Utilizing the metaphor of a tree, problems are like branches while patterns reflect the root system. Rather than hacking away at an endless number of unhealthy branches (problems), attack the roots (patterns). We have isolated seven of the most common patterns we have witnessed over the past 25 years.
1. Returning to the “scene of the crime”
Going back to something or someone that doesn’t work because it’s comfortable is a recipe for stagnation, decline, and in some cases, total disaster. Whether it’s staying in a toxic environment and/or relationship, sticking with a narrow investment management practice in a world demanding a comprehensive wealth management strategy, or something as simple as sticking with an unhealthy nutritional and/or nonexistent exercise regimen that one won’t change; there is often fear that the alternative might be worse or the journey might not be worth the destination. Instead, you must: Embrace the challenge and evolve Moving forward is inherently “uncomfortable” but this is where growth and, ultimately, success tends to lie. Embracing and adapting to change can create a dynamism and excitement that actually makes life worth living. Getting up every day and doing the same thing over and over again, simply because it’s “comfortable” is like Night of the Living Dead; there may be movement but there is no life.
2. Don’t just manage time…manage energy.
One of the most influential books on this topic is The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. The fundamental premise of the book is that people don’t just want your time; they want your energy, your passion or as the title says, your full engagement. Coming home after a 10- to 12- hour workday and sitting down with your children to read a book, just to pass out on page 3, is not what they were looking for. Becoming unfocused, listless and irritable most afternoons because you were too busy to have a healthy lunch and/or workout doesn’t help you, your team or your clientele.
3. Trying to change people
Let’s give you two real-life examples.
Professional Example: A top advisor whose child had been on the team for five years said, “My kid just doesn’t have the “fire in the belly” that I have. They need to work harder, prospect more, get in earlier, get their CIMA, etc. I eventually want them to be able to take over the practice but the team is really starting to resent this lack of effort. I’ve talked to them till I’m blue in the face. I just don’t know what to do.”
Personal Example: A mentee spoke with their mentor, “I’m in a relationship with someone who is volatile, demeaning and dishonest when they drink but it doesn’t happen very often, and when it does they are truly sorry and they’re really trying to change. So do you think I should give them another chance?”
Control the environment instead
Professional Example: The financial advisor should have the following conversation with their kid: “You know, someday I will retire, and someone else will sit in this chair. That person will be passionate and driven, on a constant path of self-improvement, always willing to step in and do the heavy lifting required to manage a large organization and lead a talented group of professionals. You know I hope one day that person is you, but right now it’s not, and if you don’t want to be that person that’s okay. But that’s what this person is going to look like, and if that’s what you aspire to, I’m pulling for you”.
Personal Example: The mentor recommended that the mentee had the following conversation, “You know, the person I’m going to be in a relationship with is not going to try to intimidate me, demean me or lie to me. I will only be in a relationship with someone who puts my needs at least on par with their own, speaks openly and honestly with me to resolve any problems that might arise and always has my back. So until you become that person and start acting that way, I can’t be in a relationship with you and you will have to move out. I’ll be pulling for you.” Notice that, in both cases, they established reasonable parameters in the relationship that must be met, the consequences of their existing behavior and did so without anger or malice. Both are classic examples of the concept, “I may love you, but I will not tolerate this behavior.”
4. Trying to please everyone
As you grow and mature as a person and your performance accelerates as a professional, you invariably pass some of your friends and colleagues and/or your interests and lifestyle might begin to diverge. This leaves them with three choices:
- Pick up their pace to stay with you, and together you cheer each other on.
- Rationalize and/or ridicule your performance, “well if I wanted to live at the office and sacrifice my friends and family I could be a big producer too.”
- Or actively try to hold you back utilizing ridicule, exclusion and/or guilt. You see this all the time with young professional athletes as they move out of the neighborhood. For an amazing exposé on this heartbreaking reality take a look at ESPN’s 30 for 30 Documentary entitled “Broke,” currently playing on Netflix. The key is to make sure that you…Please the right people.
You can tell a lot about someone based on the company they keep (this is why parents so closely scrutinize the caliber of our kids’ friends). We want people of high character and performance to both like and respect us, and we would frankly be somewhat concerned if people of low character and performance were our biggest fans. When people want to give you their “counsel,” always “consider the source” before you let it affect you.
5. Choosing comfort
Growth is inherently uncomfortable; to build a muscle you have to push it to exhaustion and then miraculously, as it recovers, it becomes stronger. Anything in life worth becoming or achieving is uncomfortable: getting in top physical condition, evolving from portfolio management to wealth management, facing rejection by active prospecting, getting your CFP or CIMA, and the list goes on. Let’s use a metaphor to crystallize this concept. Let’s say that every morning you had to make a choice between:
- Taking a single, short, high intensity punch to the stomach and then going about your day, or
- Having a dull, throbbing, gnawing, listless pain in your stomach all day, every day, for the rest of your life.
Which would you choose? We have asked this question literally hundreds of times in large seminars and everyone obviously takes the short, high intensity punch to the stomach. Here’s the million dollar question: look at your life and see if there are any recurring situations/conditions where you are violating this principle. If you find some- thing, rather than choosing the shortterm comfort and the dull long-term pain, we recommend:
Endure the high intensity short-term shot in the stomach for the long-term benefits.
- Choose the high-intensity short-term pain of exercise for the long-term benefits of more energy, reduced stress and higher productivity.
- Choose the short-term pain of prospecting for the long-term comfort of growth.
- Choose the short-term pain of diligent, deep study and reflection, to acquire the long-term knowledge and insights necessary to remain relevant to the people you care most about.
- Choose the short-term self-sacrifices necessary to forge a solid marriage and a unified family.
In the end, these are all a small price to pay for an exciting life of high performance and profound fulfillment.
6. Fix your weaknesses
Throughout our childhood many of us were taught, “Hey you’re great at English and history but you really need to work on math and science,” or vice versa. So we got used to constantly working on our weaknesses rather than deploying our strengths. The only “weaknesses” you really need to work on are those that involve issues of character: like mistaking cynicism for realism, complaining for candor, delusion for optimism or impulsivity for spontaneity, to name but a few. But outside issues of character, you should focus not on fixing your weaknesses, but on:
Deploying your strengths
What we must realize is that virtually all strengths have corollary weaknesses:
- If you’re a left-brain detail-oriented person you probably excel in math, science and engineering but you may not be the most persuasive and verbally adept member of your graduating class.
- If you’re a very creative conceptual thinker (think Walt Disney) you may need a more pragmatic and systemic partner (like Roy Disney) to actually run the business.
- If you’re a brilliant, detail-oriented engineer like Steve Wozniak, you may need a visionary strategist like Steve Jobs to actually create a viable business. Outstanding performers have learned to isolate and firewall their weaknesses while mastering and deploying their strengths; thus the popularity of synergistic teams.
7. Does your structure support you or hinder you
Every top advisor is, by definition, extremely disciplined and has shown remarkable willpower to achieve the success they have in our brutal profession. However, your discipline and willpower can never totally transcend the structure in which you place it. The million dollar question is, does your structure support or hinder you?
- If someone says they’re going to dramatically alter their nutritional regimen, the first thing to check is their refrigerator and/or cupboard. Are they filled with fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish or are there a bunch of Twinkies, cupcakes and Ho Hos instead?
- If someone says they want to increase the focus and productivity of their team, take a look at their workspace. How organized, technologically sophisticated and ergonomic is it?
- If someone says they want to commit to a consistent, high intensity and well-balanced exercise regimen, check their calendar, the proximity of their workout facility and if they are just getting this process started after a long layoff, whether they have a personal trainer! So, once again, make sure that the various environments in which you operate all support your long-term personal and professional commitments.
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These views represent the opinions of OppenheimerFunds, Inc. and are not intended as investment advice or to predict or depict performance of any investment. These views are subject to change based on subsequent developments.
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