When I became a self-employed adviser in 1991, I attended a week-long training programme and was then expected to go out and make a living.
Frankly, the failure rate for new advisers was appallingly high.
Fast forward to now and the way people enter advice is completely different. The training and qualification process is far longer, more in depth and professional.
Although this has been a hugely positive step, there is still a missing piece that is, more often than not, left to chance.
The training to become a financial planner can take little or no account of a practitioner’s ability to purposefully build trust, and to emotionally connect and empathise with a client. Nor does it always take into account a planner's ability to listen, counsel, guide or mentor.
But it's a fact that can't be escaped that these kind of excellent interpersonal abilities are the foundation of being a trusted adviser.
'I don't do feelings!'
Just recently I was speaking with a coach who works in the corporate world. She shared a story about a new client who had been sent to her from a large engineering business.
On the first coaching session the man said: "I am an engineer. I do not do feelings!"
Yet the reason he had been sent for the coaching was precisely because people did not relate to him, found him overbearing and poor at forming relationships.
His left-brained approach, while great for the engineering side of his work, was disastrous when it came to people. He was close to the point of being more trouble than he was worth.
I have also heard some financial practitioners say similar things, and admitting to not liking the 'touchy-feely' stuff.
There can be an assumption that logic alone is all that is required, and a client simply needs information and they will make the right decisions.
But the way I see it logic, as an approach to delivering advice, is full of holes.
I recently watched a presentation on key person cover. The whole thing, start to finish, was intellectual, factual and left-brained. Yet how often do people buy for logical reasons alone? Only never.
Even if you want to, you can't get away from the fact that human beings make decisions and behave because of how they feel. We use logic to justify our actions, but the driver is always a feeling.
The key to deep client engagement
My coach friend pointed out to the engineer that he did 'do feelings', just as everyone does.
His idea of "I do not do feelings" was an emotional reaction to his own insecurity in dealing with people.
His insecure feelings were making it difficult for him to meaningfully connect with other people, and were why he often brought out the worst in them.
It is extremely powerful for people to learn the real source of their experience.
Human beings live in a thought-feeling system - we feel our thinking, not our circumstances.
This seemingly small distinction, once grasped, is probably the most important thing you can ever learn. It leads to a significant reduction in unnecessary (and often destructive) thinking and increasing feelings of well-being.
So what does all this have to do with financial planning?
Your most important quality when working with your clients is the quality of your presence.
Presence is transformational. You cannot meaningfully influence someone without it. It will determine the quality of the relationships you build. Being fully present with someone is something they may remember for many years to come.
Yet presence is a quality that is becoming rarer and rarer.
People notice if we are not present with them and, even if we do not mean to, it conveys that they do not matter in this moment in time.
The next time you are with a client, do your best to create a distraction-free environment. Turn off your phone. Check in to see how present you are. Allow your mind settle by letting go of whatever was on your mind, and give clients the gift of your complete presence.
Trust me - the difference can be quite extraordinary.