I have a guilty secret. I have a liking for something that is almost universally disliked. My preference for doing a certain thing is generally seen as a little bit perverse.
After many years, I feel the time has come that I came clean. I need to come out and admit the truth.
I love a good role-play.
The Joy Of Making Mistakes
In my many years as a compliance officer overseeing training and competence plans, I have never understood why role plays are so disliked. For me they offer the opportunity to try out new techniques and to and learn in a safe environment.
The most common argument I had heard against role plays over the years is that they are artificial, unrepresentative of a real meeting with a client. I do wonder, however, if this is really an excuse for not wanting to be seen to make a mistake.
I am currently reading a fascinating book by ex-England cricket captain and psychoanalyst Mike Brearley. Called On Form, it explores how individuals and teams can perform to their maximum potential almost without thinking – sometimes, in fact, because they are not thinking.
I am a qualified cricket coach, and there is one particular aspect of the process that Mike Brearley analyses that struck me as being relevant to all walks of life.
Take batting in a cricket. When batting in a match, the mind should be empty of thought. Being on form is almost beyond concentration, it is acting entirely upon instinct.
Practice For Purpose
The point of practice, therefore, is so that when the moment comes to instinctively react, we will do so with the correct technique.
A batsmen will practice a certain shot in the nets over and over again. They will work hard to get the feet in the right position in order that the hands make the appropriate swing of the bat. This practice happens with thought and premeditation.
In the match, however, no such thought should be employed. Instead, when the ball is coming at the appropriate place, instinct takes over and the feet move automatically into the position that they have done so many times before in practice.
In The Zone
Being on form means doing the right thing without thought. For short periods, this is raised to an even higher level – what is described as being ‘in the zone’.
When Joe Bryan scored his wonder goal for Bristol City against Manchester United (you’ve no idea how hard that is to write those words as a lifelong Bristol Rovers supporter!), he later commented that he had no recollection of scoring the goal at all.
Advisers On Form
The principles are no different for advisers sitting in front of clients. For example, there is the ever present temptation to jump into providing technical knowledge, to solving problems, when in fact open questions and silence may get more from a client.
This is something that needs to be practised. When the moment comes in a meeting that a solution seems obvious and the instinct, instilled by so many technical exams, is to start providing information, practice at not speaking needs to kick in. Resist the temptation to provide solutions and instead ask an open question, continuing to explore the clients’ world and revealing the motivations and objectives so key to financial planning.
A Safe Environment
Role plays are not intended to be representative of a ‘match situation’. Like the coach dropping the ball at the feet of the batsmen to practice a cover drive, role-plays give the chance to isolate one aspect of a meeting. The discussion that follows the role play – preferably watching or listening back to a recording – is key to learning and understanding. I love that part the most!
This allows advisers to hone interpersonal skills in a place that is safe. Getting a question wrong is fine as long as you learn what the correct answer should be.
So it is with communication skills – surely the most important asset of an advisers skill set, and yet the least practiced.
Chris offers one to one coaching as an associate of Quiver Management, who also run a series of courses on interpersonal skills for IFAs