It's hand-to-hand combat.” “We're in a battle for our lives.” “We've been taking incoming for two years nonstop.” These are just a handful of the military metaphors bandied about by financial professionals these days.
Military terms come to mind because they express the need to take aggressive action in challenging times, and aggressive action requires proper preparation. Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte and Gen. George Patton recognized this. And what did they have in common? Alexander the Great was their role model. They organized their armies, planned military strategies, employed rapid troop development and even based their battlefield tactics on Alexander's methods.
It has been said that Patton never made an important battlefield decision without first “talking” to Alexander the Great. Putting the metaphysical aspect aside, it's important to recognize that drawing from the example of a role model was an integral part of the preparation and success of the three aforementioned leaders.
Role models are important. So stop reading for a moment and conjure up the image of one of your heroes. He can be someone from inside or outside our industry. Write the name on a piece of paper. Then list all the qualities that make this individual so special to you.
Next, I will demonstrate how simple it is to transform this special person into your Alexander the Great via an experience of mine with a group of financial professionals before a recent workshop, Marketing in Difficult Times.
After writing on a flipchart a list of effective qualities the group shared with me, I asked these professionals to divide these qualities into two groups: those learned in a school classroom or from a textbook (school qualities, or “SQs”) and those learned from life (inner qualities, or “IQs”).
It didn't take long for the group to see that the qualities they had suggested — enough to fill an entire flipchart page — were predominately IQs. Then I asked them an additional question, which I suggest you also ponder: Where has the emphasis been in your professional development? Once again, their response was unanimous: SQs. Here's a final question for you. In the midst of your daily challenges, confronting change at an unprecedented rate, where is your firm placing its emphasis? My hunch is on SQs.
That brings us back to the military geniuses. What would they be thinking if they were in your shoes? How would they act? Would they work to cover their flank while recognizing the offensive opportunities afforded in today's economic environment? What is the probability that any one of those individuals would initiate one courageous action after another, each linked to a clearly defined objective? What about your role model?
The silence was deafening. We had not yet gotten into any specific workshop content, yet it was obvious this was to be the most important lesson of the day, the preparation they truly needed to turn that content into action. SQs may tell you what you should do, but the IQs give you the courage and drive to do it.
I then asked each participant to map out strategy they could immediately implement, complete with an action plan. If you dare, do the same. The catch is you must create this plan in “conversation” with your role model.
Few people disagree on the power a role model can have in shaping one's life. Most successful financial professionals can easily articulate the positive influence of at least one such individual; nonetheless, every once in a while, it's helpful to remind ourselves what we admire the most about the person and the IQs that are at the heart of his success, traits like courage, confidence and perseverance.
A case in point: A broker fears asking a client for a referral because the client's portfolio is down in a down market. The broker reflects on his mentor's courage and summons a similar courage that enables him to ask for, and get, a referral from a key client. (The broker felt the fear, thought of his hero and accomplished the goal.)
So, here is the drill: Identify your role model and list the qualities that make this person special, especially noting the IQs; reflect on these qualities for 15 to 30 minutes and then conduct a comparative analysis to determine which of those qualities you need to adopt and develop, create your strategic action plan (in “conference” with your hero) and begin implementing your plan today.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com/rr