Julie Littlechild, author of The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement, spent decades working closely alongside advisors, primarily with her Advisor Impact firm which helped planners survey their clients. While she and the advisors were focused on the clients, she must have stolen occasional glimpses at the advisors and their firms, and their outlook on life and the success of their firms. She noticed that some advisors were stuck on a treadmill of growth, living a life of vague desperation at the idea of just barely getting everything done over the course of 50 and 60-hour weeks, trying to connect a multiplying number of dots as they grew their firms.
But there were others who could hardly wait to get out of bed and into the office. They were in control over their lives and businesses.
The former were increasingly worn down by the responsibilities to their staff, clients and firm, while the latter were energized and engaged.
And, interestingly, the former were struggling to market themselves while the latter had become electro-magnets for referrals that they never had to ask for.
The Pursuit of Absolute Engagement is a guidebook to transitioning from the former to the latter. It is an invitation to have the courage to achieve something better and more fulfilling with your career, and a roadmap to getting there if you dare.
The absolute engagement formula has three components: you work with the kinds of clients who energize you and for whom you can do your best work; you do the kind of work you want to be doing every day; and you play the role you want to play on the team that is your business.
How do you get there?
You start by articulating your personal vision—your unique answers to the three components. This requires some research; indeed, Littlechild emphasizes more than once that the road to absolute engagement leads out of your comfort zone and can take time and energy. She talks about having “grit” and a support network. Your brain will constantly tell you that you can never achieve this wonderful business life before you’ve even tried to imagine it.
Push all that aside and dare to ask yourself: Who are the clients you enjoy working with? How would you describe them? What are the daily activities that you look forward to, and what other responsibilities sit on your desk like a lump of dread? Is your current job description facilitating your ideal day, or is it forcing you to be someone you’re not and don’t want to become? How would you define the ideal role you’d play in the overall process of acquiring and servicing clients?
As a thought experiment, Littlechild asks the reader to go through the exercise of completing these sentences as powerfully as possible:
At [your firm] we work with clients who…
The reason we work with these clients is because…
The reason we provide this is because…
The interesting thing about this exercise is that, while it opens up a direct pathway to a better professional life, it also encourages you to think about the ideal client experience, and the ideal firm to provide that client experience. How satisfying would it be, how engaging, to bring that kind of service into the lives of the people you most enjoy working with!
As you become newly-engaged with your professional life, and leave the tired treadmill of growth for growth’s sake and drudgery for—why exactly?—you create a deeper, more satisfying level of engagement with your clients. Of course, this is to your benefit, but how much more will clients benefit was well!
Here, at last, we get to the mystery of what Littlechild had observed over all those years about that small handful of advisors who were truly engaged—the reason why they had become a magnet for referrals. They enjoyed—personally enjoyed, which was a goal—a deeper level of engagement with their clients, and their clients found the high-engagement level of service to be extraordinary and transformative. Why would they NOT recommend this advisor to their friends and neighbors?
Interestingly, the book offers research which suggests that literally 100% of all referrals come from clients who feel a level of engagement with your firm. If you’re merely “servicing” clients, no matter how diligently you’re slogging through one case after another, no matter how carefully you’re tending to the projections and rebalancing, the clients aren’t going to feel it—and they aren’t going to refer, even if you take the advice of brokerage marketing consultants and ask them at every client meeting.
From a marketing standpoint, those who achieve this state of absolute engagement are the “haves,” and every conscientious fiduciary advisor who is a slave to their firm falls into the unenviable category of the “have nots.” The circle completes itself: if you can manage to be selfish enough to achieve intense personal satisfaction from your business life, your firm will benefit too.
There’s a lot more here. There’s a whole chapter on how to create that great client experience, and a short chapter that helps you define your role in the firm—if you need guidance and structure in that part of the self-discovery process. Another chapter gives you guidance on how to engage each member of your staff and your team as a whole, so that everybody on the team is participating in absolute engagement. Beyond that, anybody who buys the book is invited to download a workbook and action plan that will walk you through your personal journey to absolute engagement.
You can download the book here: https://www.absoluteengagement.com/book or buy a hard copy version. If you do as a result of this message, I predict that some future highly-engaged version of yourself will thank me for it.