There’s nothing worse than knowing you have the potential to do something, only for someone else, or something, to take that potential away. A scenario in which you feel empowered succumbs instead to feelings of being overpowered.

    The relationships we build, and the power they hold, are where the real magic exists within financial services. The relationships you have with your clients, with your team and even with yourself are key to achieving many of the positive outcomes that, deep down, you know are within reach. Our relationships, when managed well, can be superchargers.

    However – and there is always a ‘however’ – empowerment is sadly one of the things that’s missing from so many of the relationships I see every day within firms.

    Why? Well there are many reasons for this, and each one will depend on the type of relationship we’re talking about. But one thing is for sure, empowering will beat overpowering every day of the week!

    So, let’s break this down to help us understand why this happens and how we can make the change to unleash the potential that lies within each of us.

    Our relationship with our clients

    I was once listening to an adviser speaking to one of his female clients. Due to a recent divorce, she’d lost some of her confidence and was becoming more and more reliant on his presence and advice. I’d watched from afar for a little while and often checked in with him to see how she was doing, as I was concerned that an unhealthy dependency on him was forming. 

    The crunch moment for me came when she was going through the process of buying a house. At the time, I heard him say to her on the phone: “Would you like me to make the offer for you?” 

    I instantly felt uneasy about this and made a beeline for him as soon as he put the phone down. 

    While he was trying to help, he was in fact shrinking her space for action by creating an unnecessary reliance on him and preventing her from functioning independently. Over time, her independence – and her confidence – was diminishing. Despite his best intentions, he was doing more harm than good. 

    After a somewhat animated conversation, I explained to him that she needed to become her own person again, in order to move forward and start not only to rebuild her life, but her confidence. She needed the support, positive encouragement and reassurance that he would be there as her guide, but not as her parent.

    He was overpowering her, trying to help, but hindering her growth and the sense of personal achievement that would come from her moving forward by herself.

    I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on some of your own client relationships and ask these questions:

    •     How dependent on you are your clients?  
    •     What might you have done to create such a reliance on you to be there and to do so much?
    •     Are these dependencies more for your benefit, or for theirs?  

    And last but not least, ask yourself: how could you turn overpowering to empowering!

    Our relationship with our team

    If we build on the point I made above, but turn our attention to the relationships we have with our team, I think you’ll see some similarly limiting characteristics.

    We hire with such amazing intention, believing that this person is ‘the one’ who will make all the difference. We hope that all the promises that both you and they have made will come true

    Yet, at the first sign of a mistake – a slip in judgement or a simple human error – trust is broken, the hackles go up and ‘mission control’ kicks in, creating an instant reduction in the space for action that your previous ‘rising star’ was given in which to do their job. 

    This overnight shift in the way they’re managed – from empowering to overpowering – leads them to feel unengaged doing the work that they so hoped they would love.

    What’s the solution? The key is to empower your team: let them be themselves, test their confidence, lean in and to speak out, to make mistakes (within reason, of course) and to bring a fresh eye to what may be outdated, inefficient and time-consuming ways of working.

    Our relationship with ourselves

    On at least a monthly basis, I find myself reminding people to simply ‘get out of their own way!’ 

    It sounds strange that any one of us holds the power to overpower ourselves, but I see it happen all the time. Overthinking, over-controlling and even being controlled by events and activities of the past, can stop those of us who, deep down, know that they are in fact their own worst enemies, stopping themselves from moving forward and achieving their own potential in more ways than one.

    So do yourself a favour – hold a mirror up, take a look at yourself and do a reality check of what you know and what you don’t. Remind yourself about what gives you the spark and what puts out your flame, and – most important of all – reflect on whether it is you, yourself, and not someone else, who is getting in your own way.

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