Not the Key to Your Success

Jun 06, 2024

Recently I had the privilege of attending a business recognition trip to St. Thomas. It was a wonderful opportunity to unplug from work and relax with colleagues in a beautiful setting. Basking in the sunshine, ordering fresh-caught fish for dinner, and playing pickleball were on my agenda for the week.

One afternoon, I sat under an umbrella at the pool. Next to me was a woman who appeared to be in her 60’s. I said hello to her and asked how her trip was going. 

She sighed, rolled her eyes, and stated, “It would be better if my husband was sitting out here with me. Instead he’s up in the hotel room where he’s been working non-stop ever since he woke up this morning.”  

I commented that it was too bad he was missing such a beautiful day. 

She snickered. “He tells me the key to his success is that he makes himself available 24/7 for his clients. This is the way he’s been running his business for 37 years. ‘We wouldn’t get invited to be on these trips,’ he says, ‘if I didn’t make myself accessible all the time.’” 

I paused, trying to figure out what to say to her. I disagreed with her husband's philosophy. Yet I didn't want to be disrespectful.

“What about you?” she asked me. “How much work have you done since arriving?”

“None, actually." I proceeded cautiously, "My team and I deliberately work hard leading up to these trips to get as much work done as possible. Then I make a promise to myself and my spouse that I will not work while we travel. My partner is actually out deep sea fishing today. We’re taking in as much vacation and relaxation as we can while we are here.”

“Well, maybe you could talk to my husband… if he ever comes down here,” she said with a mix of sarcasm and sadness. “Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother coming on these vacations. It’s no different than a regular workday for him, just a better location. But I’m always by myself, hoping maybe this time it will be different.”

I was fascinated by her comment because what she was saying was strikingly similar to something I heard from another financial advisor’s wife last year while on a business trip to Italy.

We were standing in our hotel lobby at 11pm. A woman stood next to me while her husband was taking a phone call nearby. She too rolled her eyes and commented that with the 6 hour time difference between Italy and the US, her husband had been taking calls every evening since their arrival. He explained to her that when he's away for an extended period of time, he needs to check up on his assistant at the end of every day to make sure she is doing what she is supposed to. She stated sadly, "I don't know why I even go on these trips. He's not available."

So imagine this...

  • One advisor believes that the key to his success is being available for his clients 24/7.
  • Another advisor believes that he cannot be on vacation without micromanaging his assistant and getting briefed on everything she does each day he is away.

I don't know what your reaction is to these stories, but I find three things problematic:

1. This is not the definition of "vacation" for these advisors-- which is something they probably really need.

2. This is not the ideal vacation for their spouses, which creates inevitable disappointment and resentment.

3. This is not how any assistant wants to be treated when his/her advisor is away.

So how do you break habits that you've had for years? How do you let go, trust your team, trust your assistant, and give yourself the much-deserved break that recognition trips are intended for?

In the book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself the author states that your thoughts create your realityYou are:

  •   What you are
  •   Who you are &
  •   Where you are because of the beliefs you have about yourself.

The advisor who believes his key to success is being available 24/7? To him, he’s right. After all, he keeps earning these vacations as a result of this so-called strategy.

And the advisor who has to check his assistant’s work everyday he is away? Turns out, he's been through 4 assistants in 2 years. He says he doesn't trust his employees to get the work done. But what a vicious cycle for him-- and his next assistant-- to get constantly stuck in. Something has to change. And he knows it. He may need to make his expectations clearer. As I often say, inspect what you expect. But then trust people to do their jobs. And if they don't, then you can provide necessary coaching and feedback. But micromanagement isn't coaching. 

Friends, we have to stop these old habits that do not serve us. We need to get clear about the impact that our bad behaviors are having on the people we love, the people who work for us, and the people with whom we should be celebrating, focusing on, and putting work aside for.

The woman from the beach asked me, “What do you tell your clients when you are out of town? What if they need you?”

I shared with her my email auto-reply: "Thanks for your email. I’m out of the office catching some sunshine and getting rejuvenated after a very busy quarter helping our clients prepare for the year ahead. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that I won’t be checking emails as I’ll be enjoying some down-time with my spouse. The good news is that my awesome team is at the office ready to serve you while I’m away. Please email [email protected] and someone will be happy to help."

I explained to her that as advisors, we help our clients plan for vacations so they can take time off and enjoy their families when they do so. That means they need to be sure they have great staff and support in place so they can unplug. Whether it's child care for their kids, a great doggy day care for their pet, a clear auto reply that they're away and not checking emails— we want to be sure our clients do what they need to do so that business can continue in their absence. 

But we as advisors need to lead by example. I want my clients to know that it’s possible to work hard for 90 days, then take time away to recharge. I don’t want to be burned out anymore than my clients want a burned out advisor. 

We also have to honor our spouses (and decrease resentment) by appreciating them and taking them on a real vacation— not a work week with a nicer view. 

We have to hire great staff, train them well, then trust that they’re going to hold down the fort while we are away. Micromanagement leads to resentment. Every time. 

If you’re feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut reading this, you are not alone. Advisors struggle with this. Changing these patterns and unlearning habits you've had for years takes work. It takes practice. You probably won’t get it right the first try. 

Start with an apology. Tell your spouse you are sorry for not prioritizing him or her. Apologize to your team for not trusting them. And let everyone know you're working on changing these old behaviors.

Being available 24/7 for your clients is not your key to success. Success is putting in a solid 8 hour work day, and then making time for family when the work day ends. Success is telling your assistant, “Thank you in advance for handling things while I am away. I appreciate that I can count on you to take care of our clients so I can have some down time to get refreshed and come back really recharged.”

Let's reprioritize. The people you care about the most deserve to be elevated. 

Not to mention: You are better than this. You deserve the recognition vacation. You literally earned it. 

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