What is professionalism?
Professionalism is fitting in.
Fitting in the corporate culture of targets, AUM and commissions. Fitting in the accepted belief that more is better. Fitting in to not challenge the status quo in the financial services industry.
Imagine that Steve Jobs was a professional. Would there be an iPhone?
The financial services industry is not known for their innovative nature. We all desperatly seem to be working to maintain the status quo. To deliver the same products and the same services to the same people. In a stable environment, this is exactly the right strategy: build reliablity and predictability, cut costs, and make a profit.
The end result of this is that many financial planners spend all day trying to defend what they do, trying to sell what they’ve always sold to the same kind of people. And because of that trying to prevent their organizations from being devoured by the forces of the new.
This is called professionalism.
But for the innovative financial planners – the meaningmakers – the same means mediocre. Not worth it. Boring. It must be wearing some financial planners out. Defending mediocrity is pretty exhausting because it’s for the sake of being seen as a professional.
Don’t count the eyeballs
Too many organizations in the financial services industry care about numbers. And not about their loyal clients, their fans. A fan is a member of the community. He cares deeply about you and your work.
A financial planner doesn’t need many fans. I think a hundred is enough. It’s enough because a hundred fans will bring you enough attention and support to make a great living, to reach more people, to do great work. It’s enough because a hundred fans, true fans, form a community.
When organizations care about numbers, they care about hits, clicks and (media) mentions. What they’re missing is the depth of commitment and the interconnection that true fans deliver. Instead of always being on the hunt for one more set of eyeballs, innovative financial planners have figured out that the ‘real’ win is in turning a casual fan into a true fan.
It takes a while to engage true fans. They are hard to find and precious. But: just a few can change everything.
What they demand, though, is not professionalism, but bravery and generosity.
You don’t have to invent the financial iPad
Financial planners that destroy the status quo, win. The status quo could be the time that “everyone knows” it takes a financial plan to let your client trust you his assets under management. Or that “everyone knows” that a client’s goal is only important at the beginning (because we all know it’s not being tracked).
Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable and to create a community. You don’t have to invent “the financial iPad” to be remarkable. Reminding people how they want to feel about themselves is enough.
By the way, being remarkable is rewarding. Because the marketplace rewards innovation. They reward things that are new, fresh, remarkable and meaningful. But innovation does require initiative to produce. You can’t ‘manage’ your way to initiative.
What’s your Big Mac?
In 1967, a McDonald’s franchisee named Jim Deligatti stopped being professional and invented a new sandwich. Within a year, the Big Mac was on the menu of McDonald’s restaurants around the world. What Jim did was not described in his job profile. Actually he broke the rules. Jim didn’t focus on the numbers or on managing his franchise at the expense of anything else.
Instead, he became a leader. He lead the entire corporation in a new direction.
So one person can change everyting. Only now it’s much more easier than it was back in 1967. The digital and social (media) world makes us much more powerful than ever. This means that the status quo is in big trouble.
What I’m saying is that one financial planner (I actually mean YOU) can change the industry by not focussing on what’s common (such as AUM-targets). You have everything to build something far bigger than yourself. Your employees and co-workers realize this. And they are ready to follow, if you are ready to lead.
Your (potential) clients will accept it. Because you are remarkable. And here’s the beauty: you only need a hundred of them to thrive.
So, what if people reward innovation, then why doesn’t everyone do it?
Because of fear.
F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real.
What’s interesting, though, is that leaders seem to be actively talking themselves out of the fear. Because they tell themselves that the work they do matters.
They inspire themselves because they believe the world needs change. And your insight can make a difference. So innovation is not about a clever tactic. It’s about having a vision of how you can make people feel, a mindset to make it happen, a goal to reach, a strategy to believe and a plan to make it work.
There’s one thing missing: IMPLEMENTATION
What are you going to implement today?
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To your success,
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