Important Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor

All above-reproach financial advisors want you to know how they operate. They welcome detailed questions about the ins and outs of the investments they suggest and the expenses you will incur. Despite the awkward feelings, you aren’t being disrespectful by asking.

What are the tricks to get started? The way you ask the question can make a big difference. No need to be confrontational, just be transparent. Ask straightforward, curious questions. Work to create safety for the other person.

  • “I’d like to be clear about how you’re compensated for the work you do for me.

How much of your compensation comes from my direct payments to you, how much from fees on my investment, and how much is paid to you by the investment product?”

Again, your goal is to create a conversation that allows them to just tell you about their arrangements—no accusations from you, no defensiveness from them. Another neutral question might be:

  • “I’ve heard that it would be helpful for me to know if my advisor is a fiduciary or not? Can you explain the difference, and are you?” (Fiduciary means your advisor agrees to put your interests ahead of their own.)

They may make it hard for you, “Don’t worry about it. The fee isn’t coming out of your pocket.” This is the wrong answer. You may not write a check or hand over your credit card, but you are indeed paying. A Wall Street Broker laid it out this way. “An investor who paid 2% in fees each year would give up more than $178,000 over 30 years, almost as much money as the $180,000 deposited in the account during that time.”  That amount of money is probably worth being a bit uncomfortable over!

If their answer is vague, they change the subject or don’t give you exact amounts, you’ll need to be even more straightforward. Again, keep in mind that a straightforward approach is the one that highest quality professionals prefer you always use, and they will also use it back. Try these questions:

  • “I always want to know how my finances work, so please explain in detail the way you get compensated.”
  • “I’m uncomfortable with not knowing the details. Please make them clear for me.”
  • “How much money will you personally make in cash commission now, if I select this product? And how much will you make later, in any sort of ongoing or trailing commission?”
  • “Are you earning more from selling me this product than you might if you put me in a similar product from a different company?”
  • “Is there a bonus you are eligible for that comes as a result of this sale? Is your bonus less likely if you don’t make this sale?”

It may be uncomfortable to ask questions but it’s your right to know. For some people a light tone might be more comfortable, “Where are you going to go if you win the incentive for selling this product?”

Try asking your questions in writing.

Writing your question may be more comfortable. As a bonus, a written answer creates accountability for the advisor and lets them know you’re on top of things. If you don’t get a straightforward answer the first time, ask again until you do. Keep politely asking until you clearly understand.

If you feel uncomfortable and stuck, think about any question you might use to open up the conversation:

  • How often do you monitor my investments?
  • Why does this product benefit me?
  • I don’t understand this portfolio. Please explain it to me.
  • Please explain why you have me in this alternative allocation?

 Still stuck? You can ask your other advisors for help. Request that your attorney and other advisers talk with one another. They should all be willing to keep each other in the loop. If someone isn’t, you can ask the others to help correct that situation immediately. (Many of the best advisors suggest having your team work together all the time—so efforts are coordinated in your behalf.)

It’s easy to let things slide and stay with a professional who may not be working in your best interests.

If you’re working too hard, it may be a clue that your advisor is not the best fit for you. If after a couple of tries you can’t get the information you need, it may make sense to interview another advisor to find someone who is easier to talk to.

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Money conversations can be uncomfortable—so we tend to avoid them, approach them with trepidation, or use language that’s pushier than necessary. We can help you help you get more comfortable talking about money and craft conversations that work in your best interest.

We coach key personnel, train teams and work with people of wealth on dealing effectively with the emotions raised by money-related issues. You can get more comfortable so formerly awkward conversations no longer feel awkward.

For more information on fiduciary responsibility:

  1. Watch an interview I did with a fee only advisor, Gavin Morrisey.

  1. You can also check out John Oliver’s Fiduciary and The Retirement Challenge on You Tube. Language is crude at moments so don’t watch with young kids. I wonder if John Oliver can have clear, open conversations with his financial advisors?!

Is Your Financial Advisor Working in Your Best Interest?

Not all financial advisors are created equal. Nor are their fees. The issue that you may need to discuss with your advisor is how they receive their fees and how that may affect whether they lean toward serving your best needs or theirs.

Are you aware that many advisors are not required to make the choice that is most financially beneficial to you? Want to know if yours is? Ask whether they are following the fiduciary standard or the suitability standard. Find that tough to ask? There’s that sticky stuff we feel around money.

Let’s start from the beginning.

  1. Many advisors at brokerage firms are paid commissions to sell you products that the firm makes money from.
  2. Some of these advisors are good. Unfortunately, many are just good sales people whose advice is influenced the commissions they get paid.
  3. What makes an advisor money may not be the best choice for you. It may cost you more to buy a product that is no better for you than one that would leave more money in your account (for college, retirement or whatever you are saving for).

You need to ask your advisor which standard they are operating under—fiduciary or suitability. The question might feel to them or you like an accusation because money seems to do that to questions. This is a very important question to get comfortable asking.

  1. The fiduciary standard for Registered Investment Advisors (RIA), or an ERISA appointed Fiduciary, requires that the advisor put your needs ahead of theirs. The fiduciary standard requires that you hear about lower-fee options, if the lower-fee product is of equal quality. Advisors who are fiduciaries must:
  • Put the client’s best interest first.
  • Act with prudence; that is, with the skill, diligence and good judgment of a professional.
  • Not mislead clients; provide full and fair disclosure of all important facts.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest. And if conflicts are unavoidable, they must fully disclose and fairly manage in the client’s favor.
  1. Broker dealers, insurance salespersons or any other financial company advisors are required to apply a suitability standard.
  • They must know you and your financial situation.
  • They must recommend products that are suitable for your situation.
  • They can sell you products that result in them receiving a higher commission than for a comparable product.

If you’re not comfortable asking about fees and professional standards, you could lose a lot of money. The higher fees you pay may be invisible today, but result in dramatically less compounding over the time you own the stock, bonds, or other investment vehicles. Your discomfort may cause your portfolio to be worth thousands, or tens or hundreds of thousands less than it could be.

The other question you need to be able to ask is whether your advisors is fee only or fee based.

Fee-only advisors (look for RIA or ERISA) don’t sell products, don’t accept commissions and operate as fiduciaries.*

Fee-based advisors can sell you investment products for commission.

Again, discomfort in asking questions can cost you way too much!

More information:

  1. Watch an interview at the end of this article that I did with Gavin Morrisey about fees you may be paying your advisor that benefit him/her more than you—and what you can do.

Gavin is former Senior Vice President, Wealth Management at Commonwealth Financial Network and now managing partner at Financial Strategy Associates, a financial services firm in Needham, MA. He and his firm are independent, fee only advisors who will answer any and all your questions.

  1. Check out John Oliver Fiduciary and The Retirement Challenge on You Tube!
  2. Search the Web: There’s a lot of information how financial advisors get paid. In fact, that search led me to many interesting videos and articles.

Don’t avoid money or fee related conversations. If you want to talk with your advisor but feel uncomfortable, we can help you craft a conversation or email that is respectful and helps protect you.

Whether you’re an attorney, or other service professional thinking about raising fees, a dental office aware of the benefits for patients and your business if your team could talk more comfortably about costs, a parent who wishes he/she could talk with adult children about inheritance plans or family business, an adult child who fears approaching the conversation with parents for fear of seeming greedy, we can help you craft conversations that matter. Let us help you get more comfortable talking about money.

Kind of a P.S.

I know this article was long—and yet here’s more. More reasons to be wary. For those of you who have the bandwidth to keep going:

When I was doing research for this article, I came across these powerful and disturbing information-articles that highlighted kickbacks, contests, incentives for advisors. Here is just one of them. The bold is my emphasis.

From CNBC confessions from financial advisors    Friday, 20 Jun 2014

Most investors know their financial advisors take a percentage for managing their portfolios, but they probably didn’t know the mutual fund industry is also giving these advisors commission for pushing specific equity mutual funds, unbeknownst to investors.

I’m not talking about front-end load fees. I’m referring to commissions and bonuses that financial planners get after they put their clients into these funds.

The industry and SEC call these payments “commission” but in reality, they are a “kickback” or “incentive” for financial planners to push specific equity funds, even if they are not in their client’s best interest. This payment structure raises ethical and legality concerns on whose interest is being served: the financial planner or the client.

Even more disconcerting, most investors don’t know this is happening.

I’ve seen how this works following two decades of working on Wall Street for well-known brokerage firms. This payment structure to financial planners is hidden behind a smokescreen that is covered by layers of payments through different sources. First to the brokerage houses, then to the brokers.

This hidden-fee structure was addressed in the Dodd-Frank reforms, which went into effect on January 1, 2014. Under Dodd-Frank, disclosures for “commission” or “kick-back fees” are now required for pension and 401k retirement accounts, but accounts that aren’t regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act were excluded from the new law.

 

Listening Strategy Number 2- Reflective Listening

Continuing on our recent theme of listening: here’s another strategy that is easy to implement and can make a big difference. You have probably heard the term “Active Listening”—repeating key pieces of a talker’s message to confirm you are listening and understand. Reflective Listening is similar but adds a dose of curiosity and mindfulness. This higher-quality listening can save time, prevent future misunderstandings or mistakes, and create stronger team loyalty.

So what is reflective listening?

When you’re reflectively listening, you’re seeking to understand a speaker’s thought or idea, then offering their idea back in your own words to confirm you’ve understood correctly. You also try to imagine and reflect back what’s beneath their words—to reflect what the speaker is feeling as well as thinking.

How to reflectively listen:

• After listening, use your own words to repeat key points you think the person was attempting to make.
• Check with them to be certain you’ve heard them correctly.
• If they explain that you don’t quite have it, repeat back your corrected understanding.
• Share your impressions of what seems to feel emotionally important to them.

Examples:

• “I hear that you are concerned about my suggestion that we shut our doors to reduce distractions. It’s clear this is very important to you.”
• “It sounds to me like you are frustrated about my response this past week.”
• “Let me reflect what I heard. You think we could generate revenue by adding a service to our estimate process. You have an idea how this could be simple and not take much time. You haven’t nailed down the details yet, but you’d like my initial thoughts to help guide your next steps.”

 “I also hear that you are worried your idea will be rejected because you don’t have the details spelled out.”

Caveat: Too busy?

The time you spend listening and reflecting will avoid wasting time sorting out misunderstandings and missteps after the fact.

It’s this easy:
• Take a breath and pay attention to quickly confirm any main points or ideas.
• Deliberately scan and confirm each key concept.
• Keep your review and reflections short and efficient. Avoid long monologues, open-ended questions, and new topics.

Recall Practice
Initially, you can try recall sessions to practice reflecting. (adapted from a book-in-progress that Jay and I are working on)

If you can’t find time to practice in real-time during your work day, sitting at your desk, or on your drive home, take time to think through a conversation you had during the day. Then reflect out loud what you didn’t feel like you had time to say on the spot.

With a bit of practice, you will be able to reflectively listen without appreciably slowing down conversations—you’ll save misstep-time with a minimal investment in reflecting-time.

• “Let me be sure I understand. You are planning to call the client and set up a meeting to talk about the problem, but you are worried that we don’t really have a good path to correct the issue.”
• “Am I hearing concern that you will be blamed?”

If no examples come to mind, you might ask yourself one of these questions to stimulate reflections:

• What did I slide over that might be worth thinking about or revisiting?
• What did she say that I might not be positive I heard fully?
• What was the emotional tone of the conversation?
• Did I really understand what was important to them?

Your awareness will be enhanced by just considering questions—eventually you will tend to notice those things you have asked yourself questions about.

When you are trying to strengthen a relationship, reflecting deeper messages or emotions can communicate that you respect the speaker and value their ideas. Email or call 978-446-9600 if you want to save time avoiding missteps, create a stronger connection with your team, build a more fun and interesting place to work, learn how to enhance your relationships at work (and as a natural byproduct with family and friends).

Easy Strategies for Effective Performance Reviews

Delivering bad news or pointing out maladaptive habits isn’t easy, even if you think the employee may have an idea of what’s coming. Assuming you’re both on the same side of the table sharing a common goal can make difficult conversations easier.

Your job is to ask good questions, to find ways to help your key employees identify what’s working well, where they want to go in their careers, which skills they might like to pursue, etc. Your questions are designed to facilitate buy in, give them an opportunity to critique their own performance and to offer information first. Your questions also give you better information to develop a strategic approach to the next phase of the conversation.

The questions below are worded for an annual review: (You can, of course, tweak the time line if it’s different). We recommend reviews much more often to keep tabs on how your team members are feeling and what they’re thinking.

Usually, you’d give these questions in advance so there’s time for them to think about them and write out answers.

1) What professional accomplishments of yours do we need to remember from last year?  Please include items that might not have been noticed.

2) Were there professional skills you were able to improve on last year?  Did you receive training or help from any member of the team?  Again, please be as specific as possible.  What skills do you want to work on this year?

3) Were there projects or tasks that you had the freedom and responsibility to do in the way you thought best?  Please think of both ongoing and one-time projects you did and describe how much independence, if any, that you had.

4) What do you do well professionally, enjoy doing, do easily, get compliments on, etc.?  I’d be particularly interested in things you do well that I don’t know about.

5) Are there things about your work that give you real pleasure or make you feel you’re making a difference?

6) What could I be asking that seems important for your success here?

The answers are important, but building a process of open, corrective conversations with your employees is just as important. And slowing down to listen to their struggles and goals is the only way to create effective plans for future growth.

Influence, the Wave of the Future

It seems clear to us that the next area of innovation is a return to one of the oldest of human endeavors—influencing valuable people to join you in pursuit of a common goal.

Yes, there are impressive technological advances still in the pipeline, let alone in the imagination of developers and entrepreneurs. Our relationship to healthcare and the wider world community will continue to change—although forward or backward can be debated. Cars will soon drive us, houses will stay one step ahead of our commands, and clothes will do more than warm and adorn us. Additional services that we hadn’t even imagined were necessary will become the norm.

But none of these potential advances, or other undreamed of ones, will proceed along their most effective paths unless you—the current and future leaders—are able to attract and nurture individuals and the teams they form. The brightest, most creative, most dedicated producers of value will only join your enterprise if you are genuinely able to step away from a self-centered approach to leadership and become a catalyst who assists them reach their goals and dreams. They will carry your dreams on their shoulders as they strive to achieve their own ambitions.

We see too many business leaders impatiently push instead of quietly influencing, value loyalty over creativity, or act like their vision is the only one that counts. Even leaders who are sensitive to the feelings of their employees seem to forget at times that their enterprises will only flourish if individuals are encouraged to thrive in their careers, lives, and dreams.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most leaders is an inflated sense of their own ability to master work relationships and influence important people. How are you doing? If you see no weaknesses in your approach to team members, a caution flag should go up. If you recognize an area that could use upgrading and you haven’t set aside time to work on improving it, then you are giving an advantage to your competitors every time you attempt to attract or keep a major contributor.

A first step is to ask yourself questions, and take time to consider the answers:

•How am I doing?
•What are other people doing better?
•What am I avoiding?
•What habit should I be mastering?
•What are my priorities?
•Who do I wish I could entice to work for me?

The next step is to make a plan for addressing your weakness. It’s difficult to recognize your own failings, because they will tend to sit in your blind spot. Even if you think you can see them, they may be resistive to change because of other habits or attitudes you have—which can hide behind more obvious  shortcomings.

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Professional athletes depend on feedback from their coaches to see their lapses and improve their game. The best presenters and salespeople seek new ideas and analysis from specialty coaches. Musicians, actors, writers and so many others regularly request input from an experienced masters. Are you getting the feedback you need to improve your game? Arrange a strategy session today to explore how coaching can improve your ability to attract and retain high performing employees.

Comfort Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Most likely your natural tendency is to sidestep uncomfortable emotions, painful physical sensations, cognitive challenges and/or social exertion. But those discomforts are often signals that you’re pushing yourself into areas of positive growth with a level of intensity that will lead to actual progress.

In endurance sports this discomfort is called suffering. Some of that suffering comes from the physical pain that your body generates as you approach the limits of your current capability. As you strain, your muscles generate waste and collect minor tears. After your effort is completed, the tears will signal the healing forces to rebuild with additional capacity to avoid future tears.

We now understand that some—or perhaps much—of the pain sensation is also generated by the fail-safe concerns of our brain. It senses that, if we continue to do what we’re doing, we risk exceeding our body’s abilities to intake oxygen, deliver fuel, and clear out waste materials. The pain sensation is an alert that we should shut off our effort to preserve crucial blood flow to our brains. The problem is that this warning comes earlier than necessary and, if we heed it too soon, it inhibits us from our highest level of effort and eventually diminishes our maximum performance.

In non-physical areas, your brain also protects you from danger with early and overblown warnings about threats. It flashes discomfort and pain signals when there are opportunities for growth. For instance, when there is a possibility that you will need to give up an established pattern of behavior in order to make a change or challenge your comfort zone.
Each time you strive to stop an old habit or start a new one, you will likely come face to face with some level of discomfort—some minor “tear” in your routine. In order to change you will need to ignore the easy path of following your old habit and push against your discomfort. You may need to welcome the experience of social embarrassment and confront someone, push against the call of a sweet treat in order to change your eating habits, get to a gym class when you’re feeling hollow and lethargic, or resist the pull of something more entertaining when you should be exercising or working on a project.
How much discomfort are you willing to push through? If the answer is none, then you aren’t likely to change. Just a little bit? You may make a bit of progress. A few brave souls will answer in the affirmative when they ask themselves, “Am I willing to suffer for a significant increase in my performance?”
Choosing to suffer isn’t complex or difficult, but it also isn’t easy. And we are not suggesting that there is any significant value in suffering for suffering sake. Given that you will face feelings of discomfort many times a day, and will on occasion suffer, you should know that you will suffer less if you welcome discomfort as a necessary ingredient in improving your performance.
There is suffering that leads to no valuable end. There is suffering that we might wish to avoid, but which leads to healing. And there is suffering that is simply the best pathway to enhanced performance. Avoid that discomfort and you will keep doing what you have always done. Embrace it and you will dare to push yourself enough to cause your body, emotions or mind to gain increased capacity.
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In growing your business, a healthier life, or deeper relationships you will benefit from having effective strategies to help you deal with discomfort and gain the maximum value from any investment you make in suffering. Don’t suffer needlessly. But also don’t avoid opportunities to grow and feel significant satisfaction and benefits from your efforts. We can help you invest your energy wisely.

Surprising Problems with Praise

Despite the common advice of many business coaches, praise can demotivate your team and make them skeptical. Praise, like sweeteners, needs to come in measured amounts and not taste artificial.

People do experience meaning and satisfaction when they hear those they respect value their contributions. But it doesn’t it follow that we should therefore lavish praise on members of our teams.

Research points out that too much or insincere praise creates less than desirable results. This appears to be true both at work and with our families. Overdone or generalized praise is quickly dismissed as worth little. If everything is “great”, then you’re not believable. Overusing expressions like “Amazing!” “Wow Experience!” “Great Job!” all lead other people to feel that your praise is worth less.

Do you understand what I’m saying? Great job! You’re an amazing reader! Something certainly smells rotten in my praise.

To make praise effective it needs to be sincere, specific and address the actual work or effort. And it needs to come in believable doses.

One clear way to avoid hyperbole and misunderstandings is to share acknowledgements instead of praise. They’re similar, but acknowledgements make a specific statement about the results of a person’s actions. They don’t give a label of good or great. They don’t base an evaluation on your judgment of the person. Acknowledgements speak about the effect of a person’s activities.

For good work that is a tad above a person’s normal performance levels or when a team member finally shows continuity over a period of time try something like:

“I noticed your effort today produced results.”
“I notice your quality is staying higher.”
“I noticed you are trying that approach we talked about.”
“You put some real effort into getting that job done on time. Thank you.”
“Having the reports on time has been helpful.”

Save praise for exceptional situations—and still consider using an acknowledgement instead. If you’re going to fall back on praise, keep it  believable and use it only for above average work. Stick with simple acknowledgements for basic work done well.

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Developing new leadership and managerial habits takes specific understanding and practice. We can help you:

Learn how to acknowledge and praise wisely
Ask curious questions
Listen effectively
Reward for effort, strategy and progress

And, as a bonus, a healthy dose of acknowledgements and praise from a coach will help you implement habits that will increase your and your team’s performance and satisfaction. Call or email today if you want to set up a time to consider what habits will bring the most leverage to changing your business and your life.

How the Best Leaders Listen and Respond

I want to share two skills that are simple but take practice. We teach these to our clients to help them accomplish more and have fewer stressful debates with their team, clients—and even family members. If you are seeking more productivity, higher morale and more straightforward interactions, then give these a try.

When someone makes a statement that we disagree with, the most common response is to either ignore what they said or respond with all the reasons we don’t agree. There is a better way. Let me use an example I dealt with last month to illustrate what didn’t go well:

During a particularly hectic time at the company, Dave, the HR manager told John, his supervisor and our client—“We need to meet for 10-15 minutes each morning for the next couple of weeks to discuss the specific hires you’re looking for and possible ways to deal with the two employees who are under-performing.

John retorted, “No way! I can’t meet every day! I just don’t have the time.”

When John asked me for ideas about how to handle it better, I asked what he objected to. He said, “It’s ridiculous to think Dave and I can or need to meet every day.”

I asked what, if anything that Dave said that he had agreed with. He thought for a moment and said, “It makes sense that Dave understands the kind of person and attributes I’m looking for in the new employees.” He concurred that he wanted to have major input on how to document the under-performing employees because they probably would need to be terminated.

Suggestion 1:

If you agree, say so. Acknowledge the places of agreement.
If John wanted to change Dave’s suggestion and also give him credit for suggesting a solution instead of just waiting for a problem to develop, John could have said, “I agree that it would be a good idea for us to talk about the new hires and the documentation process.”

You don’t need to agree with everything said.  Team members will be encouraged to develop critical thinking skills by even partial agreement. So say out loud what you agree with.

Suggestion 2:

If you feel something was left out or needs to be altered, state your agreements first and then add to their thinking—build on their idea.

“I agree that it makes sense for us to meet; we need to talk about the new hires and what to do about the team members who are not performing. Because time is crunched, let’s meet twice next week and then evaluate where we are.”

By finding something to agree with you defuse a lot of the debates that start around people defending their suggestions. If you can limit the defensiveness and the debate time, you keep things moving. You’ll be surprised how often the points you disagreed with get dropped and everybody’s happy.

Close: What you do-and say-matters.  If you want your team to run more smoothly, think for themselves and make good decisions, consider calling or emailing us for ways to tweak your communication. Small changes can make a big difference—with team members, clients, and partners.  And, as one of my clients who keeps building skills – and seeing better results – reminds me, “It just feels better.”

Quick Ways to Improve Your Listening

Again and again, Jay and I see our clients running into trouble because they’re distracted by their own ideas and internal rebuttals when they might profit more from paying attention to what their team members or clients are saying. Here are a few quick ideas to help tune up your listening skills so you can stay focused when you don’t think it’s important. Thanks to Jay for this article – adapted from his book in process – Simple Steps to Listening.

Here are some quick, straightforward ways to help you listen better and encourage people to share vital information with you:

If you recognize you are or were wrong, chances are you missed an opportunity to hear everything that was available to help you make the best choice. Next time try coaching yourself to really understand a variety of other peoples’ opinions before committing to an action.

If you start thinking before the other person is done talking, chances are you missed some piece of important information. Try asking a question that you don’t know the answer to.

“I’d like to understand where this data is from.”
“What specifically has led you to have this concern?”
“How would you implement your idea?”
“Do you have a suggestion how we could reduce the risk you are talking about?”

If you find yourself preparing a response before you’ve heard everything the other person wants to say, you aren’t listening anymore and you will miss something. Will it be important? I don’t know, but to be a little more confident that you know what was said remind yourself:

“Find the unusual insight in the stew of their ordinary ideas.”
“What if one of their ideas were a clue that might tell me something about the future which of their thoughts is the clue?”

If you’re irritated by the person speaking, your ability to listen may well be overwhelmed by your frustration. Try assuming that the other person is probably doing the best they can. Quickly make up one or two possible positive motivations they might have to do what they’re doing. Whether you’re right or wrong makes little difference. Even considering alternative positive motivations will make it easier to recover from frustration.

People want to be listened to, and knowing they are encourages them to share more. How does the person who’s talking, know that you’re listening to them?

Look at them, not somewhere else or right through them. Respond with specific comments:
“That’s an interesting idea.”
“I like the idea of a new website approach. Let’s focus on that for a minute.”
“Please repeat that last idea. I want to be sure I understand it.”

Repeat a detail-“If I understand you, you’re saying…”

And perhaps the most powerful evidence that you’re listening is the acknowledgement you offer.

And remember, listening and watching are both paying attention. In a sense, watching is listening with your eyes. People will feel respected if they feel “seen” or “listened to,” and acknowledgements also show that you’re paying attention.

“Thanks for explaining your idea. You got the ball rolling.”
“You created the original dashboard. That started all the innovative ideas.”
“I’ve noticed that you’re always on the lookout for potential risks.”
“You’re someone I depend on to keep us abreast of the latest possibilities in the field.”

Have you found ways to keep your attention focused when you want to be listening? Please send them to us. We’d love to share them with other readers. Go ahead. We’re listening.

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Learning to listen means taking good ideas and practicing them. Our coaching sessions on better listening encourage lots of relaxed practice where you can find your own voice. Contact us to discover the importance of listening whether you’re a collaborative leader or an authoritarian one. Boost your leadership potential and strengthen your personal relationships with coaching that matters. And if you can’t see the purpose in listening better, you should know that we think we can show you some pretty compelling reasons why your business will profit from the effort. Call or email us and we’ll discover together which of us needs to listen to the other.

Is Your Life Working Well?

We think about Return on Investment (ROI) only in the context of money and profit, but I want to encourage you to consider investing time to assure your future will generate the happiness you want.  Is your life working for you?  Could it use a small tweak to work optimally, or does it need more? I want to touch on some things to think about when you are considering a transition. Read on!

I’ve discussed transitions, one of my favorite topics, in previous posts. The question of what you’re going to do in the next phase of your life trips many people up. We often assume we know what will make us happy, but discover almost too late that happiness is still elusive.

Research and experience show that happiness comes to each of us in a number of flavors, some of which melt rather quickly. It may help to consider what flavor or level of happiness you want to put your effort into pursuing. You have options whether you’re looking at a career change, thinking of adding an avocation or hobby, or searching for a complete makeover.

Positive psychologists—those professionals who look at strengths and successes—talk about three phases of happiness: pleasure, engagement (or flow), and meaning.

Pleasure

This is the simply feeling good part of happiness—going to the beach, taking a trip, trying a new restaurant, buying a new piece of clothing or car, watching the sunset, and so on. If you are working really hard now and contemplating cutting back, time for more of those pleasure moments may be enough— a chance to relax and take a break from any responsibilities.

Engagement

To many people’s surprise, even really great pleasure of the first kind gets old after a while. Boredom, restlessness, or loneliness usually begins to creep in. That’s when you may realize you need the second level of happiness, engagement—something you can sink your teeth into a bit. Maybe study the piano, plan a garden, join a Makers group, start playing golf again, pick up a hobby, study a language—i.e. engagement with other people or activities that are personally interesting, or that matter to you.

Meaning

Some of us will get hungry for something even bigger—creating a legacy or just wanting to give back. This can happen throughout our lives; for some of us, the need increases as we cut back our money making activities. We want to give back—to offer our talents, services, energy to those who can use it. We seek meaning— a feeling of having a larger purpose and contributing something to others and to society.

Any transition is likely to be more satisfying if you’ve set your sights on the level of happiness that will give you the type of pleasure you’re looking for. Here are a few steps to play with to get you started:

Think about how to create possibilities for yourself

If you know what you want, think about ways to get support to begin creating it.

If you’re feeling restless to make a change, but don’t know what direction to go in, try something. Try and then adjust as you learn. It’s better than standing still in frustration or confusion.

Research is one form of action—get online, interview people who are doing “it,” read books about transition or happiness, ask a coach.

Plan a goal and some details

Whether you’re still working, working part time or almost retired, plan! We often can’t wait to get “there.” But once we reach our goal, we face a blank slate and a “What now?” vacuum that is very uncomfortable. Begin to plan some of the details now.

Think about how to make your life richer and more resilient with a diversified life portfolio—different areas of happiness so that one or more will continue to be viable and interesting. What would a satisfying day to day life look like? Would it have social connections, exercise, learning opportunities, giving to the community and family? What else?

Either way, please take the time to make the changes that will make a big difference in your life—at work and at home.

Lately so many clients have been looking for assistance with a transition in their lives that I want to announce that I will be facilitating a group on making a transition in your life. My “What’s Next” group will help you think more clearly about the what, when and how of making a major transition in your work or personal life.