Dealing with Adversity

Like many Canadians, I’ve enjoyed watching the drama of the Winter Olympics unfold over the past few weeks. In addition to the stunning skills and accomplishments on display, what captivated me is the story of the journey that athletes take to get there. 

The competition is just a reflection or celebration of years of training, dedication, and hard work. It’s the time away from the spotlight and the competition where the character and the skill is refined and perfected. It’s the place where they prepare for anything competition can throw at them. And when they make it to the competition, and they encounter adversity it’s then and there that the character and capability that was crafted during training come to the surface. 

I talk a lot about digital engagement and the journey many organizations need to take to become digital. To really breakthrough as a leader, it takes thinking about things differently. One of those things is client communication. Like the Olympic athletes its regular practice and work at communicating differently that stands out in times of adversity. 

For many in the financial services industry, February 5, 2018 had its share of adversity. In that day, the DOW Jones industrial average had its largest point drop in history. You couldn’t ignore the news. 

I had three personal relationships with investment dealers, and to see what I mean about communicating differently let me compare the responses of the three of them in light of the events of that Monday. 

At 5:00pm that day, I received an email from the first dealer. In very familiar language they reminded me that markets go up and they go down. They offered a couple of possible reasons but focused on reminding me to drown out the noise, stick with the plan – acknowledging that this is tough after a day like this. 

A week later, after a few more market roller coaster rides I received an email from dealer #2. They provided an analysis of what happened to the markets – one fundamental factor and two technical factors. They finished off assuring me that the fundamentals were still sound and they were keeping an eye on the markets. 

I’m still waiting to hear from the third dealer. 

When we talk about digital engagement, a lot has to do with delivering meaningful information at the right time, giving clients a reason to engage. Like the athletes, the responses during a time of adversity mirrored their behaviours in the good times (the practice times). Dealer #1 talked to me in terms I understood, immediately when I was feeling most insecure about my investments, and was very clear about what I should be doing. Dealer #2 tried to address this market turmoil head on but it took a week, it used  language that was not directed to me, and didn’t leave me with a clear idea of what I should do. Dealer #3 is in hiding and doesn’t know what to say or how to say it. 

Having the digital platform is important, but if the way an organization communicates with its clients doesn’t change dramatically, it is difficult to breakthrough on the engagement front. 

It’s thinking about the client perspective and working every day at viewing the world through that lens that lets firms respond in Olympic fashion when the markets “catch an edge and tumble down the hill”.

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