BY DR. DARALEE BARBERA
These can be challenging times for financial advisors and clients. Inclusive relationships are what we need today, more than ever. The pandemic has shown us many things, but one thing that has been reinforced is that who someone is as an individual matters a lot and has an increased visibility. How people self-identify matters, that most people want to be included and contribute to the solutions for themselves and others matters.
Inclusive financial advisor leadership creates an inclusive environment for clients and connects the dots of growth, motivation, and client longevity today, even with the pandemic.
The 3 C’s
There are 3 things that make an inclusive environment:
• Connectivity happens through Inclusion
• Inclusion through creating Community
• Inclusion through excellent Communication.
These 3 C’s are our answer for leading ourselves and others during these challenging times. The 3 C’s are why clients will be attracted to an advisor, why they will stay with them, and in the absence of the 3 C’s, are why they will leave.
How do advisors lead inclusively when they are so often physically disconnected from the client?
Inclusive advisors build their community, paying attention with deliberateness to the design of their “community” look and feel. People like to belong, and they seek community. Community is interconnectedness, a belonging, a shared ownership, and responsibility. Communities were traditionally defined by geography, but today the power of community extends our geography beyond a neighborhood or physical border. Shared beliefs, cultures, values, causes and skills can define community. Today advisors can virtually connect into homes and personal spaces, like never before, instantly belonging. Technology has allowed advisors access into communities that they were previously not a part of or even nearby. Many clients will follow advisors for the community that their leadership promotes. Community is where clients connect.
Connectivity is engagement fostered by community. Building connection and community before the pandemic, more often than not, equated to seeing clients in person. Client meetings at regular intervals are a best practice, and a fair generalization was that a good number of those client meetings were face-to-face. Group events, whether in the form of client appreciation events, charitable activities, or educational workshops and seminars, were common.
Importantly, whether a Padres or Ducks game, or a class on educational funding or the economy, clients were invited to these special client events. They felt included, and they belonged to the advisor’s community, hence fostering inclusive relationships. Times change rapidly and today it is much more complicated for advisors to host events and for clients to easily show up.
Although there are still obstacles that continue to interfere with the navigation of in-person client contact, meetings are still a powerful tool for the inclusive advisor. Whether meetings are one-on-one, in a group, in person, or on apps such as Facetime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, advisors are surrounded by client engagement opportunities. Interconnectedness, whether in the same space or not, deepens client relationships that are nurtured by inclusive advisors who are excellent connectors and communicators.
Communication is the key tool for connection and community. Effective communication is engaging and is foundational for client relationships. Communication takes deliberateness to do it well, is not always easy, and it can result in unintended messaging if we are not careful. Communication can be complicated but getting communication right is a prerequisite skill for inclusive relationships, whether business or personal. Excellent communication skills facilitate inclusion and enable advisors to be better resources, educators, motivators, and better equipped to express their commitment and care for their clients.
Communication can move quite fast, often like the volley of a tennis ball. If we could freeze-frame a moment of communication, we would see three main components: the sender, the message, and the receiver. Perhaps an oversimplification, but we have communication when a sender sends a message and when a receiver catches the message. Inclusive advisors have excellent skills in all three of those components.
Five Top Tips
These three core components of communication seem simple to identify but are not always simple to do. Here are five helpful tips for advisors that will help build enduring client relationships:
First, if you are the sender, these considerations can impact your inclusiveness:
1. What is your body language saying?
2. How is your voice cadence and volume?
3. Do you tell stories, and are your word choices deliberate?
4. Do you Mirror your audience?
5. How are your confidence and credibility?
Secondly, if you are the receiver, the best thing you can do for client inclusion is to be an excellent listener. Some listening tips are:
• Listen intently.
• Ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me more.”
• Reflect, verify and clarify that you received their message as they intended it
• When you ask a question, wait for their answer. Don’t answer for them.
• Have you helped the speaker/sender to feel heard and understood?
Lastly, what should you consider about the message to be inclusive?
Is the message clear and concise?
• Does the content resonate with the audience? Is the message relevant?
• Are there any barriers impacting the reception of the message?Is it poor timing? Could the intent be misunderstood?
• How are you sending the message? What medium is best to use, given the context of the setting? Are you describing with pictures and graphs, or are you using words? Should the message be delivered in person, on a call, with a text, an email, or via social media?
People do not all learn the same way. Particularly in this remote era, inclusive advisors benefit by tailoring their messaging to the needs of the receiver. People utilize combinations of different learning styles and modalities, such as visual, auditory and kinesthetic, to name a few. A good approach is to use a variety of communication methods. For example, a proposal might be presented to the client verbally, accompanied by data and graphics, along with a brochure. This provides the client with more than one way to receive and process the message to optimize their opportunities for understanding.
Additionally, communication is “experienced.” How communication makes us feel can stick with us longer than the intended message of facts and data. Sensitivity to the three communication components can enhance the experience for sender and receiver, thus increasing the message’s chances for successful delivery.
Today, client leadership calls for inclusive leadership, grounded in the 3 C’s of Community, Connectivity and Communication. With remote times like these, feelings count more than ever, and feeling like we belong makes the difference. Inclusive advisors create inclusive communities on purpose, with and for their clients, even if distanced. When we feel included, we feel connected; we feel a part of the community, no matter where we are. Inclusive advisors connect the dots for their clients, particularly in times of uncertainty.
DR. DARALEE BARBERA, EdD MEd CFP CLF ChFC CMFC CPMBC, has over three decades of professional experience in financial planning, is an author, a graduate-level professor at The American College and California Lutheran University, a certified master business coach, and an international speaker. She is co-principal and president of Diversified Professional Coaching (DPC), a coaching consortium serving the financial services and business community. Barbera recently presented at NAIFA Will G. Farrell Awards. Visit www.divprocoach.com. Reach Dr. Barbera at firstname.lastname@example.org.