Hand-holding, Part II

If you make hand-holding calls to clients who do not need them, you're taking a risk. Initially, these clients will be puzzled as to why you have called to hold their hand when they are not frightened or in need of reassurance. But if you persist in these types of calls, their perspective might change. Perceptive clients who do not need hand-holding will realize you are calling to relieve your anxiety

If you make hand-holding calls to clients who do not need them, you're taking a risk. Initially, these clients will be puzzled as to why you have called to hold their hand when they are not frightened or in need of reassurance. But if you persist in these types of calls, their perspective might change.

Perceptive clients who do not need hand-holding will realize you are calling to relieve your anxiety and not theirs. They will realize you are calling out of your need and not for theirs. It is similar to having a waiter who comes to your table every 10 minutes asking if everything is OK. You quickly realize his asking is disingenuous, and he really isn't listening to you anyway. Your need for hand-holding calls could create a problem where none existed.

Hand-holding is usually performance-related. Brokers tend to make hand-holding calls when their clients' portfolios have suffered losses. The calls are made in response to the anticipated reaction to the loss. However, hand-holding does not diminish the client's expectations regarding performance. It escalates it.

Periods of intense hand-holding are often associated with diminished production. The broker is focusing on hand-holding and not on doing business. More energy goes out, and less production comes in.

As you consider some of the dynamics of hand-holding, you may want to consider some alternative ways of thinking and proceeding.

Hand-holding implies the client is childlike and in need of reassurance.

Even though this may be true of some clients, it is not true for all. Truth implies the client is a mature adult, and can deal with an honest and forthright conversation.

Hand-holding is a vote of “no confidence” in the client.

It assumes that they need to be buffeted from the truth or that the truth can only be put forth in tiny bite-sized pieces that have been properly sugar-coated. (It reminds me of the time I tried to give my dog a pill. I wrapped the pill in a piece of roast beef and put it in his mouth hoping that he would swallow the pill along with the roast beef. I was partially right. He did swallow the roast beef. But then he spit out the pill and walked away.)

Truth is a vote of confidence for both you and the client.

If you tell the client the truth and call it as you see it, you will be giving the client the respect they deserve as well as giving yourself the respect you deserve. Truth-telling leads to growth both for you and for your client. Truth enhances both humility and confidence. Humility and confidence are synergistic and work effectively in assisting you on behalf of your clients. Arrogance, deceptiveness, bravado and false confidence are inversely correlated with truth. The more you exhibit any of these qualities, the less likely you will be able to know and tell the truth.

It is essential that you and your client are on the same page regarding expectations for client contact.

It is best to establish this at the beginning of your relationship with your client and to monitor it along the way to make sure it is still calibrated correctly.

Check your own anxiety at the office door.

Calling your clients to alleviate your anxiety is not fair, nor is it honest. Take the high road. It has a better view.

Theodore Kurtz is a psychoanalyst based in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. He coaches brokers in overcoming performance issues. He can be reached at [email protected].

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