Assign a 'primary' menu

Tag Archives for " Advising the Advisors "

Jul 08

Advising the Advisors – Part III

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

It all Starts with Your “Internal Critic”

Recall that in my last segment, Advising the Advisors – Part 2: Buffer Yourself Against the Real Cause of ALL of Your Stress, I discussed the foundation of all stress, among advisors (and anyone else, for that matter) which is not, events, such as dealing with an angry client, having difficulty with your prospecting calls,  or the market tanking unexpectedly. it is your “self-talk” about each event that either causes stress or doesn’t.  And your self-talk habits are part of what I call your “Internal Critic.”

Your “Internal Critic” is that little voice within that spews out an average of 55,000 words per day, 77% of which are negative, self-defeating messages.  Current research in the field of Cognitive Psychology shows that self-limiting, negative and pessimistic thoughts (self-talk) inhibit your success because they undermine your self-confidence. Examples are thoughts that begin with variations of the following: “What if…,“I hope I don’t . . .” “I should have said . . .” “The client won’t like me if . . .” “I always have problems with . . .” “I probably won’t be able to close this sale,” or “I can’t believe how stupid I was to tell her . . .” 

The “impostor fear,” which I discussed in an earlier segment, and most other fears, are all learned habits.  Advisors who fear that they will fail to develop enough business to support their families were not born with that fear; it was learned by repeating negative self-statements for years.

The wisdom about how our inner thoughts and beliefs about events are critical to our well-being has been around for centuries.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed not my things, but by the views which they take of them.”  In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Negative, messages that pass through your mind immediately lead to muscle tightening, rapid breathing, and perspiring. These physiological responses are perceived as “stress,” so the more we allow these self-limiting thoughts continue unabated, the more stress we suffer.  What all advisors need is resiliency skills to counter the self-doubt and lack of confidence they frequently experience.

Overcoming the Internal Critic 

It’s one thing to recognize that you are producing stress by worrisome, anxiety-producing thoughts, but how do you avoid doing this during economic downturns and topsy-turvy market fluctuations?  The first step is to stop the negative thought as soon as you recognize it.

A trick that works is wearing a rubber band and snapping away whenever you catch yourself beginning one of your habitual negative thinking habits. Next, ask yourself some key questions about that thought, such as, “Do I have any evidence that I won’t be able to control my client’s rampage?”  “What can I do differently this time?”  Can I use ‘active listening’ (a subject of an upcoming column) to focus on his emotions and concerns, rather than justifying my recommendations in a defensive manner?”  “Can I assert myself with this client and not worry about losing him?”

Give yourself positive descriptions about who you are.  For example, tell yourself that you have helped many clients and their families to successfully manage their wealth through many market fluctuations and you can do so with this client as well.

You are, indeed, a wonderful financial advisor, but that doesn’t mean you can please every client.  Perhaps, if this client is a constant thorn in your side, it’s time to refer him elsewhere or recommend that he move on.  The income you will lose is not worth the constant aggravation he causes you. Your peace of mind is not worth the problems this client presents.  Being calmer will ultimately result in you making better decisions for your clients, so that the lost income will be quickly replaced.

Finally, take a series of slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, until you feel calmer.  Simultaneously, visualize yourself feeling relief after having the upcoming conversation.

Practicing these simple techniques will help you to overcome the negative thinking habits that have caused the bulk of your stress.


Jul 01

What Financial Advisors Can Learn From Joe Flaco

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Sales Professionals

How to Conquer the Real Threat to Your Success as an Advisor

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.

I don’t know Joe Flacco personally. But I know a thing or two about what it takes to become a champion, as he did by leading the Baltimore Ravens to victory in the 2013 Super Bowl.

With my 33 years of experience as a Professional Sport Psychologist, I have counseled and trained many professional football players and world champion athletes. They all face challenges, adversities and setbacks during their careers. One thing they had in common was that most suffered from “imposter fear” – a psychological obstacle that many financial advisors experience.

“Imposter Fear” occurs when – no matter how much confidence or even swagger an athlete may display to teammates, opponents, coaches, or his fans – self-doubt nags at him, and he worries that he will be exposed as inadequate to the challenges he faces. In Joe Flacco’s case, he was always unheralded, first by entering the NFL out of I-AA University of Delaware, where the level of competition did not match up with large I-A programs. Pundits wondered if the unassuming Flacco could perform on the big stage of the Super Bowl, and they predicted that in the line of fire he wouldn’t compare to the much ballyhooed quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick .

Advisors can also experience “imposter fear” – worrying that their success owes to luck and somehow they’ve fooled others into believing they are skilled advisors. They believe that it’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out and they are exposed. This is a frightening prospect. They anticipate embarrassment and ultimate failure in their career. This fear of failure causes performance anxiety.

I have helped many athletes overcome their “impostor fear” to consistently perform at their best. The exact same set of skills I teach them can be employed by advisors. I was recently invited to consult with a wealth management firm whose president was concerned about inconsistent performance from a large percentage of his advisors. Moreover, because of the ailing economy and a roller-coaster stock market, his assets under management were declining sharply.

Following a series of confidential interviews with a sample of advisors in the firm, it became clear to me that many suffered from anxiety, because of the market conditions and because of the somewhat unrealistic expectations of their president, but also because they harbored their own internal insecurities. I designed a series of training programs to teach the advisors how to recognize and overcome their fears, maintain an optimistic and proactive approach with their clients, use active listening skills, overcome stress and anxiety and ultimately how to lead to their clients directing new referrals to them.

What was the most important issue I helped these advisors overcome? You guessed it: “impostor fear.” Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will discuss the Origins of the Imposter Fear.


Jun 30

Advising the Advisors – Part 2

By Dr. Jack Singer | Advising the Advisors , Financial Advisors , Stress

Buffer Yourself Against The Real Cause of All of Your Stress

By Dr. Jack Singer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Financial Advisor Trainer and Coach

In my initial article Advising the Advisors – Part 1, I talked about the surveys done with financial advisors right after the 2008 financial crisis and the alarming percentage of advisors who actually suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. We don’t know how many advisors actually retired or tried to change their careers in response to the stress they endured, but in an effort to avoid or escape stress many people (not only advisors, of course) change careers. That certainly introduces new stressors, and so the cycle continues.

The good news is that anyone can learn how to buffer themselves against any stressor, and thus avoid making dramatic, and sometimes disastrous, career decisions as a result.

First, recognize the real source of your stress. “Stress” is an overused term, yet in our competitive and impatient culture, and with chaos rampant around the globe, examples of stress are with us constantly. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually for stress-related medical insurance claims, workers’ compensation benefits, reduced productivity, poor product quality, absenteeism, spillover into marital and family problems, and even drug and alcohol abuse, which is often a desperate attempt to cope with the stress. Stress symptoms may include, anxiety, fear, depression, burnout, and a whole host of possible physical symptoms. Stress has even surpassed the common cold as the most prevalent health problem in America!

For most of us, work challenges, managing our teens, and pleasing our spouses represent daily stressors. But these potentially negative events, do not cause stress! It is our perception of the events—our thoughts about those events—that determines whether or not we will experience stress as a result.

Negative events do not cause stress. Most people assume that specific events—particularly negative ones– that they are faced with “cause” their stress. For example, the economic disaster of 2008 was a series of “events,” none of which directly caused stress for advisors. It was not the events, per se, but each advisor’s perception of those events and the simultaneous the“self-talk” that the advisor engaged in during and following those events that determined whether or not the advisor experienced stress, and how much.

Your feelings of stress, including all of the symptoms mentioned above, are not directly caused by the necessity to make cold calls, generate referrals, market fluctuations, disgruntled clients, fiduciary and compliance hassles, etc. These events may invite you to feel stressed, but they do not cause stress. Specifically, your perception of these situations and what you say to yourself about them determines whether or not you will suffer from stress symptoms. If you perceive potentially stress-causing events in a negative, self-defeating, pessimistic, or overwhelming sense, you will certainly become stressed.
However, if you perceive those same events as challenges which you will be able to master and give yourself positive, empowering, optimistic thoughts about them, your stress will be markedly reduced.

Here is an example of an event that actually took place in my life. I was booked to be the opening general session speaker for an important financial advisor’s conference. Attendees had flown in from all over the country for this conference. Soon after I landed at the first airport where I was to transfer for my final flight, a major storm moved into the area, grounding all flights for the remainder of the day and night. It became clear that I would be able to get to the conference in time to open it the next morning.

While one might consider this situation to be extremely “stressful,” the situation, per se, would not be the source of my stress. What I said to myself about the situation would determine how stressed I would feel.

For example, if I was worried about upsetting the meeting planner and leaving the audience hanging, that would cause me to feel symptoms of stress.

To continue my example, when I learned that the flight was cancelled (the negative event), I had a choice regarding what I could say to myself. One option is: “Oh, that’s just great…now I won’t make the meeting, everyone is there expecting a rousing keynote, they’ll be disappointed and the meeting planner for the conference will be so angry at me that she’ll never book me to conduct a program again.”

Such a negative, self-defeating statement would immediately activate the nervous system necessary to deal with life-threatening situations, my brain would conclude that I was in an emergency and my body would react accordingly. My blood pressure would rise, my anxiety spike, and my behavior might become irrational…all resulting from my worried perception of a situation over which I had no control.

You do have control over your self-talk. This is really important to remember. Although we are creatures of habit, we can learn to change any habit that causes stress for us. In fact, in her wonderful little book, Change Almost Anything in 21 Days, Ruth Fishel describes research that shows how quickly people can change their stress producing self-talk.

Back to my example, suppose that when I learned that the flight was cancelled, I said to myself the following: “It is what it is! This is really unfortunate and I feel badly that I will not be there on time, but it is absolutely beyond my control. I will phone the meeting planner right away and see if she would like me to find a substitute speaker who is based in the city where the conference is being held.”

Also, I could have suggested, “Perhaps we can postpone my keynote until the last day of the Conference, when I will definitely be able to get there.”

If these possibilities were not acceptable, I could have even suggested that, “I can do the keynote through a tele-conference via Skype, for example. That way, with the audience all situated in the meeting room, I can arrange to do the keynote by interactive television and have a dialogue, etc..” I could even have used this example with them when I discussed how their self-talk always determines their emotional, attitudinal and behavioral responses to dramatic events, over which they have no control!

Bringing this example into the everyday realm of the financial advisor, consider getting a message from your assistant that your least favorite client is angry about how poorly the last product/equity you recommended is doing in the current, downward market and he wants you to call him as soon as possible.

Again, this potentially negative event does not have to be stressful, depending on the self-talk in which you engage. For example, you could say to yourself: “I hate it when this client gets angry whenever the market dips and he blames me. I would like to dump him and suggest he find another advisor.” Just imagine how your stress and anxiety will spike if you give yourself that message.

But, remember, you have choices. You could tell yourself that you will use the active listening skills you have learned (as detailed in an upcoming Advising the Advisors segment) to allow the client to vent, empathize with his frustration, and once he is calm, remind him how you went over the risks with him when he purchased the product/equity and that this dip in the market is like all past dips—temporary. Explain to him that your overall strategy in helping him manage and expand his wealth takes these unpredictable market dips into account and the strategy is still viable. Gently point out to him that patience will prove to be his most valuable learned skill, etc.

Using this technique you can convince yourself that, although you still wish that you didn’t have to deal with this client, you have dealt successfully with him before and you will so once again.

To conclude, the amount of stress you feel is ultimately up to you, isn’t it? Will you listen to the rational, positive voice in your head, or will you fall prey to the irrational, negative, “Internal Critic”? The choice determines your stress level and the choice is always yours!