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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Leadership

What Makes a Great Leader? How They Think

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What You Need to Know

  • By comparing your present firm to your future firm, you wear down everyone on your team, including yourself, and just keep moving the goalpost.
  • The behavior gap between the best firms and below-average firms is that the former embrace progress instead of focusing on a future destination.
  • If you want something and want it right now, you’ll go fast but you won't go far.

When a financial advisor creates a business plan and an investor creates a financial plan, they both run the risk of making the same mistake. In short, both groups struggle with focusing on “things” rather than outcomes.

Instead of reflecting on the great “things” that already have happened, the human inclination is to do the opposite. Rather than appreciate what we’ve got, we instead look ahead at what we don’t yet have and make goals to get more.

The best leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with, who also are growing the fastest, don’t fall into this thinking trap. They simply celebrate their progress and avoid setting a goal that will always move forward once the previous goal is reached.

Here’s how to plan your business with better thinking — and be a lot happier as a result. Let’s start with how we think and the mental errors leaders make along the growth track.

Comparisons Wear People Down

It’s easy for a firm’s leadership to assess where they are now and where they want to be. The problem firms run into is not in wanting to achieve; it’s how easy it is to move the goal posts over and over so that they never reach a destination. It’s exhausting.

When you don’t stop to focus yourself on current achievements, it’s easy to burn out. Every goal reached is simply another marker on your journey to never-ending thinking that you always need more, and that type of approach to business and to life doesn’t allow room for appreciating and celebrating how far you’ve come.

If all you do is compare yourself to your future self (or to other firms who are ahead of you), you’ll wear down everyone on your team, including yourself, and keep moving the goalpost. However, if you celebrate small progress, you’ll begin to fuel more progress. It’s not so different from the compounding interest, what you fuel, grows.

The Behavior Gap

The behavior gap between the best firms and below-average firms is that the former embrace progress instead of focusing on a future destination. The attitude of never having enough is a human behavior and psychology issue. It’s easy to try to keep up with our peers; it’s hard to set out and chart out your own unique path.

But in working with advisors, I’ve seen that the leaders who build the fastest growing firms don’t struggle with “enough” thinking. They never say to themselves that they don’t have “enough” people, revenue, profits or anything else that could be seen as an excuse. They believe they can achieve their goals with what the resources they already have, and often this thinking fuels finding what else they need.

At the same time, though, they are realistic enough to know that they can’t have all they want at that very moment. Their mentality is that they have enough, and in time, they trust they will have what they need and want at the right time.

Living in the Now

If you want something and want it right now, you’ll go fast but you won’t go far. If you want something that your business needs and you are willing to take one step at a time to get it with flexibility, you almost always will get to where you want to go.

This achieivement may not happen on the timeline you originally set for yourself, but you’ll get there. And in the end, you’ll go far.

With that approach, take time to celebrate how far you’ve come in the past year. Identify the actions that brought you to where you are today and focus on consistently implementing them time and again.

As your focus shifts from future goals to current achievements, you should find yourself growing more consistently and faster, and being happier with your progress along the way.