Lesson 2 | How to get at Vision (8:20 minutes)

How do you help someone articulate their vision? It's time to do that. And we have this mapped out in the workbook, if you want to follow along. If you haven't printed it already, make sure you print it. There are five simple steps in the process. First, reassure them that most people don't have this solved. Two, remind them why it's important. Three, create a little safety. Four, set the context for the questions, and five, ask some questions. The first step is simply to remind your clients that most people don't have a perfectly thought out answer to what's your vision. It's very rare that someone has this solved, so feel free to relax and know that you're going exploring. You're going to figure this out, and you're not expected to have all the answers right away, and you'll help them find them.

The next step is to remind them why it's important to get clear on their vision. You can tell them: We spoke about vision when we first met, and there are two reasons for getting clear on it. The first is to make sure that we only address issues that are important to you and important to your future. And the second is to make sure that what we suggest is going to matter in the long run, not just in the short term. Not too many clients are going to argue with the value in that. Also, we have to keep in mind that goals are contextual. Goals are stepping stones that take you to a desired future state. If you don't know what that vision is, how can you ensure that you're working on goals that matter? Well, you can't. So vision first, then goals.

The next place we want to go is simply create some safety. So we say, I just have a few questions to help me get a sense for how you want things to be in the future. It's very disarming language. We're not putting a squeeze on them. This isn't a test that they have to pass. It's just to get a sense of how they want things to be one day. And the last thing we want to say before we start asking questions about their vision deals with the timeline. How far out are we looking? If you think about time on a line, there is the present. So, if the present is here and the future is here, then the future is inherently unknowable, right? So, there's a destination that's there that you just can't know. But as you travel through time, the further through time you go, the less knowable it is, which means that the next few days, you probably have a good idea how things are going to happen. And then the further out you go, the less you know. However, you can have an idea about your vision that's crystal clear.

So, you can know your future with absolute clarity, and you can know the next couple of days. You can know what the destination looks like and not know exactly how you're going to get there. And frankly, that's the reason clients come to you. That's the reason they get planning. That's the reason that they want advice. So with that in mind, we want to push them out as far on the time horizon as is reasonably possible, and at least aim for about 10 year time window, because 10 years seems to take away the boundaries of time, knowledge, and money. If you don't know how to do a thing, 10 years from now, could you probably have it figured out? Yeah. 10 years from now, could you probably have saved things up, learned a new skill, built a new network, et cetera? Sure.

So the time, the knowledge, the money, they become a lot less relevant when you look out beyond 10 years, so go after that 10 year window, at least, if you can. The other key thing is to encourage them to be bold about their vision, but still grounded. A person's vision needs to be compelling to them. And until a vision is an obsession, people aren't really going to act on it. So, you want to make sure that they are really dialed in and connected with it, and that way they'll be more likely to act on their vision, and frankly, act on the advice that you'll provide along the way. So, you've reassured them that most people don't have this solved. You've reminded them why it's important to do this. You've created a little bit of safety and you've set the context for some questions.

So, let's ask some questions about the future, and there are six. First one, do you have a sense of what you want the future to look like for your, and then whatever the topic of conversation has been. So, if it's about a business transition or the finances or the retirement or their family, so whatever it is, so you would say, "Do you have a sense of what you want the future to look like for your business transition? Or, do you have a sense of what you want the future to look like for your retirement or your finances or for your family?" It's a binary question. They're going to answer a yes or no, generally, or I guess a maybe, but then just ask, "Can you tell me about it? So, do you have a sense of how you want the future to look for your retirement?"

"I've got a bit of a sense." "Well, can you tell me about it?" And get them into the conversation and just let them talk. Take notes. As a matter of fact, recording is a great idea so that you can look at those notes later and stay present during the meeting. The second question is how would you know if you created a successful, and whatever it is you were talking about? So if this was retirement, how would you know if you created a successful retirement, or how would you know if you created a successful life or a successful succession or a successful intergenerational wealth transfer? How would you know? And what that starts to draw out are some specifics. And then ask, "So give me some examples" and they'll start to tell you more. The third question is if you were guaranteed to succeed at whatever it is we're talking about, what would you do?

So if you were guaranteed to succeed at retirement, what would you do? So, if it was going to be exactly however you wanted it to be, what would you do? The fourth question is what are five things that you want to be proud of in the future? This is a time to take some notes on that. And the fifth is what is the thing you want to have, be, or do? Goals fall into one of three categories, having goals, doing goals, or being goals. So, I want to have this stuff, do these things and be this person. So in the future, what is it you want to be? What is it you want to do? What is it you want to have? And then, the sixth one is what will be happening in your life in 10 years, but also what won't be happening?

And what happens is, by asking those questions, you'll start to clarify or help them build some clarity around how they want the future to look. Now, every now and then you'll find someone who loves this stuff. They totally want to go deep. They want to have a philosophical conversation. So there's two things to keep in mind. One is, watch the clock. This shouldn't take forever for you to do. And in higher wealth situations, it may take longer, but just be aware of the time. As a matter of fact, set some time constraints at the beginning of your meeting so that you don't have to, especially if you know someone who's going to be talking a lot, so you don't have to reign them in. The other thing to think about is don't do a deep dive in a shallow pool. If you've got someone who is not engaging deeply in the process, don't push them. Just ask the questions.

It may be very surface stuff, or you may have somebody who really, really goes deep. Respect where they are. So when it comes to vision, we roll through these stages. You want to reassure them. You want to tell them the purpose. You want to create safety. You want to create context. Then you'll ask the questions. It would sound like this: "Most people simply haven't sat down to get really clear on their vision. So rest easy. If you don't have quick answers here, we're just doing a bit of exploring. Now, we spoke about vision when we first met, and the point of us understanding it first is to make sure that we only address issues that matter to you. And the second is to make sure that what we suggest is going to matter in the long run, as well as in the short term. I have just a few questions to help me get a sense of how you want things to be in the future."

"So, let's start thinking about 10 years out from now. We can't know everything that'll happen between now and then, but it's enough time to make some real changes on things that matter to you. So, let's ask some questions." Now you'll get into those questions and that'll give you a chance to explore it with them. So, that's the sequence for how we approach vision. Having conversations with your clients about their vision will absolutely change the relationship that you have with them and absolutely set you apart from other advisors. Here's your Action Task: Think about your vision for the future. Go through the questions we covered in the lesson and document your vision in the workbook, so that you're clear.

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Vision Questions