PLANADVISER.com spoke to Sharon Hoover, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based executive leadership coach who works with many financial advisers. Here are a few tips she offered to help stay sane:
- Focus on top priorities. Hoover suggested advisers pinpoint the most important areas in their lives (e.g. family and business), and let everything else go. Now is not the time to take on extra responsibilities on the Rotary board. Hoover said normally she is pushing her clients to work on their business strategy. However, now is the time to sideline less urgent things in order to focus on urgent concerns, such as meeting with clients. It’s OK to be addicted to your BlackBerry, as it might be necessary right now.
- Eliminate distractions. Like physicians and lawyers, most advisers have probably had people approach them at a dinner party to solicit expertise, and that might be exacerbated in the current market. Financial advisers are one of the most sought-after experts right now—but save that for the office. Hoover said advisers need to say to people: “You know, I’m here at my kid’s soccer game, and I really don’t want to talk about that now. If you’re interested, you can make an appointment. I’m off the clock right now.” Hoover said it’s important to not let events or people bombard you. It might also be time to tune out CNBC every once in a while. Get the news you need, but don’t let it distract you.
- Work on your inner game. Outside distractions are not the only thing advisers have to worry about. Hoover said she deals with many advisers who have let negative thoughts run wild in their heads. She doesn’t recommend being a Pollyanna, but rather focusing on what’s true. When an angry client calls to complain, what is the worst thing that can happen? Advisers might be thinking, “Oh no my business is ruined”—but it isn’t really. As the lyrics go, “don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy,” Hoover said.
- Be available and proactive. Hoover said sometimes clients just need to vent about what is going on and hear their adviser say they understand. The best question to respond with might be: “What would be the most helpful thing for me to do right now?” If a client says they want a 15% return, you can’t help them—but asking will help you know what information to provide. Hoover noted that less can really be more; more information does not help every type of person. Also, it’s important for advisers to be proactive and reach out to clients. “It almost matters less what they say than that they’re saying something,” Hoover said.
- Don’t take on extra responsibility. You shouldn’t feel guilty about the financial crisis (unless you’re Bernard Madoff). Hoover said she hears advisers going into an over-responsibility mode. “That is unhealthy—to carry around the responsibility for the results clients are getting because of what’s happened in the market,” she said. Take ownership of what is yours and let go of what isn’t, she suggested. Advisers have the responsibility to tell the truth about their client’s situation, but they don’t have the responsibility to guarantee returns.
- Get some sleep. Advisers are human too. A recent study found that the financial crisis has made advisers more stressed (see “Advisers Feel Market Stress“). Hoover asks her clients what is the best thing they can do to take care of themselves. A lot of times they say it is getting more sleep or exercising every day. She said there is always a way to figure out how to do it, and it is imperative that advisers do. “Because if you’re not at your best, there is no way that you can be there for your clients,” she said.
More information about Hoover’s business, Coaching Works, is available at www.sharonhoover.com.