By LILIYA JONES
Despite what we may want to believe, money is not just a math problem. Money has baggage. And since money touches so many aspects of our lives, it is fertile ground for our anxieties and worries. It can also be an expression of our deepest values and beliefs. “Retail therapy” and “voting with our dollars” are both well-known concepts for this reason.
The financial services industry is tasked with helping people be good stewards of their wealth. A financial advisor’s work often involves clients’ entire net worth and all major financial decision-making. It provides the perfect launchpad for aligning clients’ financial lives with their values.
Those of us in the financial industry understand this. It’s why “listening” is so often cited as the number one skill financial advisors need. It’s also why ESG investing is a fast-growing field. But while most us are focused on aligning clients’ money with their values, we can forget about the financial power we wield as business owners and leaders. Cobblers without shoes, and all that!
I propose that advisors take a pause to reflect on this and identify the values behind their own financial decision-making. Similar to our clients, this can help us feel more grounded and secure in our decisions. Here are some ideas for making it happen:
Discovering Your Values
The first step is to clarify your core values. If this seems daunting, don’t worry, there is a simple exercise that will get you there! Sometimes referred to as the “Heroes Exercise,” it goes something like this (credit: Aysa Birsel, author of “Design the Life You Love”):
- On a piece of paper, write the names of 5-10 people you admire. They don’t have to be perfect; they should just have one or more qualities that you respect.
- Next to their names, write what it is you like about them. For example, one of my “heroes” is Paul Krugman. I really admire the way he uses data to make complex economic concepts accessible to the general public. So, I would write down “data-driven,” “accessible” and “thorough” next to his name.
- Then, look for similarities and patterns in the qualities you wrote down. Group them into broader categories.
- In each category, come up with a word or phrase that best captures the meaning of the category.
- This should leave you with a handful of your most important values. Usually, the exercise stops here, but I recommend taking an additional step of formulating each of the values as an action verb rather than a noun. For example, you could replace “excellence” with “think of every detail.” This will make it easier to live your values every day.
Integrating Your Values Into Your Practice
Now that you have your values, it’s time to integrate them into your practice’s operations. You are already on your way, having identified actionable values!
An easy way to get started is to identify the key functions that make your business run and tackle them one by one, finding ways to “do” your values in those areas. Some typical functions include HR, client service, networking and prospecting, financial management, and innovation. (If you are having a hard time identifying the main functions in your firm, you may want to check out a business planning resource like Scaling Up).
The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways to infuse your values into your work. For example, if you are working on updating your HR practices, you could do things like:
- Build job descriptions around your values: i.e. each function of a given role promotes one or more core value.
- Structure your training and continuing education programs to include materials that bolster and illuminate the core values.
- Start staff meetings with celebrations of staff members embodying the firm’s values through their work.
To make sure you stay on track, you could make a monthly or quarterly plan to evaluate one key function and identify changes to implement. A wonderful thing about this work is that if you did a good job identifying your values, it will be one of the most fun and rewarding projects you’ve ever undertaken. Make sure to track and celebrate your progress as you go!
Reaping The Benefits Of Greater Alignment
Not only is this project fulfilling in process, but it is likely to pay dividends over time. Cognitive dissonance and the stress it brings is nobody’s friend. Knowing that your work is authentically aligned with your core values is sure to add a spring to your step (and prospecting process!).
Speaking of prospects, in this relationship-centric business, explicitly and thoughtfully structuring your work around your values will go a long way to drawing well-suited clients your way, too!
© Entire contents copyright 2018 by AdvisorNews. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reprinted without the expressed written consent from AdvisorNews.