An unloved, low tech tool

Imagine, me of all people, making like a Luddite!

Never have financial advisors had so much computing power and so much communication technology on our desks or in our pocket, and I love it all.  I won’t bore you with my issues with shiny objects.  SQUIRREL!

So, why have I become so fascinated by the potential of checklists?  Because the key to improving your practice is not more expertise. Yes, it is good to expand your professional capabilities, and yes, most advisors have less skill at running a business than in managing investments or doing planning, so more practice management training has value.  But, the key is that we don’t use our brains that well, and technology and skill are not the solutions.

Our mind is a glorious and elegant device. With it we can compose music, contemplate black holes, envision other times and other worlds, and imagine the possibilities! Remember the milk?  Not so much. Oh, we can, if we force it to, but it is not what the brain is designed for its competence. Yet, we insist on using it that way, and when we operate an environment as complex as financial advice, that means trouble.

Why do we follow up with clients a little later than we would like, choose that investment we later regret, leave the stock option value out of the retirement plan?  Because we forget. Because we pressed our minds into performing a job for which a piece of paper is vastly more competent.

Enter the checklist.  The cheapest, simplest little device to support your brain as it fulfills its higher purpose.  The brain is the executive, and the checklist is the administrative assistant.  You don’t want the executive filing things.  That would be an inefficient investment of her higher salary.  And executives would probably mess up the filing anyway – just ask my assistant!  Beyond costing less, the assistant will do it better.

And that’s what this tool can do for us as well.  How to design them effectively and implement them in your practice is what we will explore here.

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