The events on Wall Street over the past six months, coupled with the toll they have taken on many advisors, have caused me to revisit the work of William Glasser, M.D. and his thoughts on human behavior.
In his book Control Theory (1984, Harper Row) — a therapist's oldie but goodie — Dr. Glasser describes four separate behaviors that interact and overlap to form the mosaic of human conduct. Dr. Glasser refers to this as “total behavior.” The four behaviors all of us share are the following:
Doing (also known as active behaviors): i.e., walking, talking — or meeting with your clients or affluent prospects. Dr. Glasser defines doing as anything that requires a voluntary movement of all — or some part — of our bodies in a manner that we choose.
Thinking: This can either consist of voluntary thoughts (“I think I'll call Matt and ask him to introduce me to Kevin, one of his colleagues.”), or subconsciously generated involuntary thoughts (“It's been a tough year and it's probably not a good idea to ask Matt to introduce me to his colleague Kevin.”). I refer to the latter as that little devilish voice of doubt.
Feeling: i.e., joy or anger — or in today's financial world, it might be closer to pain and panic, especially for financial advisors and their clients. However, as Dr. Glasser points out, we have the ability to experience and express a vast array of feelings — some pleasant, others not so pleasant.
Physiology: i.e., rapid heart beat, perspiration, nervous tension, relaxation, and stress — all of which are affected by both voluntary and involuntary expressions of the first three components.
What Dr. Glasser taught me over two decades ago was actually quite a simple lesson: We can dramatically influence our total behavior by focusing our attention on that one component over which we are able to exercise total control: doing. This, in turn, enables us to directly influence the remaining components, which are more difficult to control.
In today's turbulent environment, it's a great time to revisit all of this from a financial advisor's perspective. Recently, I found myself in a conversation with a financial advisor. As soon as I exited the stage following my speech, he cornered me and gave a firm shake to my hand, saying, “I love what your research is telling me about the affluent — but I can't believe that after busting my butt for the past 20 years I'm back to square one.” He ended the statement with a guttural groan and continued (with some hostility), “My firm's stock is now in the gutter and I can't believe those (expletive) let it happen!”
Alas, I'd already sized-up this advisor before he told me his name was Gerry. And unfortunately, Gerry has a lot of company. This is not the time for Gerry — or any advisor — to be moaning about personal portfolios or challenges, or looking for someone to blame. Now is the time for every financial advisor to take heed of what I learned 20 years ago: Focus on what you can control. Be active with your clients!
In today's troubled economy more money is in motion than ever before. Why? Because affluent investors, like many advisors, are listening to their feelings. And what are they hearing? Affluent investors are hearing fear and uncertainty — and they are feeling pain. Our research also tells us that the majority of your peers are being driven by their feelings. What I mean is, they are not meeting with their clients (doing) and reassuring them that “this, too, will pass.” They are not getting in front of their clients' friends.
Both of these realities have created a tremendous opportunity for advisors who decide to focus on what they can control, and act with resolve and confidence.
Gerry's production ($1.5mm) classifies him as a successful advisor by the typical industry measuring stick: production. However, unless he makes a radical change in his total behavior (starts doing high-impact activities), his best days could easily be behind him. That means his affluent clients are probably in play — they are viable prospects.
Doing — reassuring your affluent clients and going after the affluent clients of the Gerry's in your market — is the success formula for these turbulent times.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.