One of the more memorable quotes from Barney Stinson, a character on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, was “when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” Part of the joke is that being awesome is a choice.
I was reminded of this recently when I was talking with an advisor about a value proposition. At some point the phrase “a commitment to excellence” came up in the conversation.
What do you mean by a commitment to excellence?
We are very good at what we do.
But what does that mean?
It means our advice and or service are top-notch.
Have you measured that?
How did you get to be excellent?
We always put the client first.
You get the idea. While working on a marketing plan, they were effectively trying to choose excellence. But excellence, like awesome, is not a choice. Like trust and peace of mind, it is an outcome. The outcome of a lot of other things you can choose.
My wife, who is a musician and music teacher, is fond of a cartoon where the student is asking the instructor “how do we skip over all this boring practice and get to the part where I’m awesome?”
So, if awesome is your goal, what can you choose?
Choose standards – Saying there are specific activities and outcomes that you track and measure in every client relationship is a lot more powerful than saying you provide great customer service. What do you make sure happens? What is acceptable? One of my favorite examples of maintaining a standard is agreeing upon a definition of “done.” If you assign a task to contact a client to schedule a review meeting is the assignment done when the staff member leaves the client a message? In our procedure manual, the process specifies making a note about the message and rescheduling the task a couple days later in case we don’t hear back. Only when we have a conversation with the client is it done.
Choose process – I have met advisors who are clear on what kinds of things they do for clients and how they formulate recommendations but who do not have a consistent process for doing it when they meet a new client. In a sense they are kind of re-creating it every time a new person walks through the door. That’s a tough road to awesome. (It also means a lot of wasted time.) Having a specific series of steps to follow makes it easier with the additional benefit of enabling you to step back and evaluate whether it’s the best process.
Choose habits – Habitually writing notes or a follow-up letter before you put away a client file, setting aside time for reading or learning, and emptying your inbox every day are activities you can build into your routine. Like practice, habit can be the most powerful drivers of competence if you embrace it. Most of what you do during the day is habit. Are they the most productive habits? Will they make you awesome? Choosing your habits holds the opportunity to do more productive things and fewer wasteful activities. Want to have better ideas? Pick a challenge and write down 10 ways to solve it. You don’t need to implement any of them, just be creative until you can get a list of 10. Then choose another problem tomorrow. Get in the habit of coming up with ideas and you will come up with good ideas more consistently. If you want to have a clear mind, choose to meditate five or 10 minutes today. Then choose to do it tomorrow. Make a conscious choice until you do it automatically.
Have you ever noticed that excellence is not one of the commitments in the CFP Code of Ethics? Integrity, competence, and diligence are. And when practiced, these and the other principles lead to excellence.
Awesome is a destination that starts with small things practiced regularly. What will you choose that will lead you there?