When I read a newspaper or watch CNN these days, I feel as if I'm peering through a thick mist. I see disturbing flashes -- a new low on the Dow, another $30 billion to bail out this or that bank, ever lower home prices, soaring unemployment and scary deficits. But these flashes do little to produce real understanding. Where is our economy headed? When will we hit bottom? What's next for our industry?
It's no secret that there's overwhelming uncertainty in the air right now, which has resulted from unprecedented change. Problem is, when you're uncertain, you get a bit lost. Like a sailor adrift on a foggy sea without a compass, you lose your sense of direction, along with your self-confidence. And when clients sense this, they start looking for a new ship -- and a new captain.
What's missing, I believe, are True North Principles (TNP). Leadership guru Stephen Covey says these are timeless principles such as fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, quality and service. He goes on to say that TNP are "objective and external, [reflecting] natural laws, as opposed to values which are subjective and internal. Because the compass represents the eternal verities of life, we must develop our value system with deep respect for [such] principles."
So what about you? Have you been aligned on TNP throughout your career? Or have recent events forced you off course? For example, are you now:
- Thinking more about your own financial issues than about the needs of your clients?
- Outsourcing your recommendations to the chattering financial pundits who produce more nonsense than sense on our nation's airwaves?
- Preying on the public's fears in order to close more sales?
- Failing to communicate with your clients when they need your support the most?
If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions, your moral compass is off, which will repel clients and ensure a regulatory shipwreck.
But it's not too late to rediscover TNP. Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Reduce the amount of media financial news and commentary you consume. By focusing too much on external values or "noise," you make it tougher to embrace your own authentic principles.
Here's the bottom line:
2. Read sales books that balance skill enhancement with ethical inspiration. Stephen Covey's Principle Centered Leadership is a classic example.
3. Think about the legacy you want to leave. Only follow those principles that will produce a legacy you can live with.
4. Consider what would make your parents happy. Embrace the principles that would make your parents most proud.
You can either follow True North and become a lighthouse of hope to more clients, or you can sail into the blinding fog, lost to your clients and to yourself. The choice is yours.
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