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Taking a COVID-19 Leadership Role

Focus on what you can control.

Amidst the stock market tanking, contradictory messaging from medical experts and politicians, and a 24/7 coronavirus drumbeat, confusion, fear, and panic reign. And referring to this as the “new normal” has an apocalyptic tone that isn’t helpful.

Today’s environment is in desperate need of local leadership, at any level. But you don’t need to be a healthcare professional to pitch in and help. We all can do it. My wife, Sandy, suggested a little act of kindness. “Matt, why don't you go check in on (neighbor) Gwen and Hal? They’re older, and you should let them know we’re here for them.”

I rang the doorbell of this elderly neighbor couple (in their 80s) and offered to run any errands they might need during these challenging times. This simple offer brought my neighbor to tears. This switched on the proverbial lightbulb in my brain. People are scared, but they are also proud, often too proud to ask for help. 

So, what’s leadership amidst this COVID-19 pandemic? It can take many forms from acts of kindness to providing fact-based information and guidance.

Financial advisors are in a unique position with a book of clients, a pipeline of prospects and COIs. First things first: it’s essential that you focus on what you can control. By that, I’m referring to the stock market, availability of test kits, etc., which are out of your control. Secondarily, it’s important to be thoughtfully proactive. This is the antidote to panic, fear, depression and all the associated negativity.

I’m going to break this into two buckets: kindness and fact-based advice.


With Clients, Referral Alliance Partners, and Prospects – Start with your top 25 clients and work your way down: referral alliance partners (COIs) and, finally, your prospects. Identify those who are in the “at-risk” category and start making kindness (non-market) calls. Inquire into how they’re holding up, and then offer your services in any way possible.

With schools being closed, some clients are likely to have children who are out of school. I’m not suggesting that you offer babysitting services, but you need to know who is being impacted, what they are doing, and who needs assistance.

You should also inquire about elderly family members (parents, grandparents, etc.) of your non-risk clients, COIs and prospects, as they, too, might need some help and/or guidance.

All of this needn’t fall on your shoulders alone; your team members and family can all participate in these acts of kindness. That said, it is extremely important to exhibit leadership with your personnel.  Some might be on the verge of panicking, others might have parents or grandparents who are vulnerable and child care will be an issue for many, etc. Remember, they are the front line incoming calls and fear and panic are highly contagious. 

Fact-Based Advice:

For most people, including myself, homework is required. This will range from scouring the websites of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WORLDOMETER for real-time updates, statistics and advice.

Granted, everyone can engage in this type of research, but few people are, and, for those who do, there is so much information on these websites that it can be overwhelming. However, they DO provide current fact-based information.

The following is an example of how this advice can be simple - from the World Health Organization, their Do the Five:

  1. Hands – wash them often
  2. Elbow – cough into it
  3. Face – don’t touch it
  4. Feet - stay more than 3 feet apart
  5. Feel – sick? Stay home

Yes, this is rather basic, but they serve as a credible reminder of general COVID-19 protocol. You should also do your homework on local resources:

  • Contact information of local medical resources.
  • Availability of mail-order prescription services.
  • Availability and location of over-the-counter medications.
  • Availability and location of household items and groceries.
  • Resupply timeline of the above with local establishments.
  • Foodbanks for school children depending on school lunches.

You can also offer advice on how to detect and avoid misinformation by advising to fact-check everything with the CDC, WHO, and WORLDOMETER. And, depending on your ambition, maybe you could get a handful of your colleagues and organize a fundraiser for those in need: food banks, childcare, etc.

As you can imagine, these lists go on and on. The idea is to get involved and take a leadership role within your community, starting with your clients.

The fear is of the unknown; how fast will this spread, how many people will get infected, will we have the medical resources to handle all of this, how many will die, when will a vaccine become available, when will the stock market begin to recover? All of which is why your leadership at the local level with clients, COIs, and prospects is needed.

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent

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