What’s Your Most Important Job…Really?

Jan 10, 2017 / By Chris Holman
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Use these five simple steps to establish your mission-critical activities for 2017.

Within every financial advisor is the seed of greatness.

Yet often there is a gap between their exceptional skills and talents…and what advisors actually end up doing every day.

You might call it the “Greatness Gap,” the gap that blocks you from doing what your clients and prospective clients most value and appreciate. What if you could eliminate this gap…or at least reduce it to the point where you could jump lightly across?

Take the example of Gus G., a successful advisor who’s been in the business for 30+ years. His “greatness” lies in his ability to have meaningful, and even intimate, one-to-one conversations with his clients. He listens to his clients intently and thoughtfully, and prides himself on asking direct questions that get to the heart of the matter.

In 2016, he let himself get distracted with the election. As the year progressed, he found himself spending more time on social media and less time with his clients. With flat revenues in 2016, he realized that there was a direct connection between the amount of time that he spent with clients and his own financial success. Recently, he’s put a total embargo on his use of social media. Not coincidentally, his productivity and time with clients has skyrocketed in the past six weeks. Although his revenues are just beginning to tick up, he’s confident that 2017 will be his best year ever.

Do you have your own “greatness gap”?

  • If so, what if you could eliminate and/or reduce that gap?
  • What impact would that have on what you’d like to achieve in 2017?

Start here!

Use the following five steps to STOP doing what you shouldn’t be doing, and START doing what you are meant to do:

  1. Observe
  2. Evaluate
  3. D.E.A.
  4. Brainstorm
  5. Create

1. Observe

Meaningful change naturally follows the practice of self-observation.

So…let’s gather the data and see what your current reality is.

Download this Time Use Audit chart&v=sagw4ckkmrpaacugpyv211s4, and use it to record everything that you do in the course of a day.

  • Record for a period of two to four weeks.
  • If your schedule is highly variable from week to week, go for the longer observation period.
  • If you have more of a weekly ritual where you do pretty much the same thing each day, two weeks should be long enough.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you currently spend the first 30 minutes of your day looking at cat videos…mark it down. This will be the baseline from which you will only improve.
  • Record your present activities without self-judgment, which can cloud your observational skills.

2. Evaluate

Gather all of your Time Use Audit charts, and list all of your activities and behaviors. List everything, e.g., 8-8:30: Make coffee. Read Wall Street Journal. Check Facebook.

Go down the list and categorize each activity as being important (or unimportant) for your business. A simple way to do this is to establish three categories: A = Most important for the success of your business. B = Moderately important. C = Least important.

For each of the activities mark down how much time that you spent doing it over your entire recording period. Convert the minutes/hours into a percent of time spent.

  • What patterns of behavior are you seeing?
  • How much of your time was spent on activities that you determine as “most important for the success of your business”?
  • How much of your time was spent on activities where you have exceptional skills?
  • For each of your recorded activities, ask yourself this question: What’s the benefit to my clients, my team, or to myself? Let this question marinate for a bit.

3. D.E.A.

This acronym stands for: Delegate. Eliminate. Automate. When you’re complete on this step, you’ll have freed up significant blocks of time in your day where you’ll add new behaviors.

How do you decide which activities to delegate, eliminate, and automate? One useful tool is the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was renowned for his time and task management and productivity.

Eisenhower was systematic in his categorization of activities, and considered them through the prism of “urgency” and “importance.”

  • Urgent and important activities…he did immediately.
  • Urgent and unimportant…he delegated.
  • Important, but not urgent…he did later.
  • Unimportant and not urgent…he eliminated altogether.

Refer to your master list of activities. Classify each of the activities as being “urgent” and/or “important.” In addition, look for activities that you can automate, such as aspects of client contact and management.

Also, if you’re a solopreneur or on your own, you may not have anyone to delegate to immediately. In this case, you’ll want to consider outsourcing as equivalent to delegation. Do you have “urgent but unimportant” activities that might be better done by a vendor or someone else…in order for you to focus on your distinctive skill set(s)?

List all the activities that you can delegate, eliminate, or automate. How much time have you carved out of your day? Your week?

4. Brainstorm

Find a quiet space and time and start brainstorming. List all of the activities that you wish you did as an advisor, but never get around to doing. In some cases, these might be activities that you’re doing partially now, and want to do much more fully. Be exhaustive in your listing.

Go through the “wish list” and highlight those activities that are “urgent and important” and would have a meaningful impact on your business.

For each of these “urgent and important” activities, ask yourself: What is the benefit to my clients, my team, or myself in doing this? Again, let this question marinate.

5. Create

Now, we get to the fun part…creating the mission-critical priorities and activities that will create a successful 2017.

Before creating the new behaviors, I want to address the topic of how one stops “bad” behaviors and starts “good” ones. This is a critical question, and worth a moment or two of digression.

In the first place, most of our behaviors are neither bad nor good…they simply exist as a result of years and decades of practice…through which our wonderful brains have created structures of routine and connection.

Each of our brains is singularly complex. Did you know that there are more possible ways to connect your brain’s neurons than there are atoms in the universe? The brain hardwires everything that it can…it’s a connection junkie. All of our thoughts, memories, skills, attributes, and patterns of behavior are a vast set of connections or maps that are joined together via complex physical and chemical pathways. Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman was the first person to call them “maps”, and this nomenclature was part of his bigger theory of neural Darwinism.

The main point is this: Our behavior is a result of the marvelously complex maps that our brains have created. It’s practically impossible to deconstruct the wiring within our brain simply by wishing it to disappear. We can’t see these brain maps, but they are as real as our arms and legs.

The new brain studies are showing that new habits take time to develop, but not that much. For example, try opening your car door with your other hand for one day and watch what happens. By the end of the day, you’ll have created an entirely new habit within the span of 12 hours or less! It doesn’t take long to create new habits…and it’s much more productive than trying to uncreate old ones.

So, with this as our context, let’s create some new habits.

Create your mission-critical activities for 2017

  1. Ignore the urge to “fix” bad habits. Don’t worry about what you’ve done in the past or that you’ve been stuck doing the same old stuff for years. Direct your intention and attention to the new behaviors. Brain science tells us that, over time, the old brain maps and neural wiring will disappear if they aren’t used.
  2. Focus, focus, focus on creating new behaviors. Remember, you’re guiding your brain to make new mental maps that will guide your new behaviors. Clearly define the new connections that you’d like to foster and get to work at turning these into long-term habits.
  3. Refer back to the wish list that you created in the brainstorm exercise. Scan the entire list. Think about layering in your new behaviors and activities, one by one.
  4. Start with an easy win. Choose a new behavior that you’re 100% likely to complete. With self-confidence, you will now move to installing a more challenging new behavior.
  5. Do it daily. Because consistency is critical to make a new habit stick, create new habits that can be practiced daily.
  6. Be accountable to someone. Accountability partners can be most helpful. However, when you choose someone to be accountable to, it helps to find someone with coach-like qualities—choose someone patient, nonjudgmental, and supportive. You don’t need someone wagging a finger at you, just someone to be in partnership with your success.
  7. Remember! One of the challenges inherent in creating new wiring is simply remembering to do what you intend to do. Most financial advisors lead busy lives that are rife with interruptions. Too many thoughts and too little time! You’ll want to build in accountability structures everyday—sticky notes, apps, accountability partners—whatever helps to remind you about what you are in the process of hard-wiring.
  8. Positive reinforcement is critical. The brain wants to see a happy face to cement its neural circuitry: ☺! For each new behavior that you create and complete, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishment!
I trust this helps.

I wish much success for you and your clients in 2017!

Chris Holman is the executive coach with Horsesmouth. His career in financial services spans 43 years as a financial advisor, a national director of investments, and an executive coach. He is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) as certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF). He can be reached at cholman@horsesmouth.com.


Thank you Jeff! And to you too!
Great article Chris. Happy 2017!

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