Years of training, financial expertise, and first-hand experience mean you have a vast reservoir of knowledge. With so much practise, you may well be able to draw on that reservoir to find an answer to a problem very quickly. But do your answers suit each particular client? Only by asking questions, will you be able to find out.
Asking the right questions
Asking the right questions is a skill in itself, as is listening to the answers. These are both key coaching skills which will serve you well throughout your career as an adviser. So before you start offering solutions ask yourself, have you really listened to your client? Have you understood what they want to achieve? Sometimes, the temptation to offer a solution overwhelms the need to ask questions and challenge client’s assumptions about their options.
You need to go deeper than asking closed questions like ‘At what age do you want to retire?’ Open questions help you unearth what your client wants to achieve. Who, when, where, how and what are great questions. The idea is to encourage clients to open up. ‘What does financial security mean to you?’ or ‘How will you feel when you reach your goal?’ give better insight into your client’s motivations and their ‘big picture’, putting you in a much better position to help.
Don’t ask why
‘Why’ invariably provokes a defensive response. And providing a justification for an answer doesn’t get you any closer to your client’s real motivation. Asking why somebody wants to retire at 65 and being told, ‘Isn’t that what most people do? That’s what my parents and grandparents did,’ may reveal a more traditional approach and mindset, but settling with this idea, without attempting to explore deeper, may not be providing your client with the best service. Russell Haworth’s story puts this into excellent perspective in this Adviser Lounge blog.
Do your listening skills need to be improved?
For a coaching approach to be effective, listening skills are key. Most people think they are good listeners. The reality for most is that their listening skills could be improved significantly! By really listening, you can set aside your own preconceptions, ask more appropriate questions and therefore facilitate much better thinking in your client.
Coaching is about having a clear intention to listen and observe. And while advisers are not coaches, approaching the initial stages of the meeting with a coaching mindset will pave the way for more interaction which will lead to you being able to offer more appropriate advice. Chris Budd’s talk at the Personal Finance Society Festival of Financial Planning explains this in more detail.
Coach, don’t fix: a hands-off approach leads to better outcomes
Your thorough understanding of finance, your professional qualifications and practical experience are valuable assets to you, your firm and your clients. By adopting a range of additional coaching skills, you can improve further the quality of your service. Standing back, rather than ‘fixing’, may well open your clients up to new possibilities that they didn’t know existed. Not only is it good for them, it’s good for you and the firm too! Clients will appreciate your insight and you’ll truly live up to the title of valued adviser.
If you’ve got 5 minutes, have a look at this amusing but excellent video – It’s Not About the Nail – it’s a great illustration of how advisers should coach, not fix.
Coaching skills take practise. A little guidance can give you the confidence to deploy these skills in real life. Quiver Management runs courses to equip finance professionals with those valuable coaching skills. Our website has the details if you’d like to find out more.