Don't Waste This Crisis (Originally Published in Spring 2009)

Uncategorized Mar 10, 2020

Lee Iacocca once said “We are often presented with great opportunities disguised as insolvable problems.”

As advisors it has been excruciating to watch the economy fluctuate and collapse. As a friend, a family member, or a colleague it has been even more painful to watch the people that we care about lose their homes, their jobs, and their money. With these extreme changes it is only natural that it has an impact on your own self-confidence and collectively on the confidence of your clients. 

One of the things I’m sure of even with all the uncertainty we’re facing in the changing global economy is that in five or ten years we will look back on this time and see that it was when great fortunes were made. Unfortunately for most it will be only in hindsight that we see that the opportunities were boundless and right in front of our noses, if only we were willing to look.

The intention of this article is to offer a way to see things from a different perspective in order to capture the boundless opportunities, boost your own confidence, and more importantly communicate and boost the confidence of your clients and prospects. Don’t waste this crisis. Uncover the opportunities.

The economy is and has always been built on trust and confidence. There is an open exchange and cooperation that leads to that trust and confidence. When the system breaks down, it leaves everyone feeling aimless and isolated, which is what we are witnessing all over the United States and in fact globally. The way out of this crisis is to understand our role as leaders in our industries, communities, and families and to always communicate powerfully.

One of our most important roles is to bring optimism, confidence, and a positive perspective. To maximize leadership requires utilizing what we call the Three C’s of Leadership.

The Three C’s of Leadership start with “Choice”. In any given situation, whether good or bad, we always have a choice on how we see it. Most often circumstances are out of our control. We can only control our perspective, which is easy when times are good. When a situation is challenging, it is more difficult, but the choice on how we see things is still ours. It is easy to get swayed by “group think” and accept the opinions of others as fact.

As one of my good friends says, there is a big difference between an opinion and a verdict. Choice happens in a fraction of a second. It is a fork in the road. To the right, there is a sense of panic, lack of trust and lack of confidence. To the left, there is a positive perspective, confidence and lots of opportunities. This one choice will dictate how we handle any situation, how we speak about it, how we view it, and how we communicate it to others. 

Right now, economic challenges are pervasive and real for many, and the ability to see things in a positive light will test our mettle. But we are always tested to see difficult situations with confidence and optimism. We make these same choices with difficult health issues, financial concerns, or even family challenges.

A client of mine shared a story about a maintenance man in his apartment building. This man makes approximately $35,000 a year in New York, (which I think we can all agree would make it a challenge to live in the big city); yet everyday when asked “how’s it going?” he would tell my client, “Life is great. I am so lucky. I live in the sweet spot, the best city in the world!” Let’s look at what is happening right now. We have the choice where we can say “This is a horrible thing. Oh my God the sky is falling! What are we going to do now? We will never get back on track or re-coup what has been lost.” Certainly you can operate from this point of view, or you can choose to see things differently. “You know what, these things have happened. My clients lost some money, and I’m certainly not generating the same amount of revenue I used too.

However my clients didn’t lose all of their money, I have an opportunity to lead my clients, my friends and colleagues through this crisis”. You choose where to focus your energy, you choose “Life is great. I am so lucky.” It is important to emphasize that making the choice to see things from a different, more positive perspective has nothing to do with denying what is happening or putting your head in the sand. The choice has to be made in the face of real circumstances. 

When you choose to focus on what’s working and how to move forward, then and only then will you become a true leader. I’m not suggesting this is an easy thing to do. In fact that leads us into the second of the three C’s. 

When you are faced with challenges and obstacles in communication, such as having to tell someone that they just lost 40% of their investments, it is never fun. When you make the commitment to see things from a different point of view over and over again it allows you to focus on how to move forward and perhaps more importantly how your clients can move forward.

It’s critical to continually look for things that are working and places where you can feel a sense of optimism. There will always be some other circumstance, another obstacle which will challenge the commitment you made to see things from a different point of view. You will continually be tested. It will require you to remind yourself “I’m committed to seeing things differently”. So when you do have to tell a client that they have lost 40% of their investments, what do you say?

How about having an honest conversation about what the “real’ situation is they’re facing and forming some strategies to move forward. Also how about focusing on the 60% that they did not lose and how that can be best maximized? These conversations will call upon you to be even better at what you do. It calls upon you to grow professionally in a way you haven’t been called upon before. By reaffirming your commitment to see things differently you will generate your greatest capability, which happens to be the third C of leadership.

Being a leader in these times of turmoil is really about providing insight, wisdom, and sharing your confidence. During these times, you do not have the luxury of letting your self-confidence wane. People are relying on you! Take a look at your competition right now. How are they reacting to this crisis? Are they keeping their head down and ducking for cover?

Napoleon once said “Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake.” So while your competition are not paying attention or are being paralyzed by the negativity of the situation, don’t interrupt them! Take advantage and operate differently. Think about the people you are drawn to and who you try to avoid. For all of us, we want to be with people who lift us up and are repelled by those who are always negative.

We are inspired by those who overcome adversity with a smile on their face and an upbeat attitude. We avoid those who are always critical. You can choose which category you fall into. In fact, what I recommend you do is draw upon your leadership capabilities to create communication that inspires. Inspire your clients by letting them know that you are going to be with them no matter what.

Motivate your clients by reassuring them that this situation is not going to last forever. Encourage your clients by telling them how much stronger they will be because of what they are experiencing now. Steel doesn’t become tempered until it goes through extreme heat. That is how it gains its strength. Be sure to let your clients know that through this crisis is how we will gain our strength. And certainly don’t forget to let yourself feel inspired too. By making better choices, continuing to reaffirm your commitment, and communicating using your leadership capabilities you will guide your clients, friends, and family through this crisis and to a better life. I know that some of you reading this are thinking ‘easier said than done’, and I could not agree more.

To help, here are seven specific strategies to help you to operate within the Three C’s Leadership.

Strategy #1: Go On a Media Diet

This might seem extreme for some people but I guarantee you it will make a difference in your confidence level. Here is a good way to test the theory. Wake up and if you are in a good mood simply turn on the news and watch it for 5 minutes, and see if you feel better or worse about the day ahead. Categorically everyone feels worse. It has a serious impact on you, even if it’s not exactly obvious. 

So if you are not feeling overly secure or certain about the future stop reading the newspapers, stop watching the news on TV. There is a difference between being informed and being inundated. Get what you need to be informed and then let it go. Just as with any diet, you still eat. On this media diet you can still get news, just cut out the junk food! This in and of itself is enough to change your ability to operate within the Three C’s of Leadership. 

Strategy #2: Be Grateful
The fact is when you are being grateful it takes your attention off of yourself. Often times when our attention is focused on ourselves it undermines our self confidence. A perfect example was a conversation I recently had with a family member. He was complaining about all the money he has lost in the past months. My response was, ‘You are surrounded by loving friends and family. You have two beautiful homes. You drive a new car. You spend your winters in the sun instead of the snow. You don’t need that money. It looks to me like you have lots to be grateful for.”

The truth is, for most of us, we have much to be grateful for, and when we focus there it lifts our spirits. I recommend that you take a look at some things that you could be grateful for today. Look at it from both a business standpoint and personal point of view. Just as it was for my family member, I’m sure there are many, many things you can be grateful for in the midst of this crisis. But don’t stop there; remember to express your gratitude on a daily basis.

Strategy #3: Be Generous
When we think about generosity, we immediately think about writing checks. And when budgets are tight, it is hard to think about spending money. Generosity doesn’t always have to come in the form of writing a check. If you can write checks, that’s great, but being generous can mean giving in a different way.

You can be a mentor to someone who is struggling right now, or give your time to a worthy cause. You can help a neighbour run an errand. You can be present with your family so they get your full attention when you’re with them. As you continue to foster this kind of generosity, it builds momentum and will expand far beyond you and will help lead you and your clients through this crisis. 

Strategy #4: What If?
The uncertainty people are experiencing right now with the economy has resulted in a mood of fear. In order to replace that fear with confidence and optimism it’s important to understand some things about fear. First of all there is a big difference between fear and danger, yet most people are treating them as the same right now.

Fear is expressed in a generalized manner. It causes people to feel scared, worried and upset, and it leads to paralysis. Dangers are specific and require immediate action. When peaking to your clients ask the question “What if…”? Filling in the blank with what they are worried and fearful about lets you identify if they are facing a real danger or if it is a more generalized concern. In either case, getting the answer to that question allows you to see the fear clearly so you can come up with specific strategies to bring them out of it.

Until you take that fear out of the generalized realm and get down to specifics they can’t take action. I’m not suggesting that the solutions will always be ones that you or your clients like – but at least they will have an answer to the question “What if the worst happens?” This strategy allows your clients to get un-stuck and then they can move forward in a proactive way.

Strategy #5: Stay in Communication
This strategy is very critical. I’m seeing so many advisors who have taken a bunker mentality and are hiding under their desks! This is the time to be in communication in ways you have never been before. Don’t waste this crisis by not communicating with your clients and prospects. By staying in communication, you will uncover opportunities you would have missed.

The big question is what to communicate? Providing more information for them to try to sort through on their own to gain perspective is not useful. People are already inundated with too much information. What they are looking for is a way to interpret the important facts as it specifically pertains to them.

How are the changes in the market relevant to their lives? How should they interpret new data? This is the leadership and guidance they are looking for. That will ensure your communication is meaningful to your clients. Look for how you can be useful even if there is no sale. Relate this back to the Three C’s of Leadership. Look at the information, make a choice, see where there is a more optimistic future, and communicate from that point of view.

Strategy #6: Be Pro-active
Earlier in the article I mentioned your competition, and how they are putting their heads down and ducking for cover, doing the same things they always do only in different circumstances. That is not being pro-active. Being pro-active starts with understanding that the clients you have are different now.

They have a different set of circumstances they are dealing with. That means you must be more creative in how you help them. It also means looking at the changes, shifts, or alternatives that can be implemented at this time in order to strengthen your business and your clients’ confidence. By being in action, opportunities will present themselves. As Wayne Gretzky said, “I’ve missed 100% of the shots I didn’t take.”

Strategy #7: Learn the Lesson
Looking back at everything that has happened from the beginning of this economic crisis, if you knew then what you know now what would you do differently? Perhaps you have created new strategies, improvements, or innovations as a result of this crisis and wished you had thought of them before. Or you may have forged better relationships with your clients which is making your work more rewarding.

Boom times hide a multitude of sins. Even if all the advice you gave was absolutely correct, are there some behaviours in yourself or others that you no longer can tolerate since there is less margin for error? Are there things you put up with because it was easier than making tough decisions?

Now is the time to learn those lessons and take corrective action. Whatever the lesson is for you, make sure you learn it and never go back. At this time of uncertainty, your role as a leader is more important than ever. And one of the greatest leadership gifts you can give is your own confidence and positive outlook that uplifts and inspires. And it’s not always easy.

Every time you find your own confidence shaken, or you are feeling less optimistic, reaffirm your ability to choose to be positive and your commitment to see things from that point of view. Use the 7 strategies to keep you, your clients, family and friends on track, moving toward a positive future. 

And remember, don’t waste this crisis!



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