be able to inspire and direct, elite advisors must develop a healthy capacity for ongoing learning.  This cannot occur without being in possession of an open mind.  Having brain power with a closed mind is like having a Ferrari on blocks in the garage.

 

5.    Risk taking – We’re not talking about risky investment decisions.  We’re referring to the psychological risks associated with being wrong.  Believe it or not, elite advisors aren’t always right and they aren’t always successful. They get rejected, make mistakes, and sometimes they outright fail.  But what sets them apart is their emotional strength to be able to handle rejection and to admit mistakes. Most important, they are able to learn from their mistakes and carry on.
 

I wish I could say that Curtis departed the workshop a changed man.   His peers embraced these everyday leadership qualities and quickly shut him down when he attempted to complain about compliance as we discussed “solving problems.”    From that point, he was quiet throughout the workshop.  My message – be a leader.

Matt Oechsli is the author of The Art of Selling to the Affluent.  His firm, The Oechsli Institute  does ongoing research  and coaching  for nearly every major financial services firm in the US.  To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile  for a complimentary consultation.