A Guide for Zoom-Challenged Advisors
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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Our team members are on Zoom like most advisors. It goes fine. We have a good system and an engaged team. Lately though, one of our advisors, who owns a second home in Florida, has been logging in from his pool area. Florida is about the only place in the country having beautiful weather and the rest of us (our firm is located elsewhere) are dying under freezing temperatures, ice and snow.
It rubs us the wrong way. We know he is there; it is imprudent to be shoving it in our faces. No one else goes elsewhere to hold a call. If we do, we put a background behind us.
And that’s my point,
I am not asking him to be inside. I’m asking that he not show us the life of luxury he is living. This advisor works fewer hours than the rest of us and considers himself semi-retired even though he wants to have an opinion on everything. This sends a bad message to our younger advisors. I walk away from every one of these interactions more and more irked that he has no sense of the message he is communicating to everyone: “My life is good, and I really don’t care what you all are going through”.
Am I over-reacting? Is this common among other firms?
It’s always so interesting to me how advisors can be very savvy when it comes to presenting themselves to their prospects, clients and COIs but ignore the same protocols when dealing with their team members. It happens a lot with salespeople too – the external face drops, and the internal face isn’t quite so pretty.
I put what you are describing in the category of low emotional intelligence (EQ) on the part of your advisor. EQ involves self-awareness and knowing how we come across to others. It involves social awareness and understanding how to read a room and watch how others might be reacting to us or the dynamics. This advisor might have low EQ when it comes to these two areas, or he simply might not care or believe he has earned the right to work from wherever he chooses and that others should not have a problem with it at all.
From an EQ perspective, you and your team members must recognize self- and social-awareness. If the advisor isn’t deliberately being a jerk about highlighting his lifestyle, and everyone knows he has the house in Florida and is working from there, could it be your own filters that are making a negative judgment?
There is a concept in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) I often reference when coaching that says “assume positive intent.” Although our behavior may appear negative, our intentions may not be. So, as an example in this case, your advisor, because of his low EQ and not realizing the impact on others of his actions, could want to engage in the dialogue sitting somewhere that brings him joy. He doesn’t consider it to be a bad thing because for him it is joyful.
Instead of getting upset with him or pushing back on his behavior, consider that he is doing something that fills him up positively and makes him a better participant in the discussions (this is an example; it may or may not entirely true, but something to consider).
I believe in addressing things with someone when they are upsetting. But you always have to first ask the question about impact. Is his behavior causing significant impact in that you have to address it or is that his condition makes other advisors feel badly they cannot live a similar lifestyle and might bring up jealousies or negative reactions in them?
If everyone operated with higher EQ, many of these dynamics would be eliminated entirely. But, unfortunately, most human beings are working their way through a lot of this and don’t have the emotional intelligence to step back and look at angles from a number of viewpoints.
Rather than feeling the need to address it, get yourself those gorgeous beach vacation backgrounds with hammocks and blue ocean water and tell him he was making you jealous. So you are going on a virtual vacation along with him!
Sometimes humor is the best solution when there is tension. But there is no easy way to address it without causing even more disruption.
Oh my gosh, how do you tell someone you work with they need to have better on-camera etiquette? We have a woman who will only show the very top of her head when we are on Zoom calls. She sits on a big couch when she talks with us and she sinks into it. All we see is the top of her hair.
One of my colleagues calls it, “talking hair.” She will address an advisor and say, “Sue (not her real name), is that you speaking or are we hearing from talking hair?” Sue just laughs about it. Once she was drinking something and we could hear her slurping it under the camera – not on screen. It was so disgusting.
She is senior to us, so no one wants to bring this up past the “talking hair” joke. But it grates on us. Do we just ignore it and laugh amongst ourselves or do we address it? Why wouldn’t someone with 15+ years of experience who works with very high-net worth clients realize how she comes across?
Read my answer to this week’s previous reader. This is another example of low-EQ on the part of your advisor. Of course, she must see herself on screen and must get the talking hair joke. But, she either isn’t self-aware enough, or social-aware enough, to recognize the impact, or she just wants to be comfortable while talking to the team and doesn’t believe that other factors matter as much as her comfort level.
Is she disengaged? Does she refuse to respond? Is she being annoying when others are talking? If these things are happening, then there is impact and there would be a reason to address it. But, if it is just grating, and there isn’t an impact on the team’s ability to have a good meeting, assume positive intent.
The only consideration is that if there is someone who is her level, more senior to you, that could inquire whether she handles herself differently with clients when on screen, it might be worth investigating this – unless others have had meetings with her and you know she is different when dealing with a client. I would not want to think she does this with clients, I assume she gets herself comfy only when she is on a team meeting, but best to verify this.
If she is adopting a similar approach with clients, find someone on the team who is her peer, or whom she trusts, that could give her a bit of an on-screen etiquette tutorial!
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.