The moment that we think we know more stuff than we don’t, that we’re grown, professional adults, is the moment that we start to die. We stop expanding and start contracting to the detriment of everyone around us - our family, friends, colleagues and clients.
So, how does this relate to you, specifically, as financial planners? Maybe chartered, financial planners with thriving, successful practices...
Through this piece, I seek to elucidate how embracing uncertainty and the vulnerability of not knowing can transform your practice for the better.
It might seem counter-intuitive in seeking to expand your minds (and keep them expanding, for that matter) to start with the granular. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And I mean, really granular!
See, even at the level of atoms and particles, current quantum physics suggests that we only exist in relation to each other. That we should consider ourselves less as fixed “things” with a real “fixed identity” and more as “events.” Nothing is constant and unchanging - even us. We’re in a constant state of flux.
Stay with me!
It can be hard to let go of this “fixed” identity, particularly when we’ve worked so hard to build it up, often buttressing it with qualifications and achievements - not to mention lots and lots of intellectual “armour.” It can provide a sense of security.
“I’m the expert; you’re not.”
But we must let go of it for real growth.
We must let go of it for exceptional service.
Professor Tom Oliver, in his brilliant book, “The Self Delusion”, explains how we are all intricately connected, fibres in a rich tapestry rather than separate, constant, distinct individuals.
“On a physical, psychological and cultural level, we are all much more intertwined than we know: we cannot use our bodies to define our independent existence because most of our 37 trillion cells have such a short lifespan that we are essentially made anew every few weeks.”
The point is that there is much less certainty and fixedness, even at the most granular level, than we think.
So let’s let go of certainty, seeing as there isn’t much of it, and embrace uncertainty.
This is not to say that your knowledge and expertise as financial planners are irrelevant, far from it. They are incredibly useful tools when used in combination with a commitment to the curiosity to understand better and the full embrace of not knowing. This is how you must enter every client relationship.
Knowledge and expertise are great, but they must never serve as a block to knowing and deeply understanding your clients. We must start on the basis that every client is unique. Sure, there may be general themes you’ve noticed through experience, but this is no substitute for individual care and attention.
This is where your value add is. This is where you truly serve clients.
Here, the analysis of Carl Jung is particularly apt:
“In view of the fact that in principle, the positive advantages of knowledge work specifically to the disadvantage of understanding, the judgment resulting there from is likely to be something of a paradox. Judged scientifically, the individual is nothing but a unit which repeats itself ad infinitum and could just as well be designated with a letter of the alphabet. For understanding, on the other hand, it is just the unique individual human being who, when stripped of all those conformities and regularities so dear to the heart of the scientist, is the supreme and only real object of investigation.”
Indeed, knowledge without individual care is generalised and non-specific. We wouldn’t trust a doctor’s diagnosis if they didn’t take the time to truly listen to and understand our symptoms. It’s no different for you as financial planners.
KNOWLEDGE + INDIVIDUAL CARE = EXCEPTIONAL CLIENT SERVICE (keeping you JUNG AT HEART).
So let’s get even more specific to you and your practice.
What can you do, practically, as a result of this information?
I invite you all to embrace a coaching mindset with clients.
The PFS outlines five key components of great financial planning, which are an excellent guide for where to direct your energies:
- Financial organisation
- Financial solutions (retail investment advice)
- Financial planning (lifetime cash flow)
- Education & behavioural coaching
- Life planning (coaching/goals)
A good deal of this is not about having or giving clients the answers - but a commitment to helping them find the answers themselves. A commitment to identifying their goals and dreams with your expert guidance.
”People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt.
Your knowledge and expertise will only hit the mark if you enter into each relationship with that curious mindset, embracing not knowing and a commitment to understanding.
If you think back to any teacher that had a real impact on you growing up, I doubt it was those that simply recited knowledge to you. Stuff that you’d have to repeat in an exam. It was probably those that took the time to know and understand you - that asked the right questions – that elicited rather than told - that guided you to your answers and a deeper understanding.
It’s here that not enough practical value is placed within the financial planning profession. The softer, relational side of the job has the ability to truly transform the service that you offer and transform the lives of your clients.
Working together - Coaching - and Discovering before delivering the plan.
So take a load off. You don’t need to know everything, so stop pretending. Embrace not knowing to the benefit of you and all those around you.