In my eight years in practice, conducting research, coaching, and therapy with financial advisors, I have come to learn a thing or two about what makes the best of them tick. And I've noticed that it can be helpful for an advisor to understand his strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level, in order to avoid developing blind spots. Self-awareness equals self-control.
Here are the five top psychological and behavioral ingredients for success. There are others too, that didn't make the cut for this column, such as a sense of urgency, inquisitiveness, an ability to be firm with clients, and consistency. I will address these in future columns.
Psychological Resiliency: When the chips are down, successful advisors are mentally tough and show no signs of letting up. They view setbacks as temporary, isolated events that can be used as learning experiences. They always feel in control of their own destinies, even when the uncertainty of finance negatively impacts their business. As I wrote in my book, Bullish Thinking: How To Survive and Thrive on Wall Street, these advisors are able to perceive healthy and adaptive solutions when faced with everyday stressors without allowing “worst case scenario” thoughts to cloud their minds and paralyze them with fear.
Type A Personality: Advisors with this makeup are extremely driven, harshly (but constructively) self-critical, obsessive, and detail oriented. Unfortunately, individuals with Type A personalities are at greater risk for heart disease than those who don't have these traits. The largest part of my practice consists of individuals with this character trait. Although they happen to be very successful, they are also the most prone to burnout, substance abuse, and other health problems. Paradoxically, having this trait can be the best and worst thing that can happen to someone. These individuals must be aware of the pitfalls associated with Type A characteristics and learn how to manage stress, anger, fatigue, and sleeplessness.
Preparation: One thing that I preach to my clients who want to improve their production numbers is that failing to prepare for a presentation, a prospect, or one of your clients is its own kind of preparation: preparation for failure. Many rookie advisors — and ones who pay little attention to detail — lose business and credibility because they try to “wing it” or “fly by the seat of their pants.” I emphasize that conducting a thorough mental pre-game is necessary if you want to be at your best when the spotlight is upon you. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so it is best to check your emotional temperature, your PowerPoint slides, and your ability to listen before meeting with anyone. Many elite advisors who do not have the natural ability to look into minute details and are poor at preparation and organization, learn to delegate these responsibilities to top tier administrative assistants.
Influencing: Most of the top producers with whom I have worked and conducted research are outgoing, optimistic, charming and excellent at influencing others. They are decisive, sometimes to the point of seeming impulsive. But these advisors may lack attention to detail, juggle too many tasks at once and turn on the charm too heavily. When they become aware of some of these faults, and try to rein them in, they thrive.
Other great advisors have the opposite problem. They are more analytical, introverted, and methodical, easily develop trust with clients and are closely aware of all the intricacies of each product they recommend to clients. These advisors often have to work on being more animated and outgoing in order to successfully prospect and get referrals.
It's simply a matter of identifying and addressing your blind spots. Look in the mirror and make sure you add the missing ingredients to your daily working life.
Dr. Alden Cass
is a New York City-based clinical psychologist and performance coach for Wall Street advisors, traders and bankers. For more info visit competitive-streak.com.