Earlier this year I set out to test the hypothesis that there is an elite group of advisors who are not only growing faster than the average, but have achieved a deeper level of personal fulfillment. They’re the Absolutely Engaged.
I’ve written bits and pieces about this concept, over the last while, but wanted to take the time to provide a more robust overview of what this concept could mean for your business and, perhaps, even your life.
I’ve had the great fortune of working in this industry for over two decades and I’ve observed a simple pattern, when it comes to growth. We’re strong out of the gate, plateau, push forward and plateau again.
And so the pattern continues, with minor dips and plateaus, but generally moving in the right direction. For advisors for whom growth is the only goal, the pattern works well. But what if growth isn’t the only objective?
It seems clear that as we hit a certain level of success we don’t focus only growth but on fulfillment.
Unfortunately, the path to fulfillment is less stable. While it appears to move in tandem with growth for many years, most advisors experience what we might call a ‘fulfillment flatline’, a point at which fulfillment seems to level off despite continued growth.
The reasons for the flatline are varied but typically relate to a natural drift from our original goals as we grow a business or, perhaps more likely, a change in vision. We change, what’s important to us changes and how we want to spend our time changes.
As important, it’s clear that not every advisor flatlines – some break through.
My hypothesis, based on observation and on-going research, is that advisors don’t break through because they are lucky, work harder or execute better. They break through as the result of an intentional pause and period of reflection, after which they ask a new question about the future. In the past they asked only how to grow the business each year.
An elite few – the Absolutely Engaged – ask a different question. What do I want to create? That question marks the shift from a pursuit of growth to a pursuit of Absolute Engagement.
I’ve summarized this post (with more data) in a downloadable report, which you can access here.
There’s a group of advisors who are Absolutely Engaged because they have intentionally designed their businesses around a personal vision. As a result, they have achieved significant growth and deep personal fulfillment.
In order to validate the hypothesis, we conducted a series of in-depth interviews with advisors across the country and gathered feedback from more than 600 advisors who participated in an online survey.
The 15 Percent
We were able to isolate a group of 15 percent of respondents who we identified as Absolutely Engaged; these individuals were intentionally building their businesses around the things that energized and inspired them.
Specifically, in the data, we isolated those advisors who had defined their ideal – and were living their ideal – in three ways.
- Clients. They have identified the clients they’re passionate about working with, for whom they can do their best work and who need what they want to offer. Just as important, they have successfully built businesses that target these individuals so that the majority (if not all) of their clients fit into this target group.
- Work. They have clearly defined the kind of work they want to do for clients—their ideal offer. Just as important, the bulk of the work they do (if not all) reflects this passion.
- Role. They have identified the role they want to play on the team, focusing on the activities that they (and they alone) can do to drive the business forward. Just as important, they have structured their businesses and their teams to allow them to focus on that work.
The impact of intentionality in those three areas was significant and were correlated with positive outcomes both professionally and personally.
The Absolutely Engaged:
- Have greater clarity about their long-term professional goals and greater confidence they will achieve those goals.
- As a result of that clarity, they focus more of their time on the right activities – those that they, and they alone, should be doing.
- That focus results in greater financial success. They are nearly twice as likely to be generating $1m or more in annual revenue.
- Perhaps in response to greater financial success, they take more time off each year.
And here’s the kicker. They report lower stress at work, better health and greater energy. As a result of taking a consistent approach to their business, their lives were better. They experienced greater well-being.
The 3 Principles
With the Absolutely Engaged isolated we were able to dig deep to understand what is common to their approach.
Simply stated, they are guided by three core principles which act as filters for decision making.
- Personal vision drives business vision. Your personal vision defines the work you want to do, the clients with whom you want to work and the role you want to play.
- Your client and team experience should be tailored to reflect your business vision. The specifics of your client and team experience should be tailored to align with (and actively support) your business vision.
- You’re human. Don’t forget it. Sustaining a great business demands accountability and renewal in equal doses.
The 5 Steps and 5 Decisions
The path to Absolute Engagement involves five steps in a continuous process. I go into significant detail on each step and how you can take action in order to achieve Absolute Engagement, in my new book The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am that it’s now available on a pre-sale basis.
Let’s look at what each of those steps means.
Awareness is about understanding what really energizes and inspires you when it comes to your clients, your work and your role. It’s about giving yourself permission to start with a blank slate, one that is not influenced by how your business looks today or what other constraints you might feel (real or imagined). Awareness is about creating your personal vision and this is where possibility lives. Those who are Absolutely Engaged use these insights as the building blocks to design an extraordinary business.
The Decision: Will you use that information to inform your business going forward or will you push those feelings to the side and slip back into your comfort zone?
Audacity is about translating your personal vision into a business vision. It’s about using the insights you gleaned in the first step to formalize your target client, your offer and the role you will play on the team. This is where courage lives because it means acting on your personal vision. Those who are Absolutely Engaged clearly communicate the business they are in on the understanding that will make them unappealing to some prospective clients and dramatically more appealing to others.
The Decision: Will you draw a line in the sand and say to the world that you work with a defined target client to deliver a define offer? Or will that vision remain a preference, as you continue to work with any client who meets your minimum standard?
Action is about tailoring your client and team experience to specifically reflect your offer and the unique needs of your target, while freeing you up to take on the role that will push the business forward. This is where confidence lives because it demands you unpack every aspect of how you deliver your service and to question if every part of your business is fully aligned with your personal and business visions. Those who are Absolutely Engaged intentionally design the client and team experience to both reflect and actively support their business vision.
Decision: Will you change how you communicate with clients and how you recruit and develop your team to ensure that the business reflects the needs of your target client?
Accountability is about ensuring that you have the personal support you need to follow through on your goals. This is where commitment lives because it forces you to put a process in place to help you take action and stay focused. Those who are Absolutely Engaged find formal and informal structures to hold themselves accountable and to help them take action; they build an extended network of people who have their back.
Decision:Will you continue to go it alone or will you reach out and create a support network that will ensure you reach your goals?
Renewal acknowledges that in order to sustain momentum you need to refuel and re-charge. It’s about recognizing (perhaps reluctantly) that we aren’t super heroes, finding the space to reflect on our vision and fueling your capacity to push forward. This is where creativity lives because it provides you with the space you need to focus on the big picture rather than being pulled too far down into the weeds. Those who are Absolutely Engaged are as intentional about the time they take off as the time they are working.
Decision: Will you continue to squeeze time for yourself around the demands of building a business or will you intentionally set goals for renewal in the same way you set goals for the business?
I’ve focused the work I do on this concept (and written the book) because I believe that we need to have different conversations about what’s important in our lives. And I believe that the effort you make will not be wasted. Learning what makes you happy, in work and in life – and then taking action to bring those two things together, will allow you to create the business and life you deserve.
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