BY GLENN CRAWFORD
Our industry does a great job of confusing the people we serve from the onset. For example, we go by so many different titles and these titles often have acronym designations that are hard to follow. I know we work very hard and put in lots of hours training to achieve these distinctions. Nonetheless, all those credentials are worth little if the sophistication they may enable adds unnecessary complexity and otherwise hinders client interactions as we seek to achieve better financial outcomes.
That in mind, I submit we should see ourselves as coaches or teachers. I believe many of our clients simply want to be “coached up” in their financial game plan. Planning for their financial future is the biggest game of their lives — they only get one chance and they must get right.
Our credentials are important, but your client is putting their faith in YOU, not any of your credentials. Our clients don’t need exhaustive explanations riddled with financial jargon to show how much we know. Rather than speaking over their heads, we should try formulating plain speak in digestible nuggets. I’ve found that using a sports or life experience analogy to explain a financial concept can be very effective. Simplify your language into digestible, common logical explanations and trust that your clients can make sound decisions.
Perspectives from a few of America’s most-loved coaches may be instructive. I date myself here, but Vince Lombardi was the greatest football coach alive when I was a kid.
Coach Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships in a 9-year period. He took them from the bottom to the top. Coach Lombardi said, “They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them; you show them the reasons.”
The people we serve generally have some angst about figuring out the best way to navigate their financial lives. Moreover, they can be apprehensive about seeking advice. They are constantly bombarded by news outlets that sensationalize the financial markets with either doom and gloom prognostications and “pick these 5 best stocks” rhetoric. Take a page from Coach Lombardi: teach your clients what you know about planning and provide supporting evidence why they should consider your suggestions.
The great John Wooden is regarded as perhaps the greatest coach of all sports, not just the greatest basketball coach of all time. Coach Wooden won 10 NCAA titles in 12 seasons and had two of the longest college winning streaks in history. But the players he coached don’t talk about the wins. They reminisce about what he taught them about life. If you don’t know about Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, here is the graphic (see right).
Coach Wooden said, “It matters not the subject taught, nor all the books on all the shelves, what matters most, yes most of all, is what the teachers are themselves.”
Have you ever had a teacher that turned things around for you by making a subject you might have thought was boring into something you could embrace? I sure did. They did so by having enthusiasm and communicating subject matter in a manner that was easily digestible. You can get your clients engaged by sharing examples they can relate to in their own lives.
Bill Belichick stands in the Mt. Rushmore of coaching as well. Coach Belichick architected the most recent sports dynasty of our time, one the rivals the Celtics: The Lakers and the NY Yankees. In 21 seasons, he’s won six Super Bowl Championships.
Bill said, “Whatever success I’ve had it is because I’ve tried to understand the situation of the player. I think the coach’s duty is to avoid complicating matters.”
Profound, isn’t it?
How does this apply to our work? We are taught to gather information and look for a problem to fix, look for the sale. I submit a better approach would be to simply foster objective conversations with your prospects to get to know them. Don’t have a sale in mind or a predetermined solution you want to position. Your objective is to make them better and help them achieve better outcomes by identifying areas of opportunity to take advantage of or areas of deficiency that need to be addressed. If you are the person who can help them to a better outcome, you can be their coach and if you can’t, be truthful and let them know you are not the coach for them. But, by all means, encourage them to find the right coach.
Yet another legend in her efforts not only to coach, but also to educate, Pat Summitts led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team to eight national titles. With 1,098 career victories, Summitts won more college basketball games than anyone, male or female. the games, but I get excited about practice because that’s my classroom.”
The nugget here is for you to do the work necessary to offer sound advice. You are the professional and your clients look to you for answers.
Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, Bill Belichick and Pat Summitts were all great coaches, but they also saw themselves as great teachers. And vice-versa: great teachers have to be great coaches to inspire their students, players or employees to achieve things perhaps beyond what they believed they had the capacity to attain.
The value of your work lies in your ability to help people achieve better outcomes. Better outcomes mean different things to different people, but what I’ve found is that in general, people want to learn how to get the most use and enjoyment out of what they’ve worked so hard for over the years.
Coach Belichick has it right: find out what they want. Where do they want to live? What kind of lifestyle do they want? Do they want to leave a legacy for their loved ones? Do they want to travel? It’s not rocket science. What do you want to achieve? Where are you today towards that aim and what is the gap or roadblock getting in the way? Your job as coach is to help bridge the gaps.
We can all learn and apply the tenets shared by these great coaches. Work on your craft and sharpen your chops as a financial professional. Develop your ability to educate without talking above people. Put aside what I call “financial arrogance” and the need to show how smart we are.
In addition to realizing they were teaching, these great coaches all had something else in common: “they are not afraid.” confidence that they have prepared well. They are not afraid to make decisions and are willing to accept the consequences of the moves they make. Great coaches instill confidence in the team and players when the game is in question or the odds are against them.
In life, just like sport, the score is dynamic. Could part of the great value you bring be in your ability to coach clients through challenging times? Assuredly, there will be bumps in the road as you help your clients navigate plan implementation. Differentiate yourself by being a rock for your clients in good times and tough times.
I’m not claiming to be some guru here, I’m just sharing what I’ve learned through the years and believe to my core. Put the interest of your client first, learn what they want to achieve and what’s getting in the way of them achieving said goals, explain options in a way that they can easily understand and be their rock in challenging times. In other words, be a great coach.
GLENN CRAWFORD is a wealth asset manager, insurance broker, CDFA®
& Mediator with Signature Resources Insurance and Financial Services. He’s also past president of NAIFA-Los Angeles. Glenn brings a coach-like approach to his advisory practice to help clients understand sound practices of financial planning.
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