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Leaders Need to Gain Trust — Here's How

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What You Need to Know

  • Taking care of yourself first is the first step to gaining the trust of your clients and employees.
  • Provide clients and employees with a clear understanding of what you know and be open to learning what you don’t.
  • The best leaders focus on what they have, not on what they don't.

“Leadership begins with trust, so why not trust your own?”

I wrote that line in a letter to myself decades ago. I needed to push myself to get over my fear of starting my own consulting business at age 23, and frankly, to heal from a traumatic event that had happened to me five years earlier.

Before I could make such a drastic and risky move, though, I first needed to learn to trust myself. Today, I’m celebrating my 20th year in the wealth management industry, and my 18th year running my own consulting firm.

Over the years, I’ve spent much of my time helping advisors build leadership skills and understand the meaning of trust.

At its core, leadership is rooted in trust. It begins with the relationship between you and yourself, you and your clients, or you and your employees.

Now that we are coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an opportunity for all of us to take the leadership lessons we’ve learned recently and apply them to the coming decades of change and growth.

Across business sectors, we’re seeing record turnover, which extends to our own industry —where a high number of advisors are transitioning from one firm to another.

Our industry and its leaders can pull together to build each other up through trust. I’ve learned that leadership begins by embracing several elements that are key to trust building. Below, I highlight what my many years of consulting have taught me about them.

Take Care of Yourself

The most central element of creating trust begins with you. That is, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

It’s like when in an airplane emergency you’re asked to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting other passengers. If you don’t follow this rule, you may find yourself incapable of helping them. And if that happens, your life and those of others are at risk.

Advisors need to be able to show employees and clients that they take care of themselves. They can do this by taking breaks, expanding their training and keeping up with the latest industry developments

Stay up to date on the new services and trends that matter most to your business and consistently expand your knowledge base. When you improve your own leadership, you gain strength and can deepen the services you offer.

Taking care of yourself first doesn’t mean that you put your interests before those of your clients — quite the opposite. This approach improves your ability to serve your clients without having your needs get in the way of helping them achieve their dreams.

Take Care of Others

Slowing down to take better care of yourself speeds up your ability to take care of others. Once you’ve taken care of yourself, you’re better prepared to lead yourself through client relationships and to strengthen them. In addition, you’re setting an example of how clients and employees can best treat themselves.

In the case of employees, it’s critical to be assessable. If you want your team to provide better service to clients, you should show and train them on how they can give better, deeper advice. To do that, you have to be fulfilled in your own business and career, and show that you are meeting your own needs and thus can help other’s meet theirs.

If you want clients and employees to trust you, train them through your actions. Provide them with a clear understanding of what you know, and open yourself up to learning what you don’t.

In doing so, you create a culture in which everyone on your team is consistently willing and able to learn from each other. Plus, as you set the example and then deliver on it, trust begins to flourish.

What the Best Leaders Do

As I’ve studied and learned from some of the best leaders in the business, the leaders who truly have trust operate similarly to each other — and thrive.

The best leaders, instead of looking outside of their own companies, put their focus on setting the example within themselves and then train the people they already have. They keep their attention on the people around them.

How do these leaders gain more trust? Instead of focusing on what they don’t have, they focus on what they do have.

It’s easy to think about the revenue, clients or employees you don’t have. But those feelings of “not enough” are almost always driven by comparison.

Instead of making comparisons, the best leaders maintain their focus squarely on what behaviors within themselves and their businesses they can improve. The more you do that, the more trust you’ll gain.

Future business growth follows trust in the advisory industry and in other fields. Trust will lead you, where you want to go — no matter who comes and goes, into and through, future growth.