It's NFL training camp 2012 and the media is clamoring to talk with Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, known as RG3, the much heralded winner of the Heisman Trophy the previous season at Baylor University.
As he stands in front of his locker, a simple statement posted there, "Know Your Why," captures the attention of a local reporter. "What's that about?" he asks Griffin.
RG3 replies that each team member has to know his "why" and also the "why" of the guys around him. This knowledge makes you more willing to sacrifice for your teammates because you understand everyone's purpose, he says.
It seems simple, but how many of us think about our why and can articulate it? Why do you do what you do? Why would you willingly spend 82,000 hours doing it? That is how many hours the average person spends working between college and retirement. If you aren't clear on the why, those 82,000 hours are going to be slow and painful.
Do you know your own why? The why of your clients? The why of your company? Knowing the why creates clarity.
Clarity helps us to connect with our clients and prospective clients. It also defines our choices. It guides what we say "yes" to in our lives and what we say "no" to. It allows us to be intentional about where we spend our time and our energy on relationships and responsibilities.
Sometimes it can be hard to say no, and sometimes we have a tendency to drain our energy by investing in the wrong things and wrong people. Clarity makes it easier to act with intention.
The flamboyant NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens is a prime example of an athlete who did not get clear on his why. As a result, it negatively impeded his career as a professional football player.
I think it became more important to him to gain fame and be cast as an outsider. He became well known through social media for sharing things that he shouldn't have. He lost his focus on playing football, and it took a toll on his reputation. He became so involved in this world that it distracted him from football and in turn it made him a distraction within the clubhouse. Unwilling to deal with the distraction he had become, NFL teams did not pursue him when he became a free agent.
Had Owens been clear on his why, he could have continued to play professional football until he was actually ready to retire.
How do you find clarity? Start by asking yourself why more often. Think about what clients you focus your energy on and why you spend your time there. Is that where you should be spending your energy or would it be better invested somewhere else? We've all had clients that become an energy drain. When this happens, we have to pull back and think about our energy expenditure. Is the energy invested worth the return or is it reducing your ability to deliver for other clients?
The wealth management space is very competitive and has many similarities to the sports agent space. Your why can be a real differentiator. We can all articulate what we do and how we do it. But if you can speak authentically about why you are in your role, it will help you connect. My advice is to gain clarity on your why and lead with that in your discussions with prospective clients.
Each person's why is personal and unique. Maybe you became an advisor because your family experienced financial difficulties when you were young and, ever since, all you have wanted to do is keep others from going through that very same thing. Maybe you focus on a certain niche market for a particular reason.
Whatever your why may be, it will help you establish a connection with a prospective client that is the foundation for building a solid relationship. Don't lead with your what. Most of your prospects know what you do; instead, they want to know what inspires you to do it.
We can flip this thinking and process as well. Why do your clients want to protect their wealth? What role and value does money play in their lives? How do they see their lives changing over the next year? Over the next five years? Why are they looking to switch advisors? Will you be able to manage their expectations?
As a sports agent, one of my clients for years was Michigan State men's basketball coach, Tom Izzo. Izzo is one of the best coaches in the game. One reason is that he creates clarity and accountability for his players. Each season, Izzo hands his players a 3-by-5 card and asks them to write down what will need to happen for them to regard the season as a success. He gets a variety of answers, like "win a national championship," or "put myself in position to be drafted in the NBA" or "graduate with honors."
Izzo reviews each response with the player and confirms that these are his goals. He then asks if the player wants his help to reach those goals. They all respond yes, so Izzo reminds them that he is going to hold them accountable. By handling the process in this manner, Izzo has created buy-in from his players and can act accordingly. They have given him permission to hold them accountable.
You can ask your clients and prospective clients a similar question to determine what success looks like for them. It's important to get clarity on this early in the relationship and to use it as a measuring stick throughout. It gives you a mutually-agreed-upon definition that you can refer back to at any point in the relationship.
It's important to keep that question in mind because it helps ensure that the relationship starts off with clarity on both ends. Then you can use that as a check-in point as the relationship evolves. It's not always an enjoyable conversation to have early in a relationship, but it will help offset other tougher conversations down the road.
If you need a reminder, take a cue from RG3. Tape a sticky note on your desk as a reminder to "Know Your Why."
Molly Fletcher is president and CEO of MWF Enterprises, an Atlanta agency that works with sports and corporate clients on team-building programs.
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