On Being Judgeable

We are professionals in a highly people-centric, story-shaped, often misunderstood business.

My experience bears witness to a public that imagines financial advisors are primarily stock traders and CPAs who spend entire careers only crunching numbers. To move beyond these errant images demands a focused commitment to becoming more, not less, judgeable, likable, engaging, and yes compassionate.

I continue to benefit from the work of Columbia business professor Heidi Halvorsen, author of No One Understands You and What to do About It. In re-visiting an article she wrote for Harvard Business Review, I remembered her introduction—at least to me—of the word “judgeable.” People who are easy to understand, whom others “get” quickly, have higher judgeable qualities. Mind you, judgeable is not “judgmental” or moralistic.

Advisors who connect quickly with prospects and clients, Halvorsen argues, have high judgeable traits. Those markers are: being transparent about oneself, conveying positive personal qualities (honesty, integrity, trustworthiness being high on the list), and a strong sense of self-worth without being self-centered or narcissistic. As you might imagine, these are people most of us are drawn to, admire, and want to know.

Now imagine how important it is for us to be “get-able” to the prospect we meet at a networking event or meet after a CPA or estate attorney introduction. Does the other person feel we share who we are and how we work with clients easily and with confidence? Is our process simple to understand with clear goals? Do we feel comfortable and confident in who we are and what we offer?

Then imagine the opposite. An advisor who has little energy, painfully shy to the point where the prospect has to carry the conversation, or unsure as to the values, purpose, and expected outcomes of planning, risk management, and investment options. The former is judgeable; the latter is hard-to-get, oozing with more questions than clarity.

Though not a cure-all, we can embrace simple, actionable behavior choices that can make even the shyest professional more judgeable.

First, all of us must tell ourselves every day before we log on that what we do changes lives for the better. Purpose fuels confidence and enhances success. An advisor who believes he or she has a high calling reaches higher levels of professional satisfaction and excellence.

Second, be the person others want to be around. Smile more, evaluate your use of language, be intentional about listening more and talking less, look people in the eye with human warmth and interest, remember you have a gift others need.

And yes, more than anything else, remember, as Halvorson’s research has validated, that judgeable people are happier, more positive, and measurably more productive. Others catch their personality, values, and optimism and want to associate with them. Be more judgeable and notice how your business becomes more profitable, meaningful, and fulfilling.

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