Bob Joss is the insightful, well-spoken, and highly regarded professor of finance and Dean Emeritus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In his last lecture as a teacher, he recently summed up his life’s learnings in “Top 10 Life Lessons,” which are 10 lessons that have been important to him throughout his distinguished academic and business career.
#10. Life is like cricket. Don’t know much about cricket, but I think he means that life is a long game, with ebbs and flows. Consequently, it is important to be prepared and stay alert for opportunities and challenges. As a financial advisor, what are you doing to prepare your clients for their life-long game? Are you staying alert for all the opportunities that may come your way from your clients and the prospects in your pipeline?
#9. Life is too short to deal with “bad” people. “Bad” people are bad news. They create negative energy and can ultimately waste your valuable time. For financial advisors, “truer words were never spoken.” Most financial advisors can build a pretty good business by finding 100 good people who they can connect with and serve. Therefore, concentrate on finding those folks who meet your minimum threshold of “good” people.
#8. Run it like you own it. Leadership is about responsibility and our actions matter and are watched. If we run a business like an owner, we set the tone for all others who observe us. Ensure you’re running your practice like you own it, even if you don’t. Treat your team with respect and reward them appropriately.
#7. Don’t forget to manage sideways. We are always a part of some team. Think beyond the immediate. As a busy financial advisor, you have a lot to do each day. As you are managing your big picture, don’t forget to also focus on the details, which in some cases, matter just as much as the larger ones.
#6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Arrogance deprives a leader of loyalty. Leadership is about earning followers. As Jim Collins has written, Level 5 Leadership is a combination of humility and will. Try to keep your sense of humor, even when you’re having a bad day or dealing with a difficult client.
#5. Without fear, there is no courage. Take intelligent risks. Trust your instincts. Ask for help…asking for help is a sign of independence, not weakness. If you don’t have a mentor or a close friend who understands your business; someone who you can bounce ideas off of; someone whose advice you can trust—find one, or two. Building a close alliance can give you a little extra push when you need it most.
#4. Life is full of “character-building” experiences. When we have a “character-building” experience, it can transform who we are as a person. Don’t stay in your comfort zone; try new things. We learn the most when we learn a skill that is about something important to us. What’s important to you? What’s important to your clients? Ask your clients what keeps them up at night; then devise a plan to help them sleep better.
#3. Find the words. Life is an endless series of conversations. How well do you converse with your clients, your colleagues, your team? Can you speak succinctly, clearly and with conviction? Perhaps you could benefit from taking a public speaking class at a local college. Leaders earn followers by honest communication, i.e. communication that respects, and connects, with their audience.
#2. Use critical thinking throughout your life. Critical thinking leads to great questions, which can uncover the 1 or 2 important kernels of information that may lead to helping you resolve an issue or solve a problem. Don’t forget to ask your clients questions on a regular basis—keep them engaged; you never know what relevant piece of information you can garner from them that could further solidify your relationship with them.
#1. Don’t forget to renew yourself. Remain curious and vital. Self-preoccupation is a prison. Our identity is what we commit to. Periodic self-assessment allows us to learn and grow. When was the last time you took some time out for yourself to do something you really enjoy? Whether you take a solo bike ride or run, immerse yourself in a good book, get a massage, or take a walk on a beach, you’ll be sure to be renewed—at least for a little while.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American literary philosopher summed things up best when he wrote, “Life is journey, not a destination.”
*Tuition at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for 2010/2011 is $51,118.00, not including room & board, books, and other expenses.