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The 3 Critical Goal-Setting Behaviors of Elite Financial Advisors

By ClientWise | September 18, 2012

ClientWise research shows that goal setting is a key value-driver with respect to top-performing financial advisors and their financial advisory practices. We have observed that the best financial advisors practice three simple, yet critical, behaviors:

  • They set clear goals and priorities consistently and periodically.
  • They write these goals down, and post them in a place that is impossible NOT to see.
  • They review, and reflect back on them, at least once a quarter.

As straightforward as these behaviors may seem, we also can report another somewhat surprising statistic, which is that 79 percent of financial advisors surveyed do not consistently set goals, write them down, and reflect on them periodically.

What is a well-set goal?

In the first place, a well-set goal focuses on the change that you aspire to see, as well as the activities that might lead to these changes. For example, a financial advisor might set a goal of becoming one of the top 10 percent of revenue producers within their firm. An activity that might lead to this aspirational change might be doubling the number of Loyal Client Advocates that serve your practice.

Another aspect of goal setting is the importance of having clarity and focus, i.e. S.M.A.R.T. goals. George T. Doran, in an issue of Management Review first introduced the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals over 30 years ago, published by MIT Sloan.

Without belaboring an oft-discussed topic, here are some S.M.A.R.T. goal guidelines:

Specific: Straightforward and well defined. Clear to anyone who has a basic understanding of the issue and/or project.

Measureable: The goal must be quantifiable and able to be calculated. You will want to identify markers to know when you have achieved your goal, i.e. desired change.

Attainable: Given all of your assets and resources, your goal must be possible. “Small wins” can set you up for longer-term success [Note: One of the things that we see often is that financial advisors underestimate what is attainable for them, because they do not completely consider ALL of their assets and resources.]

Relevant: Considering all available resources, your knowledge base, and the timeline, is the goal relevant and tied to the needs and aspirations that you have for your business?

Time-bound: Have you set aside enough time to achieve the goal, but not so much time that the goals becomes lost and/or blurred?

Write the Goals Down

The second-step of the goal achievement process is to write the goal down, and post it in place where you will see it often. One very successful advisor who we know has a section of his office that he refers to as “The Wall.” For him, a goal is not a goal until it reaches “The Wall”, where it stares him in the face each and every day. Written goals force you to be really clear on what you want, motivate you to take action, and enable you to see  -- and celebrate -- success.

Review and Reflect

The final key piece of goal setting is to review and reflect on a periodic basis. This means allocating time away from the day-to-day commotion, and spending important, strategic review-time ON your business, i.e. a quarterly retreat for your and your team. Track your goals. What’s working? What could be changed or improved?   


Goal setting is a continuous process. As goals are met, you need to continue to set new ones and refine the goals you currently have. Setting aside some quiet time to reflect each quarter – perhaps with a half day or day out of the office or time with your coach – will facilitate this process.


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Topics: Organizing Priorities Goals

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