By Daniel C. Finley
No matter how hard you work, is there still something holding you back from success? Something that prevents or limits you from getting your business to the next level? It might be procrastination, overcoming objections, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure or even the fear of success. Whatever your biggest challenge is, it's the elephant in the room.
Recently, during one of my group coaching sessions, a financial adviser had an epiphany and shouted, "That's it! That is the elephant in the room. We all have our biggest challenge that we do not want to admit to ourselves much less to each other. We can't ignore it any longer. These challenges have gotten so big that we need to face them."
The elephant in the room is an English idiom based on the idea-according to Wikipedia- that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with small and irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.
Does this sound familiar? Do you concern yourself with irrelevant matters when you need to be addressing your biggest challenge instead? Here's an example: An adviser makes excuses for not prospecting by saying he just doesn't have time. The reality is he probably doesn't want to make time to prospect, because deep down he's afraid of rejection. His elephant in the room-fear of rejection-is the obvious truth that is being ignored.
Your first reaction when reading this might be, "I don't have a problem." But ask yourself, "Is my business exactly where I want it to be?" If you answered no, then it is time to conquer your biggest challenge.
Conquering your biggest challenge can be scary. You may have years of conditioned behaviors preventing you from even considering facing it. You may not even consciously realize what the challenge is. However, when you get honest with yourself, you probably know that something is, in fact, holding you back. If so, rest assured you are not alone. All advisers at one time or another in their careers have had an elephant in the room, and they probably always will, unless they apply these steps for conquering it.
Step 1: Acknowledge and Admit a Challenge
Denial is a common response when advisers are asked, "What is the No. 1 thing holding you back?" I know this, because I ask this question to every adviser I coach, because I want to understand if they know or can admit that they even have a challenge.
Typically, the response is, "I don't know." This is usually followed by me giving the adviser permission to admit that it is OK to have a challenge, by saying, "But, if you did know, what might it be?" A common response to that might be, "Well, I guess I need to prospect more." We have just peeled one layer of the emotional onion back to discover that there is a challenge. This is important, because you must first acknowledge and admit that you have a big challenge. But, now what? What if you do not know what your challenge is?
Step 2: Define the Challenge
Defining your challenge is one of the most difficult things to do, because you are probably busy working in your business, not on your business. Also, you may not know what questions to ask to get a clear picture of the challenge.
Years ago, I created the Advisors Business Wheel Matrix, a tool designed to uncover how balanced your business is. It also uncovers challenges by having advisers rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being least effective and 10 being most effective) on what I feel are the eight most important facets of an advisory business, which include: time management, prospecting, sales, relationship building, client servicing, marketing, product/market knowledge and managing client portfolios.
The following illustrates the steps in the process:
- 1. Rate yourself 1 to 10 in each facet of the business.
- 2. What is your No. 1 challenge in each facet? Why?
- 3. What would two points higher look like? Why?
- 4. What solutions would you need to accomplish this? Why?
Then, I list solutions and tools that would help advisers get past the challenges and increase their ratings for each facet.
Although this might sound simplistic, it is a very effective process when a business coach asks tough questions that advisers wouldn't normally ask themselves. Why? Because advisers might be avoiding the elephant in the room, leaving them back at square one: denial.
Step 3: Understand the Next Layer of the Challenge
It is not enough to become aware of what the challenge(s) are. You must also understand why you have the challenge to successfully conquer it. Take the previous example of the adviser who admitted his challenge is not prospecting. To ask "why" is the next logical step to understanding the challenge (perhaps he is truly afraid of rejection), and more importantly, understanding the next layer of the challenge, which is his perception that prospects will be rejecting him personally. Thus, rejection equals emotional pain! So how can he get past his fear? To conquer this and most challenges, we must change our negative belief systems.
Step 4: Change Negative Belief Systems
The secret to changing a negative belief system is to question its validity. As I wrote in "Conquering Negative Self-Talk" in the May/June 2009 issue of Practice Management Solutions, the way to do this is by using Socratic questions-a form of questioning Socrates used to subject a negative argument to rational investigation. By subjecting your negative self-talk or your negative belief systems to rational scrutiny, you break down the belief system's validity, in turn creating a new belief system.
Here is an example: "Rejection is painful because prospects are personally rejecting me."
Relief question: "Is this always true? Have I ever prospected and opened a new account?"
Positive counterstatement: "Prospects cannot reject me personally because they do not even know me. Instead, they are merely rejecting what they perceive to be the value of my services. All I need to do is uncover their challenges and present solutions so they understand the true benefit of my services. I can't control their perceptions, merely my actions."
Step 5: Sustain New Belief Systems and Apply Solutions
Sustaining your new belief system should be the ongoing process of using relief questions and positive counterstatements. Finally, seek out and apply new tools and techniques to become more effective at conquering your challenge.
Remember, conquering your biggest challenge is a marathon, not a sprint. You may need additional awareness, action and accountability along the way. If you apply these five steps for conquering your biggest challenge and continue reinforcing positive belief systems and implementing new solutions, you will watch your elephant leave the room!
Daniel C. Finley is a former adviser and president of Advisor Solutions Inc., a business development consulting and coaching service for financial advisers. He is the creator of The Advisor Solutions System, a 24-week group coaching program, and The Monday Morning Motivation, www.advisorsolutionsinc.com/free.html. Contact him at email@example.com.
Tools to Use
Do you need to uncover your biggest challenge and determine solutions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive The Advisors Business Wheel Matrix or any of the other tools mentioned in this article