Talk Less – Listen More.
Whether it’s working with female colleagues or serving female clients, you need to know that women’s number one complaint continues to be that men don’t listen to them and, in fact, talk over them. Sadly, nowhere is this complaint more prevalent than in the financial services industry.
Oddly, the issue has become even more obvious during the Covid pandemic when virtual platforms for team meetings are now the norm. It’s easy to see who is dominating the conversation by whose “square” lights up most frequently.
To put things in context, women’s participation in the financial world is relatively recent – so the assumption that men know more about all things financial continues to prevail. However innocuous this perception may seem, the ramifications are huge and certainly detrimental to the success of the financial community – where female investors are becoming increasingly important and the number of female advisors is growing.
The dynamics can’t be overlooked – the more women continue to be ignored or dismissed, the more alienated they report feeling. This sense of alienation explains why so many women with money to invest resist reaching out to financial advisors and why so few young women gravitate to careers in advice. What we hear most often from the women we interview is that they still think of financial institutions as “old boys’ clubs”.
But here’s the thing, almost all the men we talk to display an honest desire to connect better with women – they just don’t know what they do that alienates women. When we tell them they don’t listen enough, interrupt and talk over women – they are shocked. They believe that, while other men might do that, “they” don’t – of course evidence dictates otherwise.
When we call out the financial executives and advisors we work with on this behavior, it is not to ‘male shame’ but rather to ‘enlighten’.
For financial advisors truly committed to an honest look at their behaviors in an attempt to better connect with both men and women and grow their practice in the process – here is our best advice.
1. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.
Sometimes it’s easier to see faults in others than to acknowledge them in our own behavior. Team up with a like-minded colleague – observe each other in meetings and keep score – actually track how many times someone interrupts a female colleague – or for that matter any female, even at a casual lunch.
It’s a good idea to select a colleague who’s open to learning and willing to call out your behavior when you interrupt or talk over someone. Your friendly and natural competitiveness will propel both of you to improve. Discuss strategies on how to bring the frequency of interruptions down and improve your listening skills.
The take-away: increased self-regulation leads to better relationship management – not just with women but everyone.
2. You need to do more than stay quiet.
Listening isn’t just about not speaking – it does not mean simply closing your mouth while a female client speaks and then launching into your agenda as soon as she finishes.
Real listening is hearing and addressing her concerns and continuing the conversation based on what you’ve heard from her. We call it “listening with heart.”
The take-away: Absolutely do listen more but don’t try to fix everything. Sometimes good listening is just that – allowing someone to vent, understanding that they are not always looking for a solution.
3. Accept you may not be the smartest in the room.
All too many men move ahead in their careers by being the loudest in the room. When competing with colleagues, it was imperative to show they were the smartest and most worthy of advancement.
However, when you stop trying to compete and accept that your female colleagues are most likely as smart as you and frequently have great insights to share, it’s you who benefits.
And it’s no different when it comes to your female clients – don’t assume that you are the smartest in the room there either. While you might know more about investing in general – you most likely don’t know everything about her life circumstances. Accept that she is the expert when it comes to her life.
The take-away: Your efforts to show off your knowledge comes off as arrogant and insensitive to most women – and they will shut you out. Open yourself up to learning from and collaborating with women and you will see your practice grow.
Talk less and listen more! Maybe not the easiest task but arguably the most important skill for any financial advisor to be successful.
For more information on working with women who invest, visit our website www.strategymarketing.ca, sign up to our mailing list and order our book INVEST(in)HER – The Smart Financial Advisor’s Guide to Winning Female Clients in 6 Easy Steps