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Core Values: A Key Differentiator for Leaders and Financial Advisors

By Rich Maxwell | July 16, 2013


When interviewed by prospective ClientWise clients, I am frequently asked something like, “What’s the one or two coaching exercises that you find most helpful for successful financial advisors?”

My typical response? “I observe that Identifying Core Values can be a critical exercise, (and differentiator) for financial advisors and financial advisory teams. I’m curious, what are your Core Values?” 


Interestingly, this reply is very often followed by a few moments of awkward silence!

I go on to explain that Core Values are at the heart of what any of us do, financial advisor or otherwise.  They are the standards of behavior and central tenets of our lives that provide us with motivation each day.  It is also what separates us from others around us (think “unique value proposition”) and provides the reason why clients should select you and your team, as opposed to your competition. And finally, it tells me as your coach what is most important to you, what you value the most.  After all, part of my job is to motivate you and this provides me with the insight to help do just that.

I often explain my own Core Values (clients first-me second, leadership, integrity, and family) and how they inform my life.

So what is this exercise I send the client?  I have entitled it Mountains and Valleys.  While I have a template that I send to my client, it is easy enough for anyone to sketch out:

  • First, draw a line horizontally across a piece of paper using the landscape orientation.  This is a timeline.  The instructions are to locate highs (mountains) and lows (valleys) in your life and note them on the timeline with a dot and a date, along with a brief word or two to remind you what the event is about.  It can be the time your high school team won the state championship, you graduated from college, your parents were divorced, a death in the family that hit you particularly hard…you get the idea.  But select the events that had a significant effect on you from a positive or negative viewpoint. 

  • Now share this timeline with your coach or someone else that you trust, asking them to help you listen for the values embedded in the stories you tell as you explain each dot on the timeline (values that were fulfilled at the mountain top or stepped on in the valley).  Keep track of the values as they are revealed through the storytelling.


The coaching question at this point is “How do these values show up in your life today?” 

Without fail, clients are both pleased with what they uncover, and frequently surprised by some of what they reveal to themselves (even though it has been ‘hidden in plain sight’ all of the time).

Your Core Values are not likely to change over time.  As such they form a foundation upon which the rest of your life is built.  What a good place to start our coaching!

Author: Rich Maxwell PCC, speaker, trainer, and ClientWise coach, brings an executive focus to the challenges of creating the proper conditions to allow teamwork and collaboration to flourish in service to the purpose of the organization. Rich works with individuals, small teams, and senior leadership teams always supporting the client to move forward in service to staff, company, and customers.


 Financial Advisor Marketing


Topics: Coaching

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