Advice That Sticks – Let’s Talk Family Enterprise | Podcast

Introduction Welcome to Let’s Talk Family Enterprise, a podcast that explores the ideas, concepts and models that best serve Family Enterprise Advisors in supporting their clients.

All views, information, and opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Family Enterprise Canada.


Host Steve Legler speaks with Dr. Moira Somers, author of the book, Advice That Sticks, to discuss the importance of not simply having the best solution for families that FEAs work with but taking the time to connect with clients so that they can increase the chances that clients will actually implement the ideas FEAs share with them.

Guest bio Dr. Moira Somers is a neuropsychologist, professor, executive coach and author of the book,

Advice That Sticks: How to give financial advice that people will follow. She is a leading practitioner in the field of financial psychology and financial change.

Let’s talk family enterprise explores global ideas, concepts and models that help family enterprise advisors better serve their family clients, brought to you by family enterprise Canada. All views Information and opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those a family enterprise Canada.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The let’s talk family enterprise podcast. My name is Steve Legler. And it’s great to be your host once again. Today’s guest is someone I met a few years ago. And when I started hosting these podcast, I instantly knew that I needed to have her on as a guest one day. And so here we are. Our guest today is Dr. Moira summers, a neuro psychologist professor and executive coach and the author of the book advice that sticks how to give financial advice that people will follow where it is a leading practitioner in the field of financial psychology and financial change. And she’s based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I met Moira in 2018 at the rendezvous of the purposeful planning Institute in Denver. And our paths have crossed again more recently and another group of folks who also serve enterprising families. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. So let’s say hi to our guests and kick things off Dr. Myra summers. Thanks for joining us today and welcome to the let’s talk family enterprise podcast.

Well, let’s talk debate here. All right,

Moira. Your book is called advice that sticks and so it’s all about giving advice. And the target for this podcast are family enterprise advisors. So it seems like a good fit because you’re talking about advice and we’re advisors, but part of me has a little bit of a hesitancy because I always like to talk about the fact that I don’t like to give advice I like to work with people to you know, come to their own conclusions and not so much just tell people what to do. But I think there’s a good fit with your book because I think the main premise of your book is that just telling people what to do isn’t enough, and there’s a lot more understanding and follow through that has to happen. Am I correct on that?

You are correct. You know, I chose the title of the book Steve with some degree of trepidation because I share in many ways your your sensibility about this. So in one ways, it was a flagrant attempt to just get under the tent in any way I could to folks who give advice, but you know what it comes directly out of my experience of working within the healthcare system and teaching at the medical school in Manitoba, where just as is true in the world of finance, in the world of medicine, you have to have two very distinct proficiencies you have to have technical proficiency. And you have to have interpersonal skill. And it turns out that both those things can be taught, and that’s a good thing. Oh, yeah, we don’t just have to wing it. But just as in medicine, where it’s not enough for us to teach a medical student how to select the perfect antihypertensive medication, for example. That’s not enough if there’s no chance that the patient is ever going to fill the prescription. Right, we have to develop competencies within professionals in various domains to help them understand the situation that the client or the patient is in and to really tailor make the advice and sometimes to be prepared to absolutely back off on what we think is the best thing and deference to what the client is actually ready for. Because the B team advice that the client is ready and willing to go on is better than the ATM advice that’s just going to sit untouched.

I love the fact that you went straight into the comparison or the parallels of the medical world in the financial world, because the beginning part of your book addresses that. And the fact that I guess the medical profession has progressed a lot in the last few decades. In terms of getting doctors to understand the parts you were just talking about. Getting the patients to follow their advice is not an inconsequential. Oh, hopefully they’ll follow it. So the medical schools have done a lot to change the training of doctors and the financial world. I guess we’re playing catch up in that in terms of making sure that people on the on the monetary wealth finance side of things have some catching up to do but at least we have the medical model to look at as you know they’ve gone ahead and done this maybe we should be doing the same thing.

Yes. And I’m really excited because there are now university programs that are attempting to research some of these self same areas with financial clients as the subjects instead of medical patients as the subjects. I think you know my whole assumption is that there is direct transferability from one domain to the next after all, like the best medical advice. The best financial advice happens to be preventative. If accountants and financial advisors and family enterprise advisors do their work well and the client is able to implement then it’s almost as though the client will never know how good you were for them, because you will have saved them a world of heartache. And so you know that’s kind of on the positive and optimistic end of things but on the on the difficult end of things with respect to preventative advice. It turns out that preventative advice is among the hardest to take. So yeah, I see parallels all over the place. There are some times where, you know, we just don’t see the parallels in the same way. But there are enough parallels that I think we can really benefit from a domain of knowledge that’s emerged rigorously, independently has been replicated time and time again and take what there is from that domain and apply it to other aspects of life.

That’s really interesting that you know, you mentioned the fact that the preventative stuff is the most important stuff, but you know, you don’t really get credit for it if they follow it because they just think they were a great clients. But it’s harder than to do the cleanup when patients don’t follow your advice. And the fact that these things can be learned, but we got to be willing to want to learn these things. So I guess if people are here listening to this, it’s because they want to learn a little bit more about how they can do this better and so I want to talk about you have a model in your book called The facts model that talks about the financial, the advice, the client, the team and the social and we don’t have time to go through all five of those. But I think the key ones that I would like to talk about a bit more are the client and I guess it comes down to understanding the client and where they are and what they’re ready for is that more or less what the client part of that model is about or could you comment on that?

Sure. You know, I’ve made my whole career out of studying what is it that makes it hard for people to follow through, not only with other people’s advice, Steve, but for our own best intentions for our lives. I did my doctoral dissertation on procrastination after all, and like any psychologist, I’m really interested in the psychological dynamics of any given individual or the skills of any given individual and so that’s why there is a C in the facts paradigm, which is the facts paradigm is about the five main domains that influence follow through. And client characteristics absolutely play a role. You know, you think about even your own life Steve, we all cherry pick what kind of advice we’re going to take. We all can probably list five or six things that we know we should be doing, but we don’t. And it’s not necessarily because we disagree with the advice, although sometimes we do. It’s a matter of priorities. It’s a matter of energy. It’s a matter of competing demands on our time and our energy and our resources. Sometimes it’s a function of how well we are psychologically if we’re tapped out, as often happens, by the way in clients undergoing big transitions in their life, like a sale of a business, a divorce, having to manage in a state those kinds of things. So it is really important for anybody who’s giving advice to be attuned to what the client is presenting their mental state, their ability to follow what we’re saying, by dedicate a whole chapter to something called a readiness assessment, which is really digging deep into what that given client might be ready to do and how motivated he or she is to do it. And what are the obstacles that might interfere with that?

We all know that we’re supposed to get to know our clients. And I think probably a lot of us have a tendency to think that once we got to know them, now we know them. And they’re gonna like hold the line and always be like that, but you’re bringing up the fact that oftentimes when they are seeking advice or when we are interacting with them, they may be at a different place in the cycle of their life and they might be in a place where it’s high stress situation and exactly, you know the times when you’re asking for advice or off often when there are changes going on. And so we really need to be sensitive to the fact that you know, meeting the client where they are is important, but where they are today might be even more important or this week. And what’s going on with some

that’s true. There are limitations on those KYC questionnaires that we fill out for financial advisors because, you know, you may get to know your client at a particular point in time, but that really doesn’t tell us anything about their ability right now or their level of motivation or their ambivalence right now. Those are things that you have to assess every single time. In medical school, we teach doctors to do a readiness assessment. Anytime you give advice. Anytime I give advice to any client or patient that I’m working with, the last five minutes of that session together will be in really determining Is this likely to fly? And if not, how can I back off because I might be the expert on a given domain but the client is the expert on his or her life. And somehow we’ve got to make these things come together.

And we should never forget that and yeah, it’s all great to say I gave the client great advice. And I hope they followed it. Dot dot dot but if you haven’t given enough time to making sure that the advice is appropriate not only for their situation but for the where they are and their ability to digest it and implement it. Then we’ve done a lot of the work maybe for nothing. You know,

advisors are often quite shocked to learn that here’s a little bit of research, Steve that only about 20% of recommendations are are ever acted on in any domain. So in other words, follow through is statistically abnormal

exception, not the rule.

That’s right. And we’re our training is just kind of bass ackwards on this. Really what we need to do is figure out so those folks who aren’t implementing exactly what’s going on there is it that I was tone deaf to their needs. Isn’t that something changed in between when I met with them in the office and when they got home or or something in the intervening weeks? Or did I really fail to understand some of those situational things that were in the background? You know, for example, things like other people in the patient’s life, the s in the facts paradigm which is the social environment in which the advice is embedded or on on which it lands. What are the defaults that support good behavior or the defaults that support status quo? As a young psychologist, I especially, you know, just coming out of a research program. My thought was, I could develop a screening measure that would allow me to get serially noncompliant patients, like just screen them right out of my practice and be left with a group of folks who are just highly motivated and great to work with. But you know, that is, I suppose that would be the Holy Grail, but it’s also the Holy Grail is part of what we call fantasy literature. And so, here’s something that was kind of humbling for me to learn as I got further into the research, which is that if you’re looking for the stats nerds out there, if you’re looking to define what accounts for the bulk of the variance, and whether a client will follow through with recommendations or not, things that the advisors do count for more of the variance, then all client characteristics combined. Wow, oh shoot, I do not want to hear that. I want to know that you know, I gave good advice and done it and they were just ornery and well, well. But you know, life does not actually support that with the evidence. I wanted to

talk about the the tea the team in the model because a lot of us in the MBA program, were taught that to collaborate with other advisors and help the clients together. And so maybe as a team, you’re more likely to catch certain things and do a better job or you might be tripping over each other. And then you brought up the fact of the assets of the social, which is other members of the family and we’re talking about family enterprise clients where there’s often a lot of other people whether it’s the spouse or the offspring, that that are all involved in this and you know, that are involved in whether or not this will work but now you just said wait a sec, the most important factor in all of this is the adviser and what we do so help me out with this one.

Yeah. Well, one of the things that, I believe is again, as true in the financial domain as it is in the medical domain, is it the people in this domain are well intentioned, highly intelligent people, and there is a kind of confidence that that breeds which is good, we should all be equipped with self efficacy as we move throughout our day, but they have an Achilles heel to them that confidence in that intelligence, which is that it can make us first of all talk too much. Oh, my God, free advisors, talk people. People in the financial world are talkers. And it could be that you know, at one point, they were disproportionately recruited in sales roles. And so that was a key quality that was needed. But I think you know, even all the jokes that we have about accountants and actuaries and you know, whether they look at their shoes, more our shoes, the fact is even in that realm, once you get those folks going, they really like to talk about the things that they’re confident about.

And they’re comfortable talking about them. And they’re more comfortable talking than stopping and making sure what they said landed because they can just keep going and know that they’ve they know their stuff and they can walk out you know self assured that that they did a great job, but oftentimes, it would have been better to talk for half as much as what they did, or maybe even less and do some more listening.

Yeah, within the medical school. Setting. We found actually not medical school, but within the medical practice research. We found that it takes the average physician anywhere between 13 and 15 seconds to interrupt. And that’s despite years of training to not do that. So you think about it within the financial domain. You don’t even have to take a course in basic communication, to act as an accountant or as a CFP. you’re held to certain standards that would require good communication skills, but it’s not a required part of the curriculum. So yes, what we have to learn is that we all suffer from the curse of knowledge. See, the longer we spend in school, the more the deeper our technical expertise, the harder it is for us to remember what it was like to not know this thing. And so jargon, creeps in jargon, or even a way of looking at the world. You know, when you think about what’s happened during COVID and how difficult it has been for scientists to communicate science to people, and how as a result, many people in the population have taken it upon themselves, to research on their own and to think that they are as equipped as a PhD virologist. In determining you know, exactly whether this pandemic is a threat or not us. But you know, that all started with mistakes or inabilities of scientists to communicate effectively.

So it comes down to communication right? It’s making sure like Mike, one of my favorite expressions is the biggest problem with communication is the assumption that has taken place and I think I just realized that that’s really what we’re talking about here is the expert communicates and says, You should do this and they assume that that has landed and they assume that it will therefore be done. And as you pointed out, 80% of the time, it won’t be that.

Yeah, yes, communication, how we communicate is absolutely critical. But how we connect is part and parcel of that. And maybe if we had to put it on some sort of hierarchy, we would put that one above, above even communication abilities. Now you think about those attachment studies of, of rhesus monkeys in the 1950s where they took little monkey babies away from their Mama’s and raise them in isolation and looked at, you know, what matters more to these babies? Is it physical comfort, or is it food and what they found was the boy, creature comfort contact is a huge part of the well being of mammals and to bring it back into into real life practice. If we feel psychologically safe, with the person giving us advice, then we are much more likely to disclose what’s really going on. We are much more likely to state that we disagree. We are much more likely to acknowledge when we don’t understand or when we need more support. Like would any of those four things be helpful to find you know, a family enterprise advisor Oh, yeah. To be able to create that those circumstances so that that somebody can say, I disagree. I need help. I feel safe with you. I know that you have my back.

You had me i connection. When you when you said it’s not so much the communication, it’s the connection that that’s before that I kind of went Wait a sec. So we can say whatever we say but if they don’t hear us because they’re not connected to us yet. And then it made me think about another one of my favorite sayings, which is, they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And so if I haven’t done the work to get them to know that we’re connected, and know that I care and know that I understand them and know that you know I can be safe with this person. Then a lot of what we’re saying is just gonna go in one ear and out the other.

It’s part of the data on when advisors get fired, for example, it happens disproportionately during or immediately after major life transitions because you know, unlike changing your socks are these small order of magnitude changes even something like maybe you know, changing a home big life transitions and there are resultant changes in identity that go along with that. My identity as a single person is very different from my identity as a married or a divorced person. Right, right. My identity as a widow is very different from my identity. As part of a couple my identity as a retiree is very different from my identity as a as a captain of industry. And so when people are going through major life changes they can in response to just minor little disturbances in the force during their meetings with us. They may come to doubt that the person who worked so effectively with the old them has the capacity to work with the Newseum.

Wow. So we’re going back to our know your client and know them where they are now. And if the client has gone through a change in their own head, they might be reevaluating us, as have we followed along and are we still able to connect with?

Well, even within the family office world, you know, one of the big challenges in that world is how does this team that was so embedded in the first generations life? How do they connect with the subsequent generations? Right? And we know that that’s a really fraught time in the family office world, because if generation one who’s now ready to hand over the reins, does not have the confidence that the officers can manage the transition to the next generation, or if that next generation does not have the confidence that the people who used to see them in diapers can now handle them being at the board table with them. Then that that is not likely to end well.

For somebody right?

Well, that is where most of us will get our new business is from disaffected clients of other advisors. So there’s all kinds of reasons to work to get better at this. It’s good for business it’s good for our job satisfaction. It’s good for the people that we’re attempting to serve. And it’s good for, you know how we can show up in the world to do good work.

I love the idea about the family office personnel so that the hired nonfamily people that are working and they need to bridge that generation gap with the family and often as as advisors that aren’t in a family office, but we’re working with one generation who hired us. And over the years, the rising generation comes into the picture and we need to be able to interact and understand and connect with that other generation as well. Or else after the current generation is no longer there. We’re likely to get switched out for somebody who gets the rising generation

and I am just so heartened by the fact though that again, these are just like technical skills can be learned. So too can the personal skills be learned? I cringe a little bit when people talk about them as the soft skills as though you know, they’re first of all that they’re fluffy. And secondly, the you know, you’re either warm and gushy or you’re hard and technical, and it’s like, we have to stop seeing these things in opposition and recognize that they are equally important aspects of a skill set of professional expertise. In the end, though, all decisions that any client makes all decisions that you will ever make, they go through the personal filter. They go through our sense of you know, do we understand it? Do we like it? Does it fit for us? Does it make sense for us? Do we want to do it every single decision, right? And so if you’re not addressing that aspect of your client they’re not likely to get there.

It’s it’s interesting that you talk about what you know, people look at it as either or soft or hard or technical or the family stuff and really, it’s not an either or it’s a both and and if we can’t, just like someone who only understands the gushy stuff, but doesn’t know the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars, they won’t survive very long working with the kind of families we’re talking about. But the people who only understand the taxes and the dollars, who don’t understand you know, the difficulties of the parents dealing with their rising generation and what might be going on. You need to be able to do both, and you can learn both, and you can practice both, right? So this has been great and I’m almost about to transition to the to the end, but there’s one more note I had here. You call yourself an executive coach in some places, and I want to know like that versus being a psychologist, what is what is the difference and to whom do you call yourself? What is there a difference in your methods or in the lane you’re in? Or is there a stigma that some people don’t want to be seeing a psychologist?

The two worlds feel really different. As a psychologist I am generally working with within the healthcare system with people who have in my case, as a neuropsychologist, people who have neurological diseases or autoimmune diseases, who might have mental health difficulties, such as depression or anxiety. And so that’s, that’s one hat. In the other world, I am working with members of family businesses who may have indeed all of those things that I just mentioned. And the fact that I have expertise in that area allows me to be kind of a safe person to talk to about those things. But I don’t treat those things in the executives that I’m coaching or in the families that I’m consulting with as a family wealth consultant. What I what I do is help them in their leadership in their deliberations about the meaning of the wealth that exists in the family, and how they want to disclose or not disclose how they want to give or not give how they want to support instead of unable. And when you have a psychologist who can do those other things, it also means that I can get people help in a hurry when they need it. One of the things that I really like to do within family enterprises is to make sure that there are dementia proofing measures in place, or incapacity proofing injures. So, you know, sometimes the worlds do come together, but generally they feel quite separate, Steve.

Excellent. Well, Moira, this has been so interesting, and I want to thank you for being here today and we’re getting to the end of our time. So as usual, we got to switch into wind down mode here. So I got the usual two final questions. The first one is for a book recommendation, hopefully something that you’ve read that helped you somewhere along the way that that might be interesting for our listeners. And then we’ll get to one piece of advice from an advisor to advisors. So do you have a book recommendation you can give us

boy, as you know, somebody who’s got 9 million books in various offices. What can’t I recommend? One that’s coming to mind right now that is a lovely read for advisors, especially ones who are new to thinking about the personal side of advising is by Dan Solon. So l i n, and it’s simply called Ask Dan is a lawyer who works also as an educator within various wealth advising communities. And it’s a lovely little book that I think all of us can glean something important from

Great, thanks. We’ll put a note in the show notes and a link to be able to get that book and I haven’t heard about that one before. And I assume that after the ask is then shut up and listen for the answer.

There’s another one that is under the category of a now for something completely different. It’s Janine Roth’s book called Lost and Found, and it is her wide open account of having been a victim of Bernie Madoff, when she named does a lot of spiritual writing. One of her books was probably her most famous book is called Women food and God but this is her this is kind of the the financial version of women food and God in which she talks she does a deep dive into the emotional meaning of money. And in her case, what what was it that led to her ever being in a position of becoming somebody’s victim?

Very cool. So we got a two for one on the book recommendations, and we’ll put links to both of those. And now I just need one piece of advice is if you know you have 9 million books, I’m sure you only have one piece of advice, but just one piece of advice from an advisor to families to other people who also work and advice families.

It would have to be something along the line of cultivate your curiosity and your caring, in equal measure, so that you can be truly open to uncovering what it is that people need from you both in terms of the advice that you might give to them but also in terms of the support that they might need in order to implement that advice after they leave your office.

I love it. Wonderful. The time flew by quickly as it always seems to wire thanks again for joining us and sharing your expertise with our audience. It’s a pretty steep thank you for inviting me, listeners. If you haven’t already subscribed, please do so and make sure to never miss any of these monthly episodes. Thanks again for joining us. Thanks Steve Legler until next time.

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