Publication: The Trusted Financial Advisor
Date: March 2008
Are You Ready For the Next Level? Get a Coach
By: Bill Bachrach, CSP, CPAE

Olympic and superstar athletes do not become champions without help. Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest golfer of all time, has employed … and continues to employ … coaches who can focus on various elements of his game and physical conditioning so he can be the best that he can be. Elite athletes can’t imagine competing at the highest levels of their sport without their coaches. They are not only receptive to coaching, they are also accustomed to learning new skills from coaches to improve their performance.

As a financial professional, your success also depends on your ability to perform -- not on any leader, organization or group of people. Yes, that’s what it all comes down to: You. The world is filled with people who have lofty goals but never seem to do the things necessary to drive them toward the fulfillment of their dreams. They spend a lot of time blaming their lack of success on something or someone else. But for people like you, who know you are your own best secret to success, there are coaches who can help you develop the skills you need.

The trend toward financial professionals who value coaching is exploding. While some advisors and leaders go to workshops, read books, listen to tapes and hear professional speakers, they get little to no value because they don’t implement what’s being taught and has been proven to work. The advantage you have with a coach is having the ability to develop an ongoing relationship with an expert who can help you identify and implement the actions you need to get results.

In a similar fashion, you coach your clients to achieve their financial goals. The real value to your clients is the ongoing coaching they get from you to get from point A to point B successfully, not just in the products they get to meet their immediate needs. It’s in being there to help formulate, strategize and implement a game plan for achieving the goals that provide real value.

In 1998, I was training for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. I had the luxury of being coached by Mark Allen, six-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman. My most challenging event was the swim. I found myself reading about swimming, watching videos and signing up for a two-day swim workshop. Then, Mark gave me a timely hint: “That’s great, Bill, but you’re going to have to get in the pool.” I was falling into a common trap. Even though I was serious about doing Ironman, I was delaying the practice that would actually make me a better swimmer. I realized I couldn’t get better only by reading, studying and visualizing, so I got in the pool!

Most of us could benefit from a little more accountability, a little more encouragement, to “get in the pool” and do what’s necessary. We’ve all experienced falling right back into the same old way of doing things, even when we want to implement new ideas we just learned. This is where a personal, one-on-one coach comes into play; someone who understand us, our goals, our dreams, and what is truly important to us. This coach holds us accountable so we can realize what is important overall. Our Accountability Coaches operate in this capacity for the financial professionals they serve. We need people like this in our lives, people who tell us the truth we need to hear … and who also remind us to celebrate our successes when we achieve them so we gather the momentum to keep moving forward.

I believe there are two parts to running a successful financial services business. The first is a good operation. When you have a smoothly running organization, it allows you to do only what you are supposed to do, which is meeting with Ideal Clients and Referrals … your unique skill, which is the second part. The most important skill a financial professional develops is working with Ideal Clients and Referrals in a way that builds trust on purpose and gets all the facts on the table. It’s really not about prospecting, marketing and selling. Those are the skills that ineffective financial service providers have to develop because they aren’t good at building great, long-term relationships.

A pro golfer doesn’t sell his or her way into a golf tournament. He or she gets into the tournament by playing superior golf. Likewise, if you are a great financial professional, the experience you create for your Ideal Clients qualifies you to have their Referrals come to you. Your reputation precedes you. Your Ideal Clients tell their friends and colleagues about you, and you build your Ideal Client Commuity with them.

Given this, you want coaches who can guide you in effectively working with Ideal Clients and Referrals. Our Academy 1 and its prerequisite Mastery Series™ 1 are all about becoming brilliant at conducting the client interview. I have talked with hundreds of top producers over the past twenty years and found there are very few who have truly worked on their interview with the diligence and focus that professional golfers use to improve their swings.

For the next 20 years, I see coaching as being very instrumental in helping professionals achieve their next level. I’ve been to seminars and company conventions and picked the brains of top producers. What many of them say they need now is someone really involved in their lives as a coach. To get the most from coaching, we need a really big purpose, and we have to be willing to practice what we learn. Behaviors that are reinforced are most likely to be repeated. That’s why the most effective coaching regimens have a degree of regularity to them. It helps to ensure you make the changes necessary and then implement them between coaching sessions.

The decision to integrate a coach in your life is important. Once you have made the commitment to go to the next level (and we all have a next level) and you are receptive to coaching, you start seeing things you didn’t see before. It’s like when you’re in the market for a new car and all you see on the road is the car you’re thinking about buying. When you are truly ready, the coaches appear.

To find a coach or coaching program that makes you want to implement the strategies necessary to be successful, you must ask yourself: “Am I coachable? Do I have a purpose for being coached? Do I have a next level that I am serious about achieving?” “Coachable” means you are receptive to the ideas you learn and willing to make the necessary changes. There’s nothing more wasteful than talent without emotional commitment. If you’re not really coachable, don’t bother.

What role can companies play? Some companies still have a ‘not invented here’ mentality. That’s too bad. The perspective of a third party is extremely valuable. An objective opinion expressed without risk of political reprisal can be a valuable resource. I can express my honest opinion as an advisor/coach even if it’s inconsistent with the status quo and will shake things up. Coaches work independently and tend to tell you the truth … no matter the consequences.

We are beginning to see more corporations subsidize coaching for their successful producers. In companies like this, it’s obvious who benefits when the producer is coached: Everyone. However, not every financial professional is in this ideal situation. Many top producers stopped getting value from their managers and companies years ago. Managers tend to get consumed with recruiting and training new people. The new people seem to get most of the attention even though the top producers generate a large amount of money for the company.

Smart companies have begun to start making “deposits” in their top producers’ emotional bank accounts (as Stephen Covey calls it) by not only helping them discover coaches but also by subsidizing and encouraging them to participate in coaching programs. They recognize that their financial professionals have different needs and travel different paths to their success. By offering an introduction to new ideas that are supported by well- trained coaches, these companies are leveraging the differences among their team members and helping those individuals achieve even greater personal success.

Ultimately, your success is up to you. Your best strategy is the same as Tiger Woods’s: Seek the best coaches available to accelerate your progress and refine your performance ... practice to perfection … and implement, implement, implement.

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