The ClientWise Blog

Coaching Clients Through Dark and Gloom

Posted by Chris Holman on Jul 28, 2011 11:12:00 AM

Been reading the headlines lately? Bleak stuff, isn’t it?

Regardless of one’s political stripe or economic belief, the news has been difficult to stomach of late. Each new day seems to bring a different outrage or unspeakable horror.

Sadly, with the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., it’s possible that it gets worse before it gets better.

For financial advisors who’ve been in the business for any length of time, it might seem like déjà vu all over again. It was just three years ago that the financial debacle seriously corroded the trust that investors had in: the financial markets, the regulators, investment firms, and their advisors. Only just recently has this trust and confidence been regained, if at all. Indeed, the World Wealth Report 2011 indicates that only 44% of high-net-worth investors have any faith in the oversight regulators today, and 33% actively distrust these institutions.

If you are a financial advisor, I’m assuming that many of your clients are freaked out by the headlines too. Personally, I don’t think it would take much to scare the living daylights out of many investors…to the point where they crawl back into the cave that they just emerged from…and push the rock back over the entrance.

Here’s the thing though. We have observed that times of “investor stress” are really interesting periods for financial advisors to engage their clients in highly-personal and honest discussions about what concerns them most, e.g. their fears and concerns about money, their legacy and future, family, their values, etc.

If you’d like to engage your clients differently this time, here’s a thought. Act like a coach. Although the best coaches out there undergo years of coaching, learning, and thinking before they reach top proficiency, I would refer you to the 11 Core Competencies as outlined by the International Coach Federation (ICF). These core competencies are the foundational elements that buttress the special relationship that coaches create with their clients. Although not all of these competencies are equally germane to the financial advisor-client relationship, many have a high degree of relevance.

For example:

  • An essential core competency of the ICF-credentialed coach is the ability to co-create a trusting (and intimate) relationship with the client by building a safe supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.
  • Another core competency is active listening… which is the ability to focus completely on what the client is saying (and is not saying), in order to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.
  • Still another is powerful questioning…which is the skill of asking open-ended questions that evoke discovery, insight, commitment, or action (including those questions that challenge the client’s assumptions.)

Finally, if you are really interested in becoming more coach-like in how you interact and partner with your clients…get a coach. There is no better way to model coaching behavior than to observe close-at-hand the practiced mastery of a highly-skilled coach.

For those financial advisors who’ve seen this movie before…what’s your learning from the last time? What would you do differently?

Remembering the oft-misquoted words of the philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952): "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

If that quote doesn’t grab you, try this one: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life…some of which actually happened.” …Mark Twain (or maybe not)

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Topics: Client Engagement