Perception bias is a problem in almost every industry, but I would argue that it can be especially difficult for advisors. Starting with the antics of Charles Ponzi and rolling all the way through Bernie Madoff and beyond, a few high-profile instances of negative behavior can make some prospects assume that all advisors are only in it for themselves and have no real interest in doing good for their clients.
How we manage perception bias, both when its directed toward us and when we direct it toward others, can have a powerful impact on business growth.
Michael Lewis—the author of many books that have attracted Hollywood’s attention, such as Moneyball and The Big Short—has a new book called the The Undoing Project. The book itself covers a wide range of stories, some small and some big, but much of the writing has to do with how we make decisions and the factors that might influence those decisions.
Lewis tells an anecdote about how NBA scouts were evaluating a draft pick of a basketball player from a European league. One of the scouts commented on the player’s physique, saying that it looked like he had man boobs, a little extra fatty tissue around his chest than other NBA athletes. Soon, the description turned into a nickname, and every scout for this particular team knew this player only as Man Boobs.
Eventually, they realized that any objective ability to evaluate the player was completely clouded by the derogatory nature of the nickname. They couldn’t look beyond his nickname, and thus didn’t draft him. This player turned out to be on the top picks of the season, and they had missed out. From then on, the general manager banned the use of nicknames, hoping that would help scouts focus more on ability and potential than on appearance.
This is a humorous example of how perception can affect decision-making, but it’s a very real challenge that affects us at both ends of the spectrum. Our perception influences our choices, and the perception people have of us influences theirs. Being mindful of how we make choices and how the people we interact with—such as prospects and clients—make choices can help us to overcome the problems that perception might present.