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3 Steps to More Emotionally Intelligent Teams

Self-awareness is not easy. In fact, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, it is among the top things that are hard in life, along with diamonds and steel.

Some advisers have learned this the hard way.

“They question my strategies and don’t trust that I know what I’m doing,” said one such adviser with exasperation. This adviser I was coaching had fired a client that month and had lost two more over the course of the year, over what he described as “irreconcilable differences” regarding his advisory process. “Do they have their CFA designation? Did they spend years following the markets and learning this craft? If they could do it themselves, why waste time with me?” he posed.

Reflection is the First Step

In my experience with Knowledge Labs™, and as a coach to thousands of advisers over the better part of two decades, I’ve learned to recognize when to pause and re-evaluate a situation. I couldn’t break through in this moment; my client was too triggered by what he was feeling to be able to reflect. When we are triggered—often due to past experiences—we don’t act in accordance with our values. Fortunately, I was able to get him out of his own head by asking, “What do you think they are not getting that is causing them to question your approach to investing?”

The adviser loves his clients and wants more of them, but he loses patience when they seem to question his responses. What he had misidentified as his clients’ lack of confidence in his advisory skills actually had more to do with emotional intelligence (EQ). I’ve long valued EQ and use it constantly in my work with Janus Henderson’s Professional Development Team on research and curriculum development. This adviser’s clients needed more clarity and involvement, which can sometimes be elusive but are reachable through self-management of emotions that result in an alignment of behavior and values.

Reflection is the first step in the journey to greater EQ. When you feel like you’re up against a wall in a conversation, ask two questions:

  • What are they really asking for?
  • Why is it eliciting such a dramatic reaction from me?

Once we recognize our triggers through reflection, we can start to reframe. Reframing seeks to change the way we perceive events to avoid triggering. Other EQ boosters include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), journaling, meditation and Kolbe (a provider of assessments identifying the natural way that people take action).

Emotional Intelligence in Team Settings

Our frustrated adviser was in need of a refresher on the benefits of EQ, but he’s not alone. Emotional intelligence is an all-too-common blind spot in many people’s self-awareness that affects individual performance. In this case, it was beginning to seep into his team’s performance as well.

Knowledge Labs™ recently partnered with The Investments & Wealth Institute and Cerulli Associates on a study that identified qualities shared by elite advisory teams, and self-awareness is a critical component to knowing what you need to build an extraordinary team.

Three steps to emotionally intelligent teams:

  • Reconsider “majority rules.” Even if there’s only one dissenter, hear them out and make sure all possibilities have been properly considered.
  • Put your team members in each other’s shoes. Cross-training won’t make everyone an expert in everything, but if teammates understand the complexity and time requirements of everyone else’s task load, they’re more likely to give each other a break.
  • Speaking of breaks, encourage your team to take them and do the same yourself. Go for a walk. Get away from email, even if only for a few minutes. Take regular vacations. Burnout is both unhelpful and contagious.

Putting the Pieces Together

The adviser, who took some very helpful walks around the leafy neighborhood surrounding his office, was already seeing changes. He learned to label his own behavior and understand what he could control about himself, rather than the opinions of his clients. His team’s revamped attitude was showing as he spoke about better relationships with clients and colleagues at a follow-up meeting six months later. Without making any drastic changes to his core principles, he was able to shift his interactions to the positive.

What we can learn from his positive experience is that, more often than not, hard things are worth the effort.

Learn more about elite teams in Knowledge Labs™’ Attributes of a Top Performing Advisory Team.

Editor’s note: A version of this blog post appeared on the Janus Henderson Investors blog. See it here

Michael Futterman

Michael Futterman is an assistant vice president, Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development at Janus Henderson Investors. In this role, Futterman works with the Professional Development team on research and curriculum development for the professional development programs. He is a frequent speaker and coach to adviser and client audiences. Futterman leverages his experience with Outward Bound, management consulting firms and the financial services industry to bring innovative, engaging and thought-provoking content to his clients.


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3 Choices in Business that Lead to Success or Failure

Success or failure is a choice—whether conscious or unconscious—a choice nonetheless. The thing about success and failure in your business is that you are constantly stepping toward one or the other.

Abraham Maslow, renowned psychologist, echoed this belief when he said, You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Watching which direction you step is to choose each step wisely. Choosing to step forward toward pursuing your goals could bring with it the fear of the unknown. Choosing to step backward toward complacency could bring with it the comfort of familiarity. But you must ask yourself this, is it better to boldly succeed or is it better to safely fail?

Understanding Your Daily Direction

Most advisers start each day without any thought of what direction their business is going. Granted, some may have what I refer to as proactive activities scheduled—such as prospecting appointments; but many advisers spend their day on reactive activities—such as putting out client fires and other interruptions to their schedule.

At the end of the day, many may feel like it was productive or unproductive based on their perception of the amount of proactive or reactive tasks they accomplished.

One example of this is an adviser who would be feeling accomplished because they opened a new account, thus, growing their business. On the other side would be an adviser who felt they were productive returning/taking calls, thus keeping clients satisfied.

The real question is which adviser moved toward accomplishing their goals? Let’s explore the answer below by looking at three choices and how each pertains to business.

Choice No. 1: Stepping Backwards

Stepping backwards in your business is a slippery slope that seems to be paved with good intentions. While putting out fires is important, your client base will never consistently grow unless you incorporate daily prospecting. An adviser who only works with their current client base is, in fact, taking a step backwards by doing so because over time the client base decreases due to client attrition. The solution is to schedule time to prospect daily so you can fill up the pipeline and grow your business.

Choice No. 2: Staying Stationary

Staying stationary in your business is a misnomer because a business is either growing or shrinking. However, many advisers who are on a production plateau feel comfortable because their business is not trending downward—that is until they experience a bad market and quickly realize that their assets under management are spiraling south. It is oftentimes at this crossroad where any unhappy clients leave as well.

Again, the solution here is to prospect daily. The reason why growing a client base is more important than just the returns on investment growth is because the more qualified clients you have, the less dependency you have on any one client.

Choice No. 3: Stepping Forward

Stepping forward with your business takes dedication and discipline to integrate the activities that are needed to grow and to maintain and service your existing client base. It’s done by ensuring structure to the day and having a method to prioritize and/or delegate interruptions. In also requires that you work smarter by getting more effective at everything you do and not just by working harder doing more of what you have already been doing. Look for areas of your business that you believe need improvement and find ways to make those areas stronger.

Finding Your Path

Before we explored these three choices, I asked you the question regarding which adviser took a step forward toward accomplishing their goals? The answer is neither, because each adviser focused on only one aspect of the business. To find your path to success you need to create a balance between all facets of running a business by evaluating and implementing best practices.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, Advisor Solutions’ director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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What an Ironman Can Teach Us About Financial Planning

It was August 15, 2015 on an already sweltering morning in Mont Tremblant, Canada. I dug my toes into the sand amidst a crowd of 2,700 elite athletes from around the world. As I zipped up my wetsuit, I thought about all my training the past year, my strategy to conquer the day and a slew of what ifs I’d encounter over the next 16 hours stirred excitement mixed with worry. Then BANG, fireworks erupted across the beach and I was off.

I learned a lot from my journey to becoming an Ironman, but it wasn’t until I returned to my office in New Jersey that I thought about my experiences and how they related to my work. As a CFP® professional and author on personal finance, I naturally connected my competition to my clients’ goals and concerns.

Lessons from Setting Goals

This outrageous idea of going from not even having a bicycle—let alone competing in triathlons—to taking on the ultimate fitness test (the Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike, capped off with a marathon) stemmed from another one of my crazy New Year’s resolutions. I woke up on January 1, 2015 and the first thing I did was scour the internet for potential Ironmans. August gave me eight months, what I thought was enough time, and Quebec was not too far away. I immediately registered for the race, paid my $800 entrance fee, and marked the date on my calendar.

Set a goal with a date. As simple as this sounds, this was probably the most important step I took in the whole process. I advise clients all day long who want to reach their financial goals that a goal without a date and commitment is just a wish. Circling 08/15/15 on my calendar instantly set the tone and allowed me to design a training regimen and appropriate diet. I’m not saying a 24-year-old client should pick 08/15/58 as their exact retirement date, but benchmarks penned to paper and voiced aloud are critical.

Seek expert help, educate yourself, and develop a road map. Back to the training and diet—I had no idea where to begin. I still lifted weights as I did for football in college and I ate anything I wanted. So, I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased an Ironman-endorsed training manual. I read it cover to cover and created my own daily workout routine from March 1, 2018 to August 15, 2018, recognizing that I’d burn out if I devoted to any longer of a program. There are two lessons to be gained here: first I sought expert help and became a student of the game. A financial objective is no different in that a client must educate him or herself, furthermore a trainer certainly would have accelerated my development the way a Certified Financial Planner™ will to a client. Secondly, there was a detailed game plan of how I’d be prepared for race day, this is no different than how a family must plan for college, retirement or saving for their first house. A road map towards a defined goal with consistent effort despite ups and downs along the way makes a far-off goal attainable.

Race Day Lessons

Preparation is key. The nerves I felt before diving into the crystal-clear water of Lake Tremblant are not all that different than those clients feel before buying an investment property, sending a child to college or handing in their retirement papers. The fear of the unknown is inevitable and faith in prior preparation is the only comfort.

Breaks help to stay the course. Within the first 200 yards of my 2.4-mile swim, I was booted square between my eyes from the heel of another competitor. I stopped swimming and struggled to gather my senses as everyone pushed past me. I was just a few minutes in to a 16-hour contest and doubt raced through my mind. Plenty of retirees or entrepreneurs can sympathize with this feeling after suffering an early defeat or market setback. Taking a break (perhaps for your clients a vacation, for me 30 seconds of floating amongst adrenaline-filled contestants) and diagnosing the situation from an optimistic viewpoint can help stay the course.

Don’t be on autopilot and risk injury. Next was the 112-mile bike ride through the mountains of Quebec, as the sun raged overhead with 90-plus degree heat. This was the longest part of the contest and most monotonous, yet most dangerous. I saw several cyclists leave in ambulances due to brutal downhill crashes, the result of not paying attention or taking unnecessary risks. Again, there is a perfect parlay to wealth management, a sound financial plan often borders on boring, tempting investors to enter unchartered territory at the risk of the whole strategy. Even though a financial plan may seem to be on autopilot, active oversight is crucial in order to miss an unforeseen trap (tax change, market correction, illness/injury, lawsuit, etc.)

Cheering clients on helps. Then there was the 26.2-mile run. I raced through the dark of night fighting off a roller coaster of emotions. I knew if I could suck it up and stay positive that I would complete my mission. The screaming support of thousands of fans along the race course was also invaluable. A client near the end of paying off college, selling their business or in the last stage of retirement distributions knows what I mean. At this stage, one needs to play it safe (perhaps fixed income or annuities in retirement), visualize the finish line and realize it’s okay to ask for help, be it fans, advisers or family.

Don’t squander your accomplishments. Lastly, sportsmen can’t forget about recovery or their body might not appreciate their accomplishments. Clients must not forget those estate planning documents and business succession plans, or your legacy could be squandered as well. As we now know, athletes and investors alike can enjoy the thrill of a well-deserved victory by following the same tenets.

Bryan Kuderna.jpg

Bryan M. Kuderna is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow and an investment adviser representative with Kuderna Financial Team. He is a perennial qualifier for the industry’s prestigious Million Dollar Round Table®, Leaders Club and Inner Circle. He is the author of the bestselling book, Millennial Millionaire: A Guide to Become a Millionaire by 30.