Define Your Own Wins in the Business

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Pictured left to right: Dave Dettmann, Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA, and Karl Dettman at Central Regional.

Pictured left to right: Dave Dettmann, Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA, and Karl Dettman at Central Regional.

Agent’s Year is closing in, especially in the Central and Eastern Regions. Have you been thinking about your goals knowing that soon Regional Meeting will showcase many of your results?

At your Regional Meeting this winter the stage will be brightly lit as you enter the room filled with energy and the buzz of excitement. A large theater screen with booming upbeat music will fill the auditorium and you will be surrounded by well-dressed advisors wearing ribbons attached to their name badges. In some cases, advisors will have so many ribbons that they drag from the lanyard along the ground. Many of them will take the stage and be held up for amazing achievements.

While Regional and Annual Meetings represent the celebration of accomplishments, the sharing of ideas and a chance to re-energize the business for many financial advisors, there is another experience that is common: Ribbon Shame. The symptoms include: feelings of unworthiness, jealousy, compare and despair, fear, anxiety, a desire to avoid others and self-criticism.

Ribbon shame can be cured by putting the ribbons you did earn onto your name badge without apology and enjoying the event without apology. Ribbon shame vaporizes in the presence of others who are sharing the same experience and being open about it.

Whatever your results are shaping up to be, you can run your own race. If I could design ribbons, I would like to add a few:

-Bravely went upmarket

-Conquered my lizard

-Being myself all the time in my practice

-Running my practice true to who I am and how I need to do it -Doing right by others all the time -Sharing my time and talents

-Setting good boundaries

-Telling clients the truth in my recommendations even when they don’t want to hear it -I overcame rejection—it’s not about me!

-Quieted my inner critic with self-compassion

-No more excuses for not doing activity

-Spending time with my friends and family

-Taking better care of myself

While these ribbons aren’t recognized by Northwestern Mutual (yet), that doesn’t mean that you can’t give yourself some credit for all of the things you are crushing right now that are not measured.

Why bother? Because your experience matters! A sense that you are accomplishing something and being successful brings about more of the same. Small wins add up! Count all of them and keep chasing them—even if there is no ribbon (yet).

Coaching Tip Write your own ribbon! What will you accomplish in the Agent’s Year that you would like to recognize yourself for? Share it with your mentor, your team and people who care about you. “Award” other advisors “ribbons.” Tell another advisor what he or she is doing really well even if it would never show up on a spreadsheet. Tell them you appreciate their kindness. The donuts they brought in. The way they always encourage you. The fact that they are dialing every day now. Or the way they make everybody laugh. Ribbon shame is dead!

Build a Practice Staffed by Partners, not Order-Takers


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“Here, take the rope,” said riding instructor Ryan Rose as he handed me a black lead rope that I connected to my horse Belle’s halter in the outdoor arena of a local stable. He was holding onto the other end atop his horse Pistol assuring me that he could help. (I was at Parelli Custom Camp…my version of the Ironman!)

I climbed on my horse and realized I was gripping the reins hard—my stomach gnawing with fear. The outdoor arena was a wide open space filled with horses and riders doing all kinds of impressive exercises together. The indoor arena was full so it came down to work in this outdoor space or do nothing (and we’re not quitters!). You see, Belle and I had not ridden in a wide open space much before. (Unless you count a few rides that I’d like to forget.) We have always had the safety of rails or walls should things get “interesting.” Belle really likes to express her high spirits. She is more “go” than “whoa” as they say. My mind was filling with stories about how Belle might take off and we’d end up bewildered in Idaho. 

Ryan encouraged me to concentrate on my riding while he kept me safe. I was instructed to shadow him like a game of Simon Says. Things were going fine until Belle decided to nip at Ryan’s horse Pistol. All of a sudden the horses were moving fast and fighting with each other and I started to fear the worst. Just as my wild imagination started to fire up, everything came to a halt. It was still. I was okay. Ryan did what he said he would do.

It was one of the most powerful moments of my life. Ryan gave me the experience that strong leadership feels great. It allowed me to relax, focus and learn because my needs were supported. Being a leader is about taking care of others so that they can grow. It is giving and kind.

Have you been on the receiving end of true leadership before? After this moment, I reflected that I had been acting like a lone ranger feverishly looking out for myself and trying to stay safe. It was holding me back from riding out in open areas the way I had wanted to for years. Accepting and trusting Ryan’s leadership was vulnerable, but it felt amazing and took us to the next level. Belle and I spent the rest of the clinic smashing through our past limits and trusting each other. It was so much fun!

How about you? Even if (especially if) you’re the formal leader of your practice or team I invite you to try it. Can you accept the leadership of others—particularly from those who report to you? Dynamic partnerships allow for flexible leadership depending on the people involved and the tasks underway. In this situation with this particular task, Ryan was the appropriate leader who could help me with the task of learning to ride confidently in a wide open space. As a business owner, you are technically the “leader” of your practice. Do you shoulder the full responsibilities of all leadership because of this role? 

If so, here’s what you’re missing: -New, fresh ideas from others -Engaged staff who act like partners -People who work and solve problems independently -A higher level of confidence exhibited by your team-Solutions to problems from people who may be better at something than you are -Reduced turnover -More investment in individual performance as well as the practice as a whole -Your own freedom to innovate -The ability for you to focus on the urgent instead of the important -A higher level of productivity and efficiency as the team deploys its full strengths and talents -A more strategic and effective use of talent

If you believe that you always have to lead you will create an environment of people who always have to take your orders. They will watch the clock and act more like employees and less like partners. This is to be expected when the environment is the classic boss versus employee model. 

If you want to run your practice in a new way, start by examining your own beliefs about leadership. Are you open to being led? What would it feel like to let go and have someone else take care of leading while you focus on something else that needs your full attention?

Once you have experienced what it’s like to relax into the leadership of others, you are prepared to become a new kind of leader. When you lead by taking care of others so that they can grow, it is safe for your team to take risks, try new things and feel valued and supported. True leaders understand that helping other people do their best work is the mark of the most skilled leader—not a flashy display of power. Try “holding the rope” for your staff as they explore new, unknown terrain. The safety you can provide will allow for a level of performance that isn’t possible without you.

Leadership creates relaxation, not conflict. Leadership inspires people to take a risk, not take unquestioning orders. Leadership is service, not control. Leadership builds up, and never tears down.

Coaching Tip Many leaders are wary of accepting the leadership of others because they fear a loss of control. It’s true! You will lose some control. What’s so bad about that? My hunch is that your need for control may be in the way. Start with letting go of low risk tasks. Watch how your team handles them. You may be pleasantly surprised that a new way emerges when someone else tackles something. Relax into the feeling that leadership isn’t doing everything yourself (what’s the point?!), it’s more about delegating! 

Close More Cases by Releasing Your Attachment to the Outcome


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

When is the last time you prepared for a really big close by taking slow, deep breath and thinking, “I am at peace with any outcome.”?

I thought so. In reality, most Financial Representatives (FRs) are not peaceful at all before this type of meeting! In fact, meetings that could close with $______ or more are called “big closes” or “big cases” in comparison to “closes” or “cases.” The pressure mounts as the FR frantically tries to prepare for the big close by putting extra pressure on anyone and everyone involved.

As the meeting approaches, anxiety really sets in along with troubleshooting any perceived possible miscalculation before anything even happens. Regular meetings are conducted by a reasonable, calm FR. “Big closes” are meetings led by an FR—now consumed with the singular obsession to close the case—who is focused on himself or herself and all of the “right moves” and “language” instead of the client. Ironically, the bigger the case, the stranger the FR behavior—have you noticed?

I’d like to hire a team of scientists to study the behaviors of FRs going to “big closes” and those going to “closes.”

The scientists would peer with great curiosity through the one-way glass and witness completely normal humans transformed into people who have a strong personal agenda, have shifted their attention off of the client and onto themselves and are willing to fight through objections like a warrior.

In the other observation area, calm advisors sit with people they deem “ordinary” and quietly close regular cases. They have an agenda that focuses on the client’s small needs, are giving all of their attention to the client and address objections in a matter-of-fact way.

The scientists would write notes on their clipboard that would probably say something such as, “deeply attached to outcome” about group one.

Your attachment to the outcome changes your behavior. Very subtlety you are no longer as neutral, apply more pressure, and become very focused on one outcome that you have decided equals success.

Notice how you might feel the need to “fight through objections.” How does the client react? Most people brace and become rigid when they feel like they are entering a conflict. In this scenario, the only way for you to “win” is if you prove your client wrong. Do you know anyone who likes to be or feel wrong?

Instead of meeting each client “objection” with rehearsed language designed to overcome it, what if you instead greeted it as helpful feedback? The client is telling you what they are really thinking. How about “say more…” instead of “block! defend!”?

If you can become deeply fascinated with the client’s perspective and coax them to talk about their fears, questions and concerns you are likely to be well situated to ask even better questions. These questions can help the client guide himself or herself to the best conclusion with their confidence in themselves and you intact.

“Say more…”

“That’s interesting, thanks for explaining. Tell me more about…”

“What is your story about money?”

“What do you think?”

“What are you feeling right now?”

Something magical happens when you treat all of your clients as people instead of “cases or closes.” They get to meet YOU. The real, authentic you who has always had their best interest in mind and in your heart. Drop your attachment to the outcome and take a deep breath. Try saying it: “I am at peace with any outcome.” Now go give.

Coaching Tip Releasing your attachment to the outcome of your meetings requires a feeling of abundance. You do not need any one case or any one client EVER! Remind yourself often that there are more people in need of your services than you could ever help in your entire lifetime. There are plenty of prospective clients and cases. Relax, breathe and know that you are free to be yourself. In fact, that is the only version of you that can really do what you do at your best.

Make Visionary Goals Bite-Sized and Achieve Your Wildest Dreams


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Planning time is coming up! Do words like Mission Statement, Value Statement and Vision Statement cause a slight numbing in your brain? If so, you are not alone!

As a Financial Representative (FR) you know firsthand from working with your clients that most human beings struggle to plan for the future. We are very good at tending to our immediate needs and wants. The moment we try to imagine our future needs and desires, plan for them and think bigger we may need a little help.

Just like this is a common struggle for your clients and their financial plans, it’s also true for planning for the growth of your own practice. Let’s start with how it usually plays out. I ask my clients, “what do you want most for your practice?” I hear “Forum! Pathfinder! An engaged team!” and so many more enthusiastic, huge ideas. As our session progresses and we start talking about what is happening right now that will create a Forum level practice (for example) it’s usually very hard for my clients to articulate that on their own. They fear they will destroy the quality of their lives if they really go for it if they even knew how. Perhaps really going for it will expose their vulnerabilities, cause them to work too much and feel like they are trapped in a permanent grind to sustain their new “success.”

My hunch is that these dreams, hopes and aspirations most often live in the clouds. They feel and sound good, but the path there is foggy and nerve-wracking at best. How do you dig in and “start writing Forum” RIGHT NOW?

How about one day at a time? It turns out that we can take any high level goal and reduce it to its smallest input or action.

Here’s an example:

Client: My goal is to qualify for Forum in May 2017. To achieve that I need to write at least $45,000 in premium per month.

Coach: What will it take to do that?

Client: I need to keep 15 Fact Finders per month. To do that, I need to set 25 Fact Finder meetings.

Coach: Okay, so how many Qualified Suspects (QSs) do you need to set 25 Fact Finder Meetings in a month—or about 6 or 7 Fact Finder Meetings per week?

Client: I need 50 QSs at least every month.

Coach: What if you break that down to a daily goal? How many QSs could you ask for and get every day that would be ridiculously easy?

Client: (Laughs) If I got two or three every day I would be set!

Coach: What will it take for you to do that?

Client: I am in my own way. I don’t know.

Coach: [Insert lots of coaching around belief systems]

Client: Okay, I feel ready to commit to prospecting for 3 QSs per day.

Coach: What would make that feel like more fun? You sound a little flat right now. Do you feel that?

Client: Yes, I’m nervous about this so it’s uncomfortable.

Coach: You like a little friendly competition. What if we make a game out of this? If you do not have 3 QSs by the end of the day you pay someone $100. If you meet your weekly goal, YOU keep your $100 and do something FUN with it! Haven’t you been talking about planning date nights?

Client: I like that. It scares me, but I think I can do it.

Coach: What if you try it for one week? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Client: I’m out 100 bucks. I don’t have my QSs.

Coach: Can you live with that worst case scenario?

Client: Yes, I want to try it!

Can you coach yourself through your own personal scenario? What do you want MOST for your practice? What is one thing that if you did it every day you would have the raw material that would serve as the input to create the output? For some it’s QSs, other FRs need to commit to dials, other people just need to make Center of Influence (COI) meetings a top priority. Identify the piece that fuels all of the others, break it down to a daily commitment, find a way to make it fun and interesting and give it a run. Start with a pilot! Notice how easy it is to fall into your old patterns of thinking. When you do catch this, gently guide yourself back to the daily goal.

Trying to achieve Forum within the context of a day is absurd. You didn’t build your practice in a day. Why would you impose such a giant goal on yourself? Break it down into the smallest steps and watch the magic happen.

Coaching Tip It’s common for your inner critic to have some input on ridiculously easy plans. More, more, more! It’s never enough! You dialed already! Dial more! You prospected today! Prospect more! How does it feel in your body when your efforts are never enough? Do not tolerate this another day. It IS enough if you do it every day.

Is Self-Sacrifice and Stoicism Holding You Back? Enough Already!


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“You get what you tolerate,” booms coach, philanthropist and author Tony Robbins in his familiar gravelly voice to an auditorium full of thousands of people at a seminar called “Date with Destiny” filmed for a documentary called I Am Not Your Guru now on Netflix.

Robbins tolerated a lot while he was growing up and, as a child, he had no choice. At an early age his father left and Robbins served as a caregiver for his two siblings and mother. His mother was addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol and had very few resources. At times, the family struggled to have food on the table. At age 17 his mother chased him out of the house holding a knife and Robbins never went back. Today, he has found a way to be see this upbringing as what helped shape who he became.

In the documentary, he describes himself today as, “obsessed with relieving pain and reducing suffering in others.” He is now internationally known and highly regarded as a best-selling author and source of inspiration for millions of people to overcome their own pain and struggles. He shares in the film that it was his own painful journey (there and back) that drives him to help others. His talks, immersion seminars, books and coaching give others hope and perspective.

What can you take from Robbins that can help you in your financial practice? How about: what are you TOLERATING right now that does not serve you? If you give yourself permission to stop tolerating people, situations, and circumstances that do not serve you what would you change right now?

Do you: -Work with clients who are unappreciative, unresponsive, rude and even disrespectful? -Fail to set boundaries and expectations and just get what you get? -Accept less from yourself than what you are capable of doing in your practice? -Force yourself to do things that go against who you are and the way you like to do things? -Tolerate poor performance from others? -Allow people to mistreat you? -Let yourself stop taking care of yourself (exercise, nutrition, rest, etc.)? -Work way, way too many hours all the time? -Maintain the status quo in your life and the lives of your clients because asking for more would make you uncomfortable? -Criticize and belittle yourself? -Set your goals too high and/or not celebrate when you DO achieve your high goals?

What else? Write it down. This is important!

Now, what will you STOP TOLERATING TODAY? Write it down. Tell someone. Start now.

You have well-formed ruts in your brain that you drive down daily. To change your patterns and their painful outcomes you will need to grip the wheel and hang on because it’s worth it. When you stop tolerating what you’ve been putting up with it may be bumpy at first. My hunch is that it may be the only way to create the life and practice you want and deserve.

Coaching Tip Pick one small thing right now that you will no longer tolerate and try it. By starting with something lower risk and getting a small win, you will prove that no longer tolerating things will not kill you! You will find the change process far more comfortable if you are willing to make small, incremental steps in the direction of a life that you no longer need to put up with, stomach or tolerate. You are worth it. Go get it!

Change Your Brain to Change Your Life (and the Lives of Your Clients)


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Have you ever heard the saying, “neurons that fire together wire together”? Neuropsychologist Donald Hebb from the field of associative learning coined the term. This is important for you to understand as a Financial Representative (FR) because it will help you understand your client’s “money story” and how to help make it more positive.

Hebb’s research found that the thoughts, feelings and experiences that humans have trigger thousands of neurons in the brain. With repetition, this forms a powerful neural network. This causes people to have predictable reactions based on their experiences.

For example, let’s say that your client grew up in a household with parents that diligently saved money and taught their children from an early age to put some money every time they received it into a savings account. Perhaps it was fun to put the money into a special piggy bank or take it to the bank. Doing so brought smiles and praise! It’s likely that your client still associates receiving money with a good feeling with saving a portion of it. Conversely, your client may have had an experience where they perceived that there was never enough money. For example, an influx of funds into the household might have been spent carelessly and your client went without school supplies or new shoes. This experience could have hardwired a stress reaction of fear and shame with money.

“As we grow, learn, and get bombarded by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, most of us develop clusters of fear, rage, or sadness that become deeply ‘hardwired’.” We aren’t born with these negative feelings,” writes Dr. Martha Beck in her book Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life No Matter What.

These associations are much like highways that get paved in the brain. The good news is that you can help your client choose to take a new exit and form more positive associations going into the future. Our brains are able to change themselves throughout our lifetimes! We can unlearn our negative reactions and rewire our brains.

Most people have some negative money stories. By helping your clients to challenge their thinking, learn new beliefs and take actions that are completely new, you are facilitating the formation of a new neural network.

Perhaps your client believes that being responsible with money means never having fun. The thought that you will ask them to follow a tight budget is coming from a neural pathway formed long ago. How can you show your client how a budget can make life MORE fun? For example, perhaps by setting aside a healthy amount of dollars to enjoy life now your client can begin to experience a new belief system because they associate following the budget with feeling good. That in turn creates financial freedom which supports the building of a new highway in the brain.

Maybe your client has a strong belief that permanent insurance is for suckers. They have been taught that only term insurance is the smart choice and it has been reinforced by the media, friends and family. As an FR, you will need help your client send new signals to the neural pathway. This might come from approaching the topic in a fresh, unexpected way. If you predictably lecture and talk at your client using the expected argument, that may trigger the neural pathway that leads to term insurance. What if you provoke your client to think by asking engaging, open-ended, curious questions? If you trust that your client can explore a topic in a new way by dropping your agenda, the client has a chance to learn something new. This can make your job more fun and interesting. How can you help form new and unexpected reactions and experiences?

We were born nearly fearless! You can return to this state over time by deliberately forming new positive associations and holding them in your mind. Choose to feel love over fear and seek out peace over stress through your hardest times. Steer the car boldly off the predictable highway into a new exit ramp that can open a whole new way of thinking and living. How about you go first?

Coaching Tip Author and coach Dr. Martha Beck recommends taking 10 minutes per day to take a break and choose something you deeply desire in your life. Let your mind believe that you already have it and allow yourself to experience all of your senses in this imaginary scene. Hold the pleasant image in your mind for at least 10 minutes. Guide your mind gently back each time it wanders. This exercise will erase your current “ruts” and form your new, positive neural pathways that will lead you to a happier life.

Do You Rush, Make, Force or Ask Clients in the Close? Find Out!


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Let’s try some virtual equus coaching. Equus coaching utilizes the feedback that horses can provide to uncover your inner beliefs—some of which might be holding you back from the life or practice that you want. By doing various exercises with a horse, equus coaching will help you detect how you tend to do things. The interaction you have will uncover the beliefs that drive you which can then be examined with the help of a coach.

Ready? Imagine that you are holding the end of a lead rope. (You might even pretend to be the horse.) I am leading you toward a jump that I want you to go over. It is made of crisscrossed plastic pipes held up on stands.

There are four ways I’m going to have you go over the jump: 1) After a long running start, I sail over the jump at top speed with you in tow. You see the jump fast approaching and leap over it the best you can with little warning. 2) I climb over the jump first and then slowly pull you over it—dragging and tugging on the rope as much as I need to until you come over. 3) With a stick and string in hand I strike the air behind you to make it uncomfortable for you to stand still until you have to go over the jump. 4) I invite you to take your time and inspect the jump. Whenever you’re ready, I ask you to go over it however you chose to do so.

Which way appeals most to you? Here are explanations of the four ways that may shed some light on why you feel the way you do. 1) The first approach gives you no choice and little warning. What feelings does it bring up? Apprehensive? Fearful? Caught off guard? Tricked? 2) The second method is sheer force. I leave you no choice at all. Do you feel angry, resentful, annoyed or some other unpleasant feeling? 3) The third way we go over the jump I make you do it because it’s uncomfortable not to do it (you might get hit with a stick if you don’t!). How do you feel about that? Uncomfortable? Irritated? A little nervous? Threatened? 4) The last jump is your first experience of having a chance to understand what is being asked of you and to have a choice in the way you want to complete the action. Do you notice how much more fun it is!!!!

By any chance, do you see yourself in any of these scenarios as far as how you treat your clients? Would your client describe your close as putting them off guard and getting a somewhat involuntary commitment? Does it feel like you need to use force and pressure such as in scenario two? Do you make your client take action as in the third scenario? Or is working with you fun and enjoyable such as in the fourth way to go over the jump?

Give this some careful thought. What does it feel like to be your client? Clues that you might not be using the fourth method of going over the jump include a higher than average number of reversals, clients who disappear even though you thought you had a case or you sense that your clients have a low level of commitment in their work with you.

These signs might point to you: going too fast, using too much pressure, not engaging the client enough.

How can you set up an environment that allows for your client to check out their options and feel empowered to implement the plan that feels like they had input and choice? This scenario creates long term relationships that last, cases that don’t roll back and positions you as a trustworthy advisor your clients want to turn to. Are you ready to take responsibility for creating a true partnership? I think you’ll enjoy the feedback that you get from this approach—whether it’s from a horse or a human.

Coaching Tip Try it! Get a string and set up a “jump.” Find someone to lead you through all four scenarios so that you have firsthand knowledge how different each method feels. Then switch roles. Notice which way feels good whether you’re asking someone to jump or the one jumping. The same applies in the way you treat people in your life.

Succeed Without Apology—You Are Not Good at Everything


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do,” said Dr. Temple Grandin, pictured below in a photo by Rosalie Winard, to the audience at a talk in Madison, Wisconsin in June this summer. This is a very powerful statement considering that Grandin didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old and was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Today she is a professor, world-renowned autism spokesperson, consultant to the livestock industry, author of many books and the subject of the film Temple Grandin. Time Magazine even named her as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

Grandin’s mother strongly advocated that her daughter not be institutionalized (which was the medical advice of the day). Through steadfast dedication and determination on her part, her family, teachers and many others, Grandin became the woman she is today. She has been credited with using her gift of “thinking in pictures” with making livestock-handling more humane worldwide. She has embraced her unique gifts and strongly advocates that “the world embrace all kinds of minds.” She has become sought-after as one of the world’s leading experts on animal-human communication and horse-based therapies.

What does this have to do with running a financial practice?

Where is your focus—CAN or CAN'T? If you are like most Financial Representatives (FRs) you might constantly berate yourself for not phoning, not prospecting, not doing case notes promptly, letting things fall through the cracks and so many other perceived failings. In my experience, most FRs enjoy certain aspects of running a practice more than others. FRs shine in some areas and struggle in others. I have never met someone who is perfect in every aspect of the business and loves it all. What CAN you do? For a moment, let’s set aside the CAN’T and harness the CAN.

Start by taking an inventory of what you CAN do very well.




What do you perceive that you CAN’T do very well?




Begin by celebrating what you are already good at. Do more of it and let yourself feel accomplished.

Next, see if any of your strengths can help you with any of your perceived weaknesses. For example, let’s say that you are a prospecting powerhouse. Prospecting is something that comes pretty easily for you. But phoning…oh the hideous pain! The rejection! The dread!

If you can prospect well you’re in a great position. You can barter with another FR who likes to phone and split the QSs or do joint work. You can hire a part-time or virtual phoner. You can experiment with email, texting or other ways of setting meetings.

Let’s say you enjoy phoning but prospecting feels like grim death. What are you good at that will help you build a phoning list? Perhaps you have a trusted friend who is a strong advocate. Use your strong relationship-building skills and prospect with someone you’re already really comfortable with to help you get your feet wet.. If you’re a whizz at social media, you might network through LinkedIn, Facebook or other online site to connect with others. Good at golf? Invite some of your best clients out for a round of golf and meet new people.

Work through your “CAN’T” list one by one until you can find a creative way to do it YOUR way. Chances are you are steadily building your strengths, confidence, and abilities more every day. It is possible to build a very successful practice using what you are already good at and inventively working through the rest. Try removing “CAN’T” from your vocabulary and instead ask yourself, “what CAN I do?” Give yourself permission to delegate, defer and workaround areas where you need to. Keep going! You are in the same boat with everyone else—a wonderful group of talented, bright and imperfect people doing the best they can.

Coaching Tip Take inspiration from Grandin and use your unique way of doing things to your advantage. Even though your methods may be unconventional, as long as they are compliant, there are endless ways to run a successful practice. Be true to yourself and do not apologize for blazing your own trail.

Are You Leading or Doing?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Seven Financial Representatives (FRs) are gathered around a 60-foot round pen on a beautiful afternoon in rural Wisconsin as part of an Unleash Your Practice retreat. They are watching the eighth FR who is running alongside a horse inside the round pen, his feet gripping the sandy footing. He is short of breath and starting to sweat as he tries to keep the horse at a trot by running in a circle with the horse. The horse coolly trots around, studying the person, and not working particularly hard. Nearby, coaches study the interaction to gain a glimpse into how the FR tends to do things.

"Time is up!” says an Unleash Your Practice staff person.“Please come over to the gate,”she adds. Our team hosts 2-day Horsepower retreats to give FRs a chance to gain feedback on their leadership.

The FR walks over while the horse hangs back, casually chewing on some weeds poking into the pen. In just four short minutes, this interaction tells a story. I will ask the FR questions about his experience and share some observations to see if my hunches feel true to him. Once we uncover his belief system together, I will coach him to find a new perspective or belief that feels good and serves him better. He will have the opportunity to go back into the round pen and see what happens after he sets a new intention and applies his new beliefs.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything,” says Dr. Martha Beck, life coach and bestselling author (who trained and certified the Unleash Your Practice coaches). As a Certified Equus Coach, I am trained to watch the interaction between the horse and the human and form hunches about what might be producing the results I’m seeing. The horse’s body language gives me insights about how much engagement, connection and trust has been built. The human’s body language, reactions and choices provide me with hints about the person’s inner world including his or her belief system, habits, presence in the moment, emotional state, how the person tends to do things and so much more.

Often the horse uncovers a person’s blind spots. This can provide life-changing feedback so that an FR can return to his or her life and practice with a tested, new outlook. In this example, after observing the first interaction with the horse in the round pen, my hunch was that the FR was overworking, likely under-utilizing his resources (such as his staff) and possibly believing “I have to do everything myself.” I saw that the horse was playful—trotting around curiously, but not turning to the FR for guidance or leadership. The horse’s body language showed that the horse was interested in being with the FR; however, the moment he stopped running the horse would, too. The FR was unable to ask the horse to walk, trot or canter on her own—even though the horse was capable of performing this task if partnered with someone exhibiting leadership.

This pattern is one of the more common ones that we uncover at our annual retreats. Many FRs believe the same things that this individual did. They spend the precious golden hours of their practice doing administrative tasks, micromanaging, working hard even if it is no longer productive and unable to delegate. Even though, in this example, the horse is better equipped to move her feet at the trot, the FR believes he has to “trot” too or she will not! He reported that this felt exhausting—just like his practice.

If you believe that you have to make people work or they won’t do their jobs, that only you can do the job correctly, and you lack trust when you delegate that things will get done you are probably right on all counts! We tend to get the results we expect

Through coaching (with or without a horse!) you can uncover these belief systems that no longer serve you. Once you replace what is essentially “broken computer code” in your brain, you will no longer replicate the faulty code giving you the results you do not want. As humans, we have about 70,000 thoughts every day. Most of the thoughts are not true, but we tend to believe them just because we have them. Some of them “fuse” to events in our lives and form beliefs. We take actions out of our belief systems and get results in the world that often reinforce the beliefs and make them even stronger (even when they are not helpful). 

While it may seem like magic, the more time you spend with horses the more you can learn from them. They freely give their feedback and will help you find your authentic self in a way that is truly life-changing and unique. You are invited to experience the power of turning to a horse for guidance.

Coaching Tip Just being around horses is deeply relaxing. We are just scratching the surface of understanding how the powerful electromagnetic field of the horse can affect our resting heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and other physiological effects. While they can “read” our energy, they are also able to influence it. Many therapeutic programs exist for military veterans with PTSD, adults and children with disabilities, and even prisoners who are rehabilitating their lives. There are also many equus coaching opportunities available now for people who are looking for new ways to develop themselves personally and professionally.

What is the Quality of Your Leadership?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Place the palms of your hands together, matching up both hands. Next, open your hands on the pinkie end and place your thumbs on your nose. What do you see?

Now you’re seeing how a prey animal sees, minus the ability to see all the way behind yourself. Next put your hands down and think about what you see when you look around the way you normally do. 

When a horse sees that your eye placement is on the front of your head the horse immediately knows that you are a predator. You have a hard focus and tend to be a direct-line thinker. Your actions are also very straight-line. Since a predator in the animal kingdom never knows where his or her next meal is coming from, it’s easier to entice them with food.

Horses see things entirely differently. With their eye placement on the side of their heads, they have soft focus. Their eyes give them a view of everything in their environment. They are very aware of everything—constantly taking in all of the information. They will advance and retreat toward a destination or other horses, meander somewhere while checking for threats and not be easily swayed by treats. Food is everywhere when you’re an herbivore!

What does all of this mean? Everything if you want to be a great leader!

Coaching with horses provides humans the opportunity to gain feedback on leadership skills, the ability to practice building trusting partnerships, a chance to gauge our communication abilities and boundary-setting effectiveness and more. This is all possible because horses can read human biofeedback including our heart’s electromagnetic field and our emotions. They read our energy—not our minds. They do not accept charms or bribes—only genuine connection.

This unbiased feedback from the horse allows us to understand:

Where we are in the moment (past, present or future) 

Have we set an intention

Are our emotions and actions in alignment

Do we have clear boundaries

Feelings that are occurring such as fear, nervousness, anxiety, happiness, anger and any emotion

Quality of our communication 

Leadership strengths and areas to improve

How other perceive us

“Working with horses provides a safe way for people to become aware of messages they are ‘sending out’ unconsciously and how this impacts their relationships, and therefore, their leadership,” writes Lisa Murrell and Cindy Schwarz in Choice—The Magazine of Professional Coaching. It is interactive, experiential coaching. Clients can connect with a horse, gain feedback and learn more about their inner world. Once there is deeper understanding, coaching facilitates the opportunity to change and get new and better results that translate immediately to real life.

Wealth Management Advisor Dave Dettmann said after experiencing coaching with horses, “you think you know yourself so well and then all of these little things show up during the Unleash Your Practice Equus Retreat that would probably take years of coaching to figure out.”

As a Financial Representative (FR), you have the opportunity to provide a sense of safety and connection with your clients. Many of the topics you address such as death, disability, aging, debt, money, retirement and more can cause your clients to feel fearful. By working with horses, you can learn how to become a strong, safe leader for humans to trust with these vulnerable topics.

Horses can also teach us how to use “soft focus” as a tool in building a strong practice. Is direct-line thinking creating “hard focus” that shuts off your access such as the subtle signals people send you, their feelings and input? Many leaders blaze a trail ahead that leaves staff, clients and family in the dust. Assuming that the horse “just knows what you want” is often the same way we treat people.

If you would like to take a profound, life-changing look in the mirror, I invite you to try equus coaching. The physical, mental, and emotional power of interacting with a 1200 pound animal and a team of coaches is hard to imagine for many. I challenge you to see for yourself.

Coaching Tip Pets and children are another source of direct feedback. Observe how a pet or a child reacts to your energy. They do not have the social filters that adult humans have developed. For example, if you come home from your practice every day in a high state of stress you might observe your young child mirroring your state through tantrums, outbursts or even crying. Dogs may start barking or getting excitable when you are in an anxious state. Try calming yourself through slow, deep breaths. When you find a place of calm you will likely see it reflected right back.

Are You Getting Exactly What You Expect?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“My Case Open Inventory feels like a black hole,” laments a Financial Representative (FR), adding, “cases are stuck because we still need a voided check or my client just needs to return my calls.” Most often my clients tell me that their projected premium for the month is hinging on one or two clients following through with a simple task or a quick phone meeting.

Do you encounter this scenario often? If so, I find the most common explanation is that FRs do not communicate clear expectations with their clients. The ground rules for the relationship are never established. Assumptions are made by both FR and client. This leads to frustration for both parties.

If the solution is as simple as setting expectations, why doesn’t everyone do it? There are several common reasons:

  • You’ve never thought to do it
  • You fear setting clear boundaries and expectations might create conflict
  • Stating your needs and services clearly might jeopardize the relationship (rejection!)
  • You could lose a case It’s uncomfortable for you (and possibly the client)

If you relate to this, there is good news. You have the power to change this frustrating pattern of working really hard for clients or prospective clients only to be left waiting and wondering if your efforts will be fruitful.

It might surprise you to hear that the relationship with the client with a lingering case in your Case Open Inventory actually began with the nominator. If you did not take the time to rigorously make a plan with your client to contact the person you’re working with today, you began the relationship from a place of imbalance. If the nominator does his or her job and contacts the Qualified Suspect (QS), explains who you are, what you do and then endorses you, your relationship will be on stronger footing before you even pick up the phone.

When you are endorsed by someone the QS cares about, you will start your relationship right away with a higher level of mutual respect. This sets the stage for the next critical step: communicating how you and your practice work and learning the same about your clients. This can include any or all of the following (spoken and/or in writing) with this step in the meeting expressed right in a written agenda:

This relationship is a partnership. If we decide to work together, we need to help each other. When you are in need of something my team will respond within 24-48 hours. When we require something from you, can we expect the same responsiveness in return? If we have not heard from you, our progress is stalled. Do not assume that we can continue to work on your behalf when we are missing information or a step is not completed (such as the medical, signing applications, producing statements or voided checks, etc.). We are a team. Can you commit to following through on your end? Is there anything we can do to make this easier for you? If so, what? I will always do my best to be on time for our meetings. If something unforeseen should come up that causes me to be late or need to reschedule, I will let you know immediately. Can I expect the same from you in return? How do you like to be communicated with in general? Should we email, talk on the phone, meet in person, exchange texts or use the mail? If you need to return signed forms to us, what method works best for you? My team often communicates with our clients on my behalf so that we provide prompt and efficient service. Are you willing to work directly with my team when they can serve your needs? (If no, why not?) What do you need from us when we are working together? For example: a lot of education, clear steps and instructions, strong deadlines, or working in person—perhaps outside of an office setting? We have a history and culture at Northwestern Mutual of building strong financial practices by meeting people our clients introduce us to—not through expensive advertising. I will ask you every time we meet who do you know who might benefit from having a conversation with me. I am also happy to introduce you to others I may know. Does this work for you? (If not, what are your concerns?)

What do you feel when you imagine communicating these expectations consistently to your clients? If it doesn’t feel natural, you’re not alone.

Begin by examining your beliefs:

If you’ve never thought to assert yourself and communicate clearly, now you have a new idea. Make it your own. Put it in your own words and practice communicating your expectations. It is helpful if you can shed any baggage you have about previous experiences with clients who have not met your unspoken expectations. Make sure you are in an emotionally neutral place when you do state expectations or you will sound passive (disappointed), aggressive (angry) or passive-aggressive (thinly veiled, pent-up anger). Neutrality will convey confidence and assertiveness which are positive. If you fear setting clear boundaries and expectations because it might create conflict, ask yourself—might conflict already be occurring? If cases are lodged in your pipeline, something is wrong if your clients have gone radio silent. What is the worst thing that could happen if you do “create conflict” by communicating your needs to clients? If stating your expectations will jeopardize the relationship, is this a client with whom you want to work? This is a two-way street! The client will also benefit by having a chance to tell you what he or she needs and expects from you. Have you actually ever lost a case for this reason? What is the actual risk? If it’s uncomfortable for you (and possibly the client) to communicate expectations, ask yourself this: are you comfortable now? I doubt it. Which is worse—temporary discomfort while you say what needs to be said or a lifetime career filled with frustration?

Who does it serve if you allow cases to languish in a black hole, aggravations toward unresponsive clients to fester or resentments to interfere with positive relationship growth? Ask yourself: is not speaking up giving you only temporary comfort while costing you long term discomfort? Who gets hurt when cases don’t go through? What becomes possible when you assert yourself and step up as the leader? I’m guessing you will have happier, healthier clients and you might just feel the same way, too.

Coaching Tip If you are ready for a new era, start by documenting your own guidelines in your own words. You may wish to include the information on a handout that you review in your meetings. Begin as a pilot and change things as you gain experience. The end goal is for both parties to feel more comfortable, informed and supported.

Who Calls the Shots: Urgent or Important?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Do you treat your mental energy like the precious and finite resource that it is? If you’re like most Financial Representatives (FRs), probably not! The urgent runs away with the show while the important sits untouched.

You can more strategically direct your time and energy. Begin by choosing to do the most important items first each day. Every morning you wake up with the maximum mental energy (of all types) that you will have all day. If you burn up all of your energy on something that is urgent (at the time), you may not have the energy to later tackle the important things that will make the greatest long term impact on your practice.

I believe that the number one black hole siphoning time away in a practice is email. It can be a convenient way to look and feel busy while avoiding phoning or other activities that make you feel discomfort. It sure feels urgent, but it’s dictated by other people’s sense of urgency—not yours!

If you have staff, consider delegating them to write emails on your behalf. It can be helpful to communicate to your clients that your staff will often be in touch with them and that your staff is an extension of you. If you do not yet have staff, consider planning to delegate most emails once you hire, but apply the tips below that can help you right away.

First, use technology to your advantage! There is an inexpensive software called TextExpander. You create a labeled “snippet” for commonly written sentences, paragraphs, phrases and other common wording that you use. You can create a shared library of snippets that can populate any software (included web based) with a quick keystroke. (No more cutting and pasting!) You can pull language from your existing sent emails. This would allow for you or your AFR to “write” emails in your voice or expedite your own email writing. It can create a consistent approach in the way common questions and requests are handled.

Technology can also help reduce emails (we often think the opposite!). Unsubscribe to emails that you do not read or send them to a different email account to reduce the overall volume of email you receive. You can even set up multiple email accounts for different purposes. For example, one email account could be used for all personal online purchases. Leverage Microsoft Outlook’s rules to automatically funnel emails into folders.

Eventually, you may be at a point, if you are not already, when your team can start tackling email on your behalf. Consider timing carefully to avoid creating overwhelm or burnout in a new staff person by asking for too much, too quickly. If you have not yet tried this, here are some ideas to make the process smooth.

Start with a training period. Set up a system together. Have the person sort your email into agreed-upon categories. Let her organize them and then check in to see if you agree. Use Outlook tools to organize email (labeling using color to designate urgency or to delegate, for example).

When your staff begins writing emails to clients, have him or her save them as drafts. Check them and send them if they are okay. Review the ones with him or her that need corrections to complete the feedback loop. Continue this process until you feel confident that most of your emails can be answered the way you wish.

Reduce email on your team overall by fully using CRM or other tools to communicate and delegate.

Schedule times to check your email and stick to it as best you can. Turn off preview panes and audio cues that “you have mail!” Communicate what constitutes an “emergency email” to your staff. If a truly urgent and important email comes in that needs your attention, equip your staff to have good judgement and to notify you. This will help you to trust that nothing needs your immediate attention or you would know.

If your objection to asking for help with email is a desire to maintain control or a fear that no one will write as effectively as you, ask yourself if control is serving you. What is the payoff of answering all of your emails yourself? What is the payoff of delegating appropriate emails to staff? What is most important to you and your practice? You may need to practice the art of letting go. (Feel free to take a deep breath. You’re human.)

What kind of practice would you have if you were focused most on revenue-generating, important activities? I’m guessing you’d be producing at the level you say you want. Consider embracing the philosophy that everything that doesn’t work toward the goal works against the goal. There is no Northwestern Mutual ribbon for “Most Emails Sent & Received” and I hope there never will be!

Coaching Tip Most humans tend to think in black and white terms. This tendency may show up when you think about sharing the responsibility for your email with your team. What middle ground can be created? Can you transition SOME of your email now and benefit from some relief versus feeling like you are totally responsible for answering all or none of your email? Communicate and collaborate with your team to develop a system and a plan that works for everyone. Consider choosing just one tip and implementing that as a start if you do not have staff yet. For example, take the time to set up email rules or unsubscribe to emails that are not helpful now. See if you can make email at least a little better and enjoy the improvement!

Rise Above Adversity and Stress by Learning a New Tool

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

I never used to tell people this. My whole life changed one day when I was driving home from work in Madison, Wisconsin in April, 2002. It was a gray day with the sky lightly spitting a combination of snow and rain. I was waiting in my Saturn car with my turn signal blinking on and off to take a left turn. I glanced at the rear view mirror and saw a semi-tractor trailer coming up fast from behind my car. I knew I was going to be hit. Other cars were all around me so I couldn’t move. I sat and waited the moments it took to feel the impact of 80 tons of truck hitting my vehicle.

“You’re lucky to be alive,” said an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) at the scene. “Usually people don’t survive being hit by a semi,” she explained.

You can imagine that this experience has shaped me in many different ways. First, gratitude. Every single safety feature of my car worked perfectly and I miraculously escaped with minor injuries. The major injury had yet to present itself—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As time passed, I found that sleeping, driving, staying calm and basic daily routines started to become very hard for me. Eventually, I discovered Dr. David Berceli’s Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) in 2011 and am, today, blessedly symptom-free after many years of suffering. (I am pictured with Berceli in the photo above at a TRE training.) In fact, it is TRE that allows me to share this experience with you without the risk of re-traumatization in recounting my story.

I share this with you because we all experience various traumas in life. I could let this experience keep me stuck, or I could seek to transcend it and learn how to help other people who have experienced trauma. Which, by the way, we all do in some way in our lifetimes (whether we are aware of it specifically in these terms or not.) I am passionate about sharing this genetically-encoded ability that our human bodies have to self-regulate from a state of fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. Regular TRE is one of the best practices we recommend to our clients for optimal coaching results. “When the body lets go, the mind lets go,” says Berceli.

I have gone on to become a Certified TRE Provider who teaches other people how to soothe their nervous systems. I have helped to train staff at Veteran’s Hospitals so that they can use this United States Military-approved treatment to help people who have fought for our country. I have reached people who suffered from violent crime, abuse…and, of course, people who feel very, very anxious running a financial practice.

You can enjoy better sleep, a sense of well-being and an easy way to relax by learning TRE. A side benefit is that it will help you build an attraction-based practice. Once you learn it, you will likely be able to use this tool for the rest of your life. Please accept my offer and experience it for yourself.

Hope to see you there. I’m so glad to be HERE in so many ways.

Coaching Tip

Watch this 5 minute short video to learn more about TRE.

Do You Trust Your Own Instinct?

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“Trust your gut,” is a saying you’ve probably heard throughout your life. If you have ever felt a knot or a pit in your stomach, a sinking feeling, a nervous pang or an excited fluttering then you have experienced the brain-gut connection that your body possesses. It’s not just a myth.

Follow your gut to make better business decisions.

Did you know that scientists call this your “second brain”? It is the part of the nervous system that controls the gastrointestinal system. “Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback [to the brain],” according to an article in Scientific American by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg. This information influences your emotions, among many things.

“Although its influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making,” writes Adam Hadhazy in Scientific American. Your gut is not capable of writing a Personal Planning Analysis (PPA) or conducting the complex thought processes that your brain is. It does possess about 100 million neurons which, “enable us to ‘feel’ the inner world of our gut,” explains Hadhazy. This gives you access to even more intelligence.

Here are several reasons to trust your gut:

  • It has been collecting information and subconscious experiences for your entire life that it’s weighing in when you’re getting a signal, according to Melody Wilding, a licensed therapist and professor in an article in Fast Company.
  • The gut is much faster than the mind! It can, “send messages that something just feels right—or it doesn’t. The more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with facts, the better your future decision-making can become,” according to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in an article in Fast Company by Lydia Dishman. One of his studies showed that the body was giving a physical reaction of anxiety far before rational thought kicked in.
  • There is just too much information for your rational brain to keep up with. Your brain can become overwhelmed with irrelevant facts. Your gut cuts through the data clutter and allows for intuitive decision-making to be an option.
  • You may not be able to access enough information. Your hunch is all you have.
  • Test it. Here are questions that entrepreneur Angela Jia Kim developed:
  1. "Do I feel good around this person or choice?"
  2. "Does this person or situation give me or take my energy?"
  3. "Do I feel empowered or disempowered?"
  4. "Am I going toward an adventure or running from fear?"
  5. "Am I listening to my lessons learned from the past?"
  6. "Would I make the same choice if I had a million dollars in my pocket now?"
  7. "Do I feel respected and valued?"
  8. "Am I trying to control the situation or am I leaving room for expansion?"

How do you access your second brain? The only way to ignore all of the outside forces that have likely dominated your decision making is to become still. Step away from the meeting and the constant commotion and spend some time scanning your body and allowing yourself access to your feelings. Spend some time reflecting by closing your door, going for a walk or when you are driving. Allow your body a chance to “speak” its own language.

If this information feels right, trust your gut and follow your instincts in the office (and in life) and see what can unfold. I have a hunch you will be more insightful, make more efficient and profitable decisions and be an even more powerful source of guidance for your clients.

Coaching Tip If you have long avoided your instincts, ease in slowly. First, just tune in. Spend 5 minutes per day just scanning your body and noticing what feelings and non-verbal information shows up. Next, experiment with trusting your gut. Reschedule the meeting when it feels wrong. Phone someone when it seems right. Go with it and see if it ever steers you wrong. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Is Your Practice Set Up So 'One-Size-Fits-None'?

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

It is estimated that 90% of financial advisors are what Kolbe Corporation identifies as Initiating Quick Starts. An Initiating Quick Start needs a deadline to create urgency in order to take action. Kolbe measures how you do things when you're free to be yourself–your Modus Operandi (MO).


It's easy to see how beliefs such as “always create urgency with the client” could become prevalent in an industry where the majority of the people in it really do need it! While Initiating Quick Starts are so common in the financial industry, they represent only about 20% or less of the population as a whole.

If you treat everyone with a sense of emergency, trying earnestly to set deadlines and motivate people through pushing them to move faster, you risk losing the majority of your clients somewhere in the sales cycle. Not everyone values deadlines, urgency or speed. In fact, applying pressure will cause some clients with certain Kolbe styles to dig their heels in or avoid you!

Instead of believing any generalization that suggests using the same techniques on everyone, try customizing the way that you bring every individual that you work with to action. This will require you to really tune in to people, learn who they are and form a connection. The payoff? You’ll close more business. You will also provide a truly above-average individualized experience where you deeply focus on the person(s) in front of you.

You can gain insights on the style of the person you're working with beginning in the Fact Finder. Ask the prospective client what they need in order to take action with the following questions:

"I have learned that each of my clients may need something different from me in order to implement a financial plan. Let me ask you four questions that will help me better understand you."

1) do you like to research information and gather as much knowledge as possible before taking action?

2) to what extent do you like to know each step of the plan and have a sense of the system we're following?

3) do you do better following through when you have set deadlines to react to on the fly?

4) do you like to take abstract things (such as financial planning) and make them more tangible? Is this type of planning something that would be easier for you outside of an office?

In general, most people most favor one of the four.

Instead of guessing what your clients want or need what if you just ask them?

Coaching Tip Assuming that you can figure out someone's Kolbe score is not recommended. You only have about a 10% shot at being right with the score as a whole. There are many factors that may cause someone to appear to be a certain MO that they are not. Asking how someone likes to take action at least acknowledges someone’s unique style and gives you a chance to better accommodate it. This can give you a hint at the person’s initiating mode only (there are three other parts of the score that are extremely helpful).

If you have an A or A+ client and you need more precision, contact us. Many fee-based planners work with us to better collaborate with their clients. Anyone can use this tool. We send your client a Kolbe A code ($49.95) that states you’ve asked them to take it. We will provide you with a free comparison report of your style compared with your client’s. This will give you a list of suggested do’s and don’ts’s that can be invaluable.

Heal Your Own Relationship With Money to Better Help Clients

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Let's be honest. If you went to your first personal training session and your trainer was extremely out of shape you would be concerned. I'm betting you wouldn't want to hire a life coach who was run down and burnt out on life, or a CPA who hasn't filed taxes in years—right?


Despite this, I think that it is common to find people who are in professions that naturally provide the healing, focus, training, teaching and the chance to master something that is needed within.

You might characterize your relationship with money as "it's complicated." Just like the rest of Americans, financial advisors are often in debt and out of balance with their own finances. I have met advisors who could not afford the gas to fill their own luxury cars. Unlike the rest of the population though, as advisors themselves, they may carry a heavier burden of guilt and shame related to financial problems. This internal shame will subconsciously or consciously limit your confidence, growth and ability to challenge your clients in your practice.

In my experience as a coach, I believe that continuous personal and professional development is absolutely vital to serving my clients well. In the coaching industry we believe that you can only take your clients as far as you have gone yourself. It is called being in a "live it to give it" profession. Of course no one is perfect! The point is that we are no different than anyone else in needing to be self-aware and work on ourselves.

I think this concept also directly applies to financial advisors. Did you know you are in a live it to give it profession? This requires that you get right with your relationship with money. This may be a very vulnerable process. Consider working with a therapist or coach if necessary. While your long-term financial goals will take time to work toward, you can clean up your money story right now. Doing so will radically change and improve your practice and empower you in your life.

Money is an energy that you can work with in many ways. You can come at it from a place of scarcity and fear or generosity and abundance. It can be a constant source of pain, shame, fear and regret or a conduit to joy, generosity, gratitude and possibility. You can experience money either way no matter what the balance in your bank account. The actual amount of money you have (or do not have) is a separate issue entirely.

Just as you try to gently uncover your client's feelings, history, and beliefs about money in the Fact Finder, you can do so for yourself.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What scary things does your inner critic/lizard whisper in your ear about money?
  • How do you believe that money treats you?
  • What are your beliefs about deserving money?
  • What thoughts about money do you have that are not serving you?
  • What do you fear your clients might "find out" about you and money?
  • Do you use a separate financial advisor than yourself for your own financial plan? (If not, why not?)
  • Do you believe that money defines you? If so, how?
  • What are your greatest fears about money?
  • What excuses do you use about your financial choices?
  • Does your financial situation ever compromise you as an advisor? How so?
  • What would your attraction power be if you had a healthy relationship with money?
  • Are you black and white in your thinking about money? What would the gray area look like?
  • What is a symbol of your relationship with money?

In my experience it really doesn't matter how much money you have or do not have. Mostly everyone has some type of money issue because it is simply a perceived representation of our worth, beliefs and how we present ourselves in the world. Taking the time to heal your relationship with money will allow you to better challenge your own clients' beliefs and actions. Do it before you're ready. Do it before you're wealthy. Do it because that's how you become ready and wealthy!

Coaching Tip A software called You Need A Budget (YNAB) and its corresponding app might be one tool you could play with. (It’s free to try for the first month. I have no relationship with YNAB other than I use it.) If you can master your own budget I'm betting that you can better teach your clients how to manage their own budgets and empower them to take a more active role in their finances.

It’s Time to Retire the Carrot and Stick

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

You wouldn't be the first person to raise your eyebrow at one of my deepest convictions when working with Financial Representatives (FRs): the road to Forum is paved with self-compassion.


Often people's experience in the business is one of fear, shame, criticism, feeling rejected and judged. This often comes from within. Somewhere along the way you may have thought that you should motivate yourself (or allow others to) through negative methods. But be honest—has this ever really worked?

Imagine that you are trying to teach a child or an animal that you love how to do something. What is your hunch about what would work best? Would you yell at the child or the animal? Would you sharply criticize him or her? Would you shame and punish? I doubt it! In fact, you might notice that you are incredibly gentle, patient, kind and supportive as you teach another person or pet a new skill.

Your brain functions much like a machine. Let's consider it a sort of computer. By contrast, your body is more like the child or the animal—a creature. If you treat the creature part of you badly it is unlikely that you will experience lasting success with whatever you're trying to accomplish. The creature part of you responds dramatically in both directions to self compassion and care. Deprive it of compassion and it will cripple you. Nourish it and you will be rewarded with energy, commitment, drive, excitement and a desire to connect more deeply with yourself and others. When you are operating from a belief that you cannot meet your most human needs how can you possibly thrive?

It may feel silly but try naming the creature part of you so that you can start to treat it with the type of compassion that you would extend to a friend or anyone else that you care about. "Would this be good enough for Spot?"

Sadly, I find that many FRs don't treat themselves as nicely as they would treat a dog. They are harsh critics of themselves. They underfeed and undernourish themselves and don't take breaks. I often find that FRs act like they are robots with no feelings or human needs. Do you relate to this?

If so it's time to make a change. Did you know that your self care efforts will come back to you ten times over when you run your own business? Consider it part of your job description. Your practice is simply a mirror of your internal world. You can treat this like it's a burden or a bonus.

Imagine that you could pay close attention to your nutrition, hydration, rest, spirituality, exercise, social relationships and more. You start saying nice, encouraging things to yourself and celebrating every success. Mistakes are treated gently as the learning and feedback that they really are. Who could you be if you were kind, supportive, and understanding of yourself? What kind of practice could you create from a place of love?

Deep self-compassion pays for itself. You will be able to run a practice from a place of genuine authenticity that is a reflection of your own health. You will attract healthier clients. You will be better able to challenge clients from a place of strength.

Perennial Forum members who are happy take excellent care of themselves and all of the needs that come with being a human being. Try radical self-compassion and intense self care for one week and let me know if you have any regrets. My hunch is that you will now start to raise your eyebrow at the thought of ever treating yourself so badly ever again.

Coaching Tip If you have not extended much or any self compassion or care to yourself, I suggest starting small. Think of one thing that you could commit to doing for a day. It could be as simple as letting yourself get up, walk around and get a glass of water when you feel like that would satisfy your creature needs. If you knew that you could make Forum by taking impeccable care of yourself would you do it? I have many clients who are living proof that this is likely the only way to achieve Forum every year while living a happy life. Trust me, it can be done.

Add Adventure to Your Prospecting

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Prospecting can take on so many forms. Have you let yourself explore all of them?


You are well aware of prospecting in every meeting, maximizing tools such as feeder lists, conducting center of influence (COI) meetings and attending networking events. But have you taken advantage yet of prospecting in a way that is genuinely fun for you?

It can be done! Start by writing a list of all of the activities that you would truly personally enjoy doing. Then, consider which ones your clients could be invited to join you in doing. This is your bucket list. You know—the one you never seem to get to can finally get some attention!

Take some time to write a list of adventurous, fun, intriguing activities outside of your usual ones (such as golfing) to expand your own horizons. Golfing will work well for many of your clients but you may find that you bond more trying something really new together, too. Check out tourism websites, local events calendars, charity events and websites about outdoor classes and activities for ideas. Think of indoor and outdoor possibilities so that you can prospect this way year round.

Next write a list of your very best clients with whom you genuinely enjoy spending time. They are the ones that when you see them on your calendar you feel excited to see. They are advocates who really understand integrated planning and speak highly of you because they really get it and truly appreciate your value.

Block out some days on your calendar that can be spent prospecting with clients through the end of the year. Call your clients and ask them to choose an activity and then invite others in their circle to join you (if you wish). Some activities may be better spent just bonding with the client. Use your own judgment to determine the objective of the outing and how to best achieve it.

Consider including other professionals on these excursions such as CPAs, attorneys and other connectors. They can share the costs with you, add value to the client and to you, and also benefit their own companies.

Adding adventure to your prospecting mix can get you out of the office and meeting people. It's unlikely that you'll meet a lot of new people if you never leave your office. This can give you something to look forward to frequently that will also grow your business. Get out there!

Coaching Tip Start by writing your own bucket list from your heart. Don't hold back. Some of these activities may involve travel or trying new things for the first time. Risk being vulnerable! Once you have your list of clients you'd like to prospect with schedule them for months in advance. No one stands up a "meeting" to skydive!

Teach Your Clients How to Give Referrals

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

When is the last time a person prospected you for new business (outside of Northwestern Mutual)?


I'm guessing if you're like most people your answer is “never or maybe once.” Before you were a Financial Representative (FR) and became trained in prospecting, would you have been comfortable with it? Would you have understood what was being asked of you? Is it possible that you have become SO used to prospecting that you forget that it’s new territory for many people to provide you with multiple names, contact information and to expect people to then tee them up for you?

Many of my clients assume the absolute worst when people give them objections. They feel hurt, rejected and judged. They fear that their client or prospective client is not supportive. Is it possible that some people really don’t have experience giving referrals? What would become possible for your practice if you gave people the benefit of the doubt, were very genuine, and patiently taught them this skill?

What if every client heard this language from you (with your own spin, of course!):

"Northwestern Mutual is the largest financial institution that no one has ever heard of! In fact, we used to be called the Quiet Company because we believe in growing through word of mouth. Since we were founded in the year 1857 this has been a strong part of our history and culture. You should expect me to ask you every time we talk, “who do you know who I can I connect with?” This is a totally normal part of our relationship and it goes both ways. I would be happy to introduce you to anyone who may be useful for you to know, as well. Sometimes when I ask you for referrals you may think of someone and other times you may not. I understand and certainly expect that sometimes you won't have anyone for me. I deeply appreciate my clients’ connections and I'm always respectful of those relationships. I was lucky to meet you when [nominator] was kind enough to introduce us. Is this something that you’d be willing to help me with?

Your efforts are worth it! Word of mouth is the most laborious and work-intensive type of marketing that exists. It is also one of the most impactful and personal ways to reach people. Many companies spend millions of dollars trying to reach their customers through expensive mass advertising. Northwestern Mutual has relied upon referrals for decades. While obviously there is a lot of marketing support, the ability to grow your individual practice at the rate you need to is really resting on your shoulders. Are you committed and prepared to prospect? If so, you are ready to set your client up for success.

How are you teaching your clients? Do they understand what you're asking of them and why? Do they understand how to help you and help as nominator? Or do you leave them in the dark and expect them to read your mind?

What if you just assume the best? Most people genuinely don't understand how to give a referral and be a good nominator. Instead of prospecting, try teaching and watch what happens!

Coaching Tip Another important part of teaching how to refer, is to explain to the nominator specifically how to do his or her job. Instead of giving the person orders (send this email template...), ASK them how they would like to contact the person. When will they have time to get in touch? Assure them that you won’t take action if they let you know not to. Give the nominator control and set expectations to put them at ease. “Thanks for the cell phone number. I will put in my calendar to call [name] on Monday at 9:00. If anything changes, just let me know by then. You have my word that I will not call if you tell me not to. I can’t wait to meet [name.]

Live Your Best, Bravest Life by Respectfully Telling Your Inner Critic to Kick Rocks

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA,

“I’m doing so horribly with managing my inner critic!” is an ironic comment I’ve heard from many of my clients when I ask them how things are going. “I am constantly putting myself down. I don’t think I am getting any better at stopping it,” he or she adds.


We are so used to that inner negative voice that it’s easy to miss—even if it’s criticizing your newfound self compassion!

Did you know that EVERYONE has an inner critic? You are not the only one. Everyone’s inner critic is a little different, but the motive is the same: to protect you! Your inner critic is trying to keep you safe by preventing you from making changes. By putting thoughts into your head that you can’t do something, that an action you take will be risky, that you risk being judged, that other people are doing better than you are, you might fail or face some other dismal outcome, your critic keeps the status quo in place. In theory, the status quo is “safe.”

Unfortunately, many of the choices you might make that are highly condemned by your inner critic are the very courageous, bold, strong and necessary actions that you need and want to take! Don’t let your inner critic bully, criticize, belittle, shame, scare or talk you out of taking the step or steps you know in your heart are right for you. Your inner critic is fueled by fear from your strong survival instincts.

First, thank your critic. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, your critic is just misguided. He or she really does want you to stay safe. Unfortunately, his or her best intentions often cost you. You end up not pursuing your goal, dream, life change or first step because the critic can sound very authoritative, correct, wise and protective. If you can start to hear the critic, simply for what he or she is: a fearful part of you who does want to avoid risks and getting hurt. Thank that part of you for caring that you’re okay.

Second, let your critic know that you are okay. “Thanks, but no thanks—I’ve got this,” you might say once you notice the typical tone and messages of this part of you. Turn to your authentic self—the most genuine part of you that has only your highest good in mind. Let this part of you lead as you respectively acknowledge and then move right past the critic.

Third, rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. This is not a one-time conversation! Most of us need to get to know our critic more to be able to even identify what’s happening. Once you understand that it’s only your critic spouting fear and doubt, you can do something about it.

Here’s where most people get frustrated! The Ladder of Competency that we all go through when we learn causes us to feel very helpless once we figure out a pattern that we’d like to break. We see ourselves doing the thing we’d like to change and are unable to change it…yet. Just give it a little time and practice. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” writes author and coach Martha Beck. Give yourself permission to suck at working with your inner critic! Breathe into the process and know that eventually, recognizing and sending your critic packing will be second nature.

As you set out to have the best life possible, your dream practice and dare to take on what many people would not even attempt, know that you will face a fierce inner critic. Thank him or her, let him know you’re the leader and move forward boldly into a life that is safer and more exciting than you can even imagine.

Coaching Tip In addition to thanking the critic and then asserting your leadership, it may be helpful to have some additional tools. When you hear an unhelpful thought, disarm it by adding the words, “I’m having the thought…” in front of the critic’s comment. Compare these two statements: “I’m having the thought I’m going to fail out of the business” versus “I’m going to fail out of the business.”

Another way out of a negative thought spiral is to say “I’m a banana” at the end of the painful thought. “I’m going to fail out of the business. I’m a banana.” It will take your brain right off the track.

Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that every single thought you have is not true. In fact, many of them are coming straight from your critic.