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For Financial Professionals in the US

3 steps for building your business and relationships as a giver

Bryan Powell, Senior Director, Practice Management, shares three ideas to help advisors build relationships as givers rather than takers – not just with clients, but with prospects, friends, and family as well.

Bryan Powell, PCC, CPBA, CPMA

Bryan Powell, PCC, CPBA, CPMA

Senior Director, Practice Management

Dec 11, 2023
8 minute read

Key takeaways:

  • A giver is someone who wants to help others become the best versions of themselves, without the need for immediate reciprocity.
  • While focusing on personal gain can theoretically lead to success, advisors who focus on helping clients become the best versions of themselves – in other words, those who are givers – will build long- lasting personal bonds with clients.
  • The keys to being a giver rather than a taker are being curious, not being a genius, and initiating a ripple effect throughout your personal and professional network.

In my role as a coach and consultant to financial professionals, I get the honor of traveling across the country to meet with some of the best individual advisors and teams in the industry. Throughout my travels, there have been several times where I’ve walked away from a meeting with a new perspective on how advisors operate.

Recently, I took a trip to my hometown of Cleveland. After 30 years of living in Los Angeles, I’m still a diehard Browns, Cavs, and Guardians fan, which is my cross to bear, although it binds us Clevelanders together as a hardworking town with loyalties that run deep.

But I digress. During this trip, I was able to spend a couple days with one of my colleagues for the first time as we met with some fantastic leaders, advisors, and teams. What struck me during our time together was the passion this colleague had for being a giver, and for working with others who are givers and not takers.

A giver is someone who wants to help others become the best versions of themselves, without the need for immediate reciprocity. It was inspiring to witness and sucked me into this individual’s orbit (you’ll need to read the rest of the article to understand that reference).

As a financial advisor, you can affect so many lives in so many positive ways. And you can build relationships as either a giver or a taker. In other words, you can either focus on assisting clients because you want to help them become the best versions of themselves, or you can focus on your own personal gain. Both approaches can theoretically lead to success, but it’s not difficult to guess which one creates long-lasting personal bonds with clients.

In this article, I’d like to offer three ideas to consider implementing to help you build relationships as a giver rather than a taker – not just with clients, but with prospects, friends, and family as well.

1. Be curious to help others succeed

When approaching new prospective clients, current relationships, or even those in your personal life, being a giver means you are not attached to achieving any particular outcome for yourself. Rather, you are focused on understanding the uniqueness of the individuals you interact with because you are truly curious about their success and how you can support their goals.

In Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, he discusses what networking experts have found in their research. Namely, that givers have a track record of generously sharing their knowledge, teaching us their skills, and connecting us to resources that will support our success without worrying about what’s in it for them.

On the flip side, a taker will focus on the outcomes they want to achieve during these meetings. For takers, it is all about the “win,” or their personal victory, with little regard for what the other party is attempting to accomplish.

With over 330,000 registered investment advisors in North America alone, differentiating yourself from the competition is the order of the day. And I think it’s fair to say that the givers will ultimately stand apart from the takers and build the most successful practices.

Here are some questions you can use in your next meeting to show clients you are genuinely curious about their success and how you can support it:

  • How do you define success and what can I do to help you achieve it?
  • What value can I provide that would complement your skills?
  • What can I do to enhance your ability to reach your goals?


2. Don’t be a genius

Author Liz Wiseman discusses the differences between geniuses and genius-makers in her book Multipliers. According to Wiseman, geniuses tend to be takers: They promote their own interests and “drain intelligence, energy, and capability” from others.

Genius-makers, on the other hand, tend to be givers, as they “use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities” of other people.

This idea resonated with me during my recent trip to Cleveland. My colleague was so invested in the success of everyone we met with, it was like a bright light shining where the audience knew there was heartfelt appreciation for what they were communicating. My colleague was not trying to “make the sale” or pushing a plan onto these individuals. In fact, there was little discussion about business as the focus remained strictly on the needs of those in the room.

There’s no doubt about it, my colleague was displaying the traits of a genius-maker. This was eye-opening to me, as before I had read Liz’s book, I had never thought of geniuses (or genius-makers) in this way.

Next time you’re preparing for a client or prospect meeting, try to adopt the mindset of a genius-maker by asking yourself these questions:

  • How can I amplify the smarts and capabilities of those in the room?
  • How can I offer thoughts, ideas, and support that are focused on the client’s or prospect’s goals, and not my own?


3. Initiate a ripple effect in your network

There is a trait I get so intrigued with when I witness it in some of the great leaders, advisors, and colleagues, such as the one I’m writing about here. It’s the ability to create a “ripple effect” throughout one’s entire network where everyone feels almost like family. These individuals lead with a vibrancy that sucks you into their orbit of giving even if you are naturally a taker.

About that orbit analogy … in Adam Grant’s book, he mentions where the networking researchers created an energy network map, which looked like a model of a galaxy. And guess what? They showed that the takers were black holes that sucked the energy from those around them. And the givers were suns, injecting light throughout their galaxies.

This all rings so true when I think about the interactions I’ve had with givers. They connect you with others in their orbit who will support your success, with no questions asked. In their presence, you feel that you are the focus, and it resonates on an emotional level.

Think about your own personal network: Would those inside it describe you –as a sun or a blackhole? What about your current or prospective clients? If you displayed the traits of a giver, would you become the advisor, and not just an advisor to them?

Here are some questions to reflect on when thinking about how you want to affect your network – as a bright shining sun, and never a black hole.

  • What do I need to change to let go of the need for immediate reciprocity?
  • How can I become the shining sun in my network so that I can connect them based on needs and service?
  • What can I do to feel comfortable displaying humility and feel courageous in my conversations?

As a final exercise, I would challenge you to take out a pad of paper and draw two columns, with one labeled giver and the other labeled taker.

Being honest with yourself, which column would you place yourself in currently? How about those on your team? Better yet, think about your network both personally and professionally: Who are the individuals you know who fit the model of a giver, and how can you learn from them?

In the professional world – particularly in sales-based roles – being a giver can sometimes be misconstrued as not being a “closer.” But make no mistake: Givers are some of the most successful people on the planet, and this is backed by research. They do have a decidedly different mindset, and this is what creates the aura of the “sun” and draws people into their orbit.

If you are a giver, help others who might be struggling to become one. If you are a taker, think about the steps outlined here today. Also, I referenced both Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, and Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. If you are looking to develop your abilities as a giver and a genius-maker, those two resources can assist you along that path.

Lastly, feel free to reach out to me directly so we can share stories of the orbits we have become a part of thanks to the givers who have come into our lives. I know I feel honored to have spent time with my colleague over those few days. We have been in constant contact since that time, with no intentions other than they want to assist me in becoming the best version of myself. I look forward to hearing about the bright shining sun you become and the orbit you create in the future.