First Time Last Time

When one thinks of great orchestral conductors, the names of Toscanini, Bernstein, Ormandy, Levine, and Szell only begin the list. We all have our favorites. A name on my top 10 would include the late Robert Shaw. His ascendancy to the podium as music director and conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra changed that institution forever. He was without peer, celebrated as much for his prowess as a choral conductor as for his command of the orchestral repertoire. Recordings of works with him at the baton are still considered some of the finest.

What was the best advice ever given you?

A reporter once asked Mr. Shaw, “What was the best advice ever given you?”

“You never know,” he said, “who’s going to be in the audience. You never know who is going to be hearing that piece for the first time, and you never know who is going to be hearing that piece for the last time.”

That quote came back to me not long ago as Kathie and I experienced “Chicago” on Broadway. A couple of the leads in that storied show have been performing their role seven times a week for a decade! That’s a lot of shows doing the same part. And yet, we felt as if we were seeing them at their best for the first time. It was magic!

Do clients experience you at your best?

When a prospect sits with you for the first time, do your eyes glimmer with energy, your face warm with a healthy curiosity, your words infused with interest, care, emotion, even compassion? A close, senior colleague confessed to me that one of his greatest concerns is a lack of energy in advisors that borders on laziness. The “same-i-ness” of the business can lull one into complacency.

Advisor guru and friend Don Connelly addresses a similar issue in his blog “Put Investing in Terms Clients Can Understand.” Don hammers this fundamental flaw in many that have us believing clients absorb our world with its esoteric language. They nod their heads when in fact they understand very little. Because another may be a “first-time” listener, the energy and care we use are vital.

Words and nods do not communication and connection make!

Morose, volatile, frustrating market issues beyond our control can cause even the most optimistic among us to flag. We may lose our sense of calling. What contributes to this malaise? We forget what it feels like for another to share a story with us while mumbling under our breath, “I’ve heard this before.”

In these mid weeks of what may be a sweltering summer, heed the sage wisdom of Robert Shaw. Sitting with a client for a review could become transformational because you learn the most important moment in this person’s life heretofore robed in silence. The prospect who shares her statements with you may be a woman who is not sure she can trust you with her future. The couple six months from transitioning into retirement long to hear the music for the first time—a tune that sings with optimism and hope, adventure, and promise.

The music we make in our practice and those for whom we make it deserve our best.

We never know who is going to be in our audience, do we? Let’s choose a great conductor’s wisdom and change our entire perspective on what we do, why it matters, and how important it is to be on our game every day. The first time, last time, every time.


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