Thursday, October 24, 2019

Focus on What You Can Control

Many events seem totally out of our control; and that’s for good reason. Some things just are.

After Monday’s election results my heart was filled with sadness over the great division Canada is currently experiencing. The East against the West.  The urban cities against the rural communities.  The Liberals against the Conservatives.  Most Canadians thought the election campaigns, the “ugliest” in history, created a divided nation.  I have to agree. People were picking apart others’ flaws and parties’ platforms and policies.  Overall, as Canadians we should be grateful to live in a country which gives us the greatest freedom to choose and feel in control of our choices.  Where we live – where we work – where we worship – who we love – what we do – all rest with us.  

Hail-beaten canola swaths

The concerns for most farmers now are focused on completing this year’s harvest and crossing the “Finish Line”. The heavy frosts, shortened days, and definitely cooler temperatures do not permit the grain to dry down a smidgen.   Peace of mind and logic dictates what’s in our control and what’s not.  As they wrestle with the adverse weather conditions, farmers feel pinned down.  However, the hail, rain, and snow which delayed the harvest were out of everyone's control.  

We fret; we whine; we stew; maybe we even plot an inappropriate course of action in the face of our problems. People who are smarter than I am, shine a fresh perspective on a better way of dealing with problems.  In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey spells out effective life principles.

This list of habits falls under the separate umbrella of Private Victory, Public Victory, and Renewal. 

Habit 1:  Be Proactive (Principles of Personal Vision)

Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind (Principles of Personal Leadership)

Habit 3:  Put First Things First (Principles of Personal Management)

Habit 4:  Think Win/Win (Principles of Interpersonal Leadership)

Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (Principles of Empathetic Communication)

Habit 6:  Synergize (Principles of Creative Cooperation)

Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw (Principles of Balanced Self Renewal) 

Dr. Covey identifies our Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.  Like he mentions, “We each have a wide range of concerns-our health, our children, problems at work, the national debt, nuclear war.”  But he wisely states, “As we look at those things within our Circle of Concern, it becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about. We could identify those concerns in the latter group by circumscribing them with a smaller Circle of Influence.” 

He explains in detail the best way to handle our problems is to first identify them by appropriately placing them in their respective area: direct, indirect, or no control. 

Stephen R. Covey writes:

The problems we face fall in one of three areas:  direct control (problems involving our own behavior); indirect control (problems involving other people’s behavior); or no control (problems we can do nothing about, such as our past or situational realities).  The proactive approach puts the first step in the solution of all three kinds of problems with our present Circle of Influence.

Direct control problems are solved by working on our habits.  They are obviously within our Circle of Influence.  These are “Private Victories” of Habits 1, 2, and 3.

Indirect control problems are solved by changing our methods of influence.  These are the “Public Victories” of Habits 4, 5, and 6.  I have personally identified over 30 separate methods of human influence—as separate as empathy is from confrontation, as separate as example is from persuasion.  Most people have only three or four of these methods in their repertoire, starting usually with reasoning, and if that doesn’t work, moving to flight or fight.  How liberating it is to accept the idea that I can learn new methods of human influence instead of constantly trying to use old ineffective methods to “shape up” someone else!

No control problems involve taking the responsibility to change the line on the bottom of our face – to smile, to genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, even though we don’t like them.  In this way, we do not empower these problems to control us.  We share in the spirit embodied in the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, “Lord, give me the courage to change the things which can and ought to be changed, the serenity to accept the things which cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Whether a problem is direct, indirect, or no control, we have in our hands the first step to the solution.  Changing our habits, changing our methods of influence and changing the way we see our no control problems are all within our Circle of Influence.

His summation and encouragement are helpful when we face any problems-financial or otherwise.  Dr. Covey has given me food for thought to use when I am in a fretful state.  My hope is this assists you too.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Five C’s We Expect From Our Advisors

Have you fretted over an unpredictable situation?  My anxiety increases when I have to face my fears and need to be honest with my family, friends, and sometimes clients.  I am concerned our relationship may be jeopardized.  Perhaps you face the same dilemma. 

When someone has a problem or a concern, they may ask for our advice.  We realize our answer might not be one they want to hear.  Potentially they may be upset that we even suggested such a preposterous solution. 

Take this situation from a different angle. Imagine a tough conversation with your advisor about budgeting, succession planning, or a major real estate purchase. You need financial direction. Because of your solid relationship, whatever advice your advisor offers, you would certainly consider. You wouldn’t expect your advisor to be shaking in their boots afraid of your response. After all, you are counting on their expertise to help you analyze the best option.  However, you have to evaluate their qualifications and it’s acceptable to do so.

My top five C’s are intermingled with a few minor C’s.  Feel free to pick through the entire list of attributes. 


Because our advisors possess the professional knowledge, we trust their judgment. We simply cannot know all the fine details about a specific topic. Take tax planning as an example. The Income Tax Act is complicated to understand.  Not all the pieces of the tax legislation apply to everyone; however, we still need to filter through the pieces pertaining to our unique situations.

Whether it’s tax planning, legal advice, or insurance analysis, we are presented with many possibilities which make our final decision more onerous. Choosing what is in our best interest needs to be interpreted by a professional   This leads us to the next skill our professional advisor must possess.


Because our advisor communicates effectively, we recognize the reasons behind their recommendations. They talk at our level of understanding. Quite often the industry’s jargon will fly over our heads so any strategies must be explained in easy-to-understand language. Logic dictates that if we don’t understand the plan, we won’t understand the benefits. Communication is a two-way street.  Our professional advisor may possess all the textbook knowledge but the real skill is delivering the information so we get it.

Imagine your accountant saying, “We need to complete the Section 85 Rollover Form” versus “We need to complete the Do-Not-Tax-Me Form”. Notice the walls of the language barrier self-destruct. When our advisor takes down any language barriers, they are building trust in our relationship.  We automatically feel an ownership in the strategy because they communicated their reasons effectively.   


Because our advisor is candid, we can trust and believe their advice is in our best interest. As our relationship continues to build, we develop a strong connection.  This ideal chemistry allows our minds to be opened to tough conversations when we are told something with sincere honesty that our way isn’t foolproof.
     “That vehicle loan you think you need will financially drag you down. The debt servicing  calculation shows where you stand.” 
This takes us to the next quality we should expect from our advisor.


Because our advisor is undeniably confident, we can expect them to be fearlessly courageous with us.  Sitting on the other side of the desk in their office or around our kitchen table, we should expect our advisors to be courageously upfront with us even though we may not initially appreciate what they have to say. 

     “It’s going to cost us how much?”

     “You are telling me this is what can happen if I don’t do that?” 

Certainly, the expectation is there’ll be some objections (or pushback) when an idea is first presented.  But here’s the reality, we don’t need someone to appease us.  When they understand our situation and have the courage to tell us, then we are given the right information to make a wise choice.  We don’t have to like what they are saying to understand what they are saying is for our benefit.   

For any business, the two most difficult topics are succession and estate planning.  When business decisions impact an entire family, that’s a different ball game than selling a business and retiring with the sale proceeds.  This is when we expect our advisors to step up to the plate and help create a financial plan for a family business.  


Because our advisor is 100% committed to us, we feel confident in our decisions.  They presented all the facts, they completed their homework, they developed potential solutions, they explained the benefits and consequences of actions.  They have given their all (skills, knowledge, and expertise). When they hand in the assignment we have given them, then we can grade them on their performance based on our satisfaction. Most likely, they achieve a high mark because of their commitment to us.  When we are at peace with their advice, we can rest knowing our affairs are in order.

It’s a known fact that people in any sales industry (banking, insurance, dealerships, investments, etc.) have sales targets. Advisors who put our interests before their own earn our respect.  Our appreciation grows for the advisor who sets aside the target in the interest of doing what’s best for us.  Knowing our needs matter tells us our advisor is completely committed to doing their best for us. 


The next time you pick up a coin, pay attention to both sides.  You would agree neither side contributes more to its value.  The value is determined in unison. This truth applies to the relationship between our advisors and us.  The value of our joint relationship determines our success in our personal, financial, and business lives.   Neither of us (the advisor or client) should fear honesty because we are afraid of jeopardizing the relationship.  (In fact, the opposite could happen when we are not truthful. Our relationship may be compromised.)

When intentions are sincere and the advice is solid, the outcome will always be positive.  Great advice is directed to help and not harm us.  Regardless whether you are the taker or deliverer of advice, your relationship is built on a foundation of trust and respect and no one should have anything to fear.