Being in Role

Actors make their living taking on the personality, mannerisms, attitudes, and voice of the character they portray at the time. In one movie, Leonardo DiCaprio is a doomed hand on the Titanic and in another, Howard Hughes. Helen Mirren is the Queen on film in one year and Cleopatra on stage in another. Being in role is how actors make their living.

In much the same way, our role as professionals is vital to being effective and tees up most if not all of what follows in business. Wearing appropriate attire, keeping our offices attractive and inviting, using the English language well, and being comfortable with oneself, inform our interactions with those we serve.

I learned the importance of role across 25 years as a pastor. Many times, when I walked into a hospital room where someone was dying, I was there to offer both presence and prayers. The longer I served a congregation the closer became my ties to parishioners.

Within a handful of years, I was not only visiting a congregant, but I was there with a person and family who were close and warm friends. But when I entered a hospital room or had gone to a home where death had already visited, I was then in the role of minister. Those families in crisis expected and needed nothing less. Candidly, to be present in my role as a caring professional required some sober self-talk. And when the visit was over, and I returned to my car, I often felt deep emotion about those tender moments shared.

In the same way, we must be in role when we are with clients. They deserve the highest level of professionalism. That’s why I put on a coat and tie in the morning, or anytime I am with clients. Such is my uniform. Wearing a suit prompts me to stay in role.

Before a client visit, I remind myself again who I am as an advisor and the level of care that only I can give as we visit together. And yes, clients become beloved friends over the years. We come to know what brings them joy, where the tough and tender places are in their lives and families, and what they most need from us.

My guess is all of this is nothing more than a form of “preaching to the choir.” A persistent voice, however, keeps whispering in my ear that our role with clients is unlike any other professional relationship they may have. In all seasons of market fluctuation, and especially when volatility is high, or their lives are in crisis, we must wear the advisor mantle purposefully and competently. In role, we say with confidence, “Our opinion is…”  Or, “Knowing what I know about you and your family, I recommend…”  And, “In our experience working with families like yours, this approach to _________ has been effective.”

“Advisor” is such a powerful and important calling by which we serve others. Embrace that role with purpose and even joy and notice how the work becomes even more fulfilling for you and those you serve.

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