Wellness and work-life balance are becoming more and more important for financial advisors. Constant dealing with agitated markets (and scarcely less agitated clients) has increased the need for stress management. When I spoke several months ago at a women advisors’ summit, I heard psychologist Heidi Hanna give a speech on brain fitness. I was impressed by her focus on holistic wellness for advisors and the way the appreciative audience seemed hungry for more.
During the conference, I learned that Hanna is a consultant to Janus Capital Management (a pioneer in wellness education and support) and other organizations that want to help their sales force and business partners learn to live better balanced, more energized lives. It struck me that some of the programs and ideas she has developed can benefit financial advisors who aren’t necessarily affiliated with these client organizations.
For independent advisors, there’s another choice: affiliating with a firm that provides wellness training and support in addition to more traditional services such as business management and marketing consulting. Research in this area led me to Stuart Silverman, CEO of Fusion Advisor Network, which has been expanding a successful wellness program in order to help advisors achieve better quality of life. When I interviewed Hanna and Silverman for Investment Advisor, they both had interesting things to say about how to slow down, find more satisfaction, improve the quality of your relationships and maximize your own potential.
To Take Care of Your Business, First Take Care of Yourself
“My biggest passion is getting people to understand that taking care of themselves is taking care of their business,” Hanna told me. “Managing your own personal energy is critical to business success. It’s not selfish: It’s an investment in the people you’re supposed to take care of, at home and at work.”
A performance and wellness coach, Hanna recently authored “Sharp: Simple Strategies to Boost Your Brainpower.” After gaining a master’s degree in counseling psychology, she became a certified personal trainer, then earned a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition. She now consults with businesses about how to run effective wellness programs.
Olivia Mellan: What do advisors need to know or do to make their businesses and lives more successful?
Heidi Hanna: You need to realize that there’s no separation between work life and home life: It’s all one life. The key is finding the right balance.
We often get overwhelmed because there are so many things we want to do better. But if we focus on a few simple but powerful changes, like changing what we eat and when, and changing when we take breaks, it can make a tremendous difference in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy levels.
In fact, the idea that “managing energy is the key to extraordinary results” is at the heart of the Energy for Performance program, which I’ve helped Janus bring to thousands of financial advisors since 2006.
OM: I’ve heard about the importance of taking breaks. Why? How many breaks and how often?
HH: People think taking breaks means you’re lazy, whereas it’s actually a strategic investment in the energy you have. I recommend a couple of three- to five-minute breaks a day, one in midmorning and one in midafternoon. Try to work up to three breaks a day. When I started taking three breaks for three minutes each—that’s less than 10 minutes a day—I found my mental clarity, creativity and energy improving.
OM: What other suggestions do you have to help people recover energy they’ve lost?
HH: Because our attention is being pulled in so many different directions, we need to invest energy back into our brains to maintain focus. That’s why I recommend reprioritizing your tasks every day. Don’t spend your energy constantly putting out fires or dealing with nonessentials that crop up.
Try chunking your day into 50-minute blocks, leaving five minutes before to focus and five minutes after to recharge.
The recharging process I use is like a short meditation. I call it “Brain Recharge.” The idea is just to change your focus to something that’s calming or positive to allow the brain to go through the relaxation process. When your body is stressed it produces cortisol, which is toxic to the brain. When you’re relaxed, it produces positive endorphins.
OM: “Recharging” is a great image! Especially since we so often feel drained, as if we’d depleted all our vitality.
HH: Mental and physical energy often go together. Another of my suggestions is don’t sit for longer than 90 minutes. Try standing meetings with your team or walking meetings with your clients.
As a financial advisor, you may only have five minutes with a client or prospect, but if you manage your energy well, those five minutes can be more impactful than if you’d spent an hour with that person.
OM: How are you using ideas like these to educate advisors about wellness issues?
HH: For six years now, I’ve been an independent consultant helping Janus develop health and wellness training for their Janus Labs programs. There are three modules to my work with Janus: Energy for Performance focuses on physical energy; Stress for Success, on emotional energy; and BrainWorks, on mental energy.
To me, any wellness program should discuss all these dimensions and how they work together. For example, if you aren’t eating frequently enough, this has a negative impact on your emotions and your ability to focus. On the flip side, if you are mentally exhausted because you haven’t taken breaks, your body will crave high-fat, high-calorie foods that will drain your physical energy.
OM: How have your programs been received?
HH: Financial planners are getting more and more interested in this field. Our database currently includes more than 10,000 advisors who have participated in talks, workshops or calls. Last year Janus started a new LinkedIn group called Balanced Advisor for anyone who wants to know more about these issues. (See sidebar, below.)
When I did a conference call for advisors about brain health and cognitive fitness, there were 4,000 financial advisors on the call. They really want to know more and more about this whole area.
A Practical Way for Advisors to Find Life Balance: Fusion
Stuart Silverman is the founder and CEO of Fusion Advisor Network in Elmsford, N.Y., which provides business management consulting to some 260 independent financial advisors with more than $3 billion in assets under management. Positioned as an alternative to a traditional broker-dealer relationship (working through BD NFP Securities), Fusion works to provide support for its affiliated advisor firms’ growth in areas such as marketing, technology, human capital and business operations—and now, quality of life.
OM: What prompted your concern about wellness as an issue for advisors?
Stuart Silverman: We used to work with our advisors informally, one on one, to relieve their feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed. But in 2008, we saw them going through a lot of challenges: market turmoil, worrying about clients and their families, trying to be a business owner as well as a good father or mother at home. We realized we needed to ratchet up our support on a more formal basis.
So we created a program called Thrive. Thrive has absolutely nothing to do with financial planning, equities or the stock market. Instead, it focuses on quality of life issues and how we can find more balance and contentment in our lives.
OM: How does the program work?
SS: We live in a high-tech world, bombarded by too much information. So we teach advisors how to slow down and put things in perspective.
Last year, for example, we held a four-day Mindful Leadership and Wellness Retreat in conjunction with the Institute for Mindful Leadership. We took a group of 25 advisors up to the Catskills to learn meditation, yoga, mindfulness training and mindful leadership.
OM: It’s hard to imagine logical, numbers-oriented advisors doing yogic asanas! How did it go?
SS: They had never seen anything like it. It was not a business retreat, it was a chance to find life balance. How do I become a better parent, a better advisor, a better person?
And it really worked. I’ve seen Type A advisors who now meditate or do yoga, who’ve learned to slow down. (See sidebar, right.)
OM: What’s next?
SS: After everyone came back and shared their comments, there was overwhelming demand for others to experience this. So Fusion is now embarking on a new initiative focused entirely on quality of life. Our program will feature key speakers and retreats dedicated to everything from meditation to diet, exercise, balance, sleep and mindfulness. It’s a work in progress, but will certainly be valuable to those of us striving for that happy medium where we find true satisfaction in all we do.
OM: It sounds as though you’ve already helped independent advisors to move toward greater wellness.
SS: I founded the Fusion Advisor Network on the principle of sharing: ”fusing” advisors together while developing a culture where member firms can flourish and grow. These past few years have certainly validated this business model.
As leaders in our families and in our businesses, we’re all responsible for creating environments where people around us can flourish through nurturing, innovation, creativity and positive energy. While this sounds straightforward, it can be incredibly challenging. Our hopes are that this program will help expose us to many tools, speakers and resources that can make a difference in our everyday living, while enabling us to be mindful of ourselves and everyone around us.
How You Can Benefit
Silverman, Hanna and other financial industry pioneers are opening new windows to greater satisfaction, productivity and client value for advisors. As an independent practitioner for whom work-life balance has always been a central—and sometimes elusive—goal, I’m a strong supporter of their efforts. (In fact, I’ve already joined Balanced Advisor on LinkedIn.)
With so many people counting on you, it’s easy to feel that you’re the only one dealing with so much responsibility and the stress that comes from it. But incorporating more wellness techniques into your daily routine, you can learn how to take better care of yourself, your business and your family—and face the future with better health and balance in your life.