As your advisory circle's capable, comfortable, and confident leader, you should seek specific guidance and advice relevant to each of your advisor’s specialized expertise. Depending on your personal, family, business, and financial situation, many professionals may be on your advisory team. Other members may include counselors of various types, insurance professionals, or business attorneys. To keep it simple, let's look at your advisory circle, which may consist of three professional advisors:
- CPA (accounting & taxes)
- Estate Attorney (legal)
- Certified Financial Planner® (investments; comprehensive planning)
Each of these specialists is an expert in their field, and you go to them for advice, guidance, and counsel. As the leader of your advising team, how should you engage with these professionals, and what is their role? To answer these questions, let’s step back and look at your advisory circle and three key factors that affect the quality of guidance:
- Integrated Guidance
- Advisor Limitations
1. Integrated Guidance
You seek your advisors because you need to make sound decisions based on your personal, family, and financial situation. It is about achieving your goals, meeting your needs, and achieving your hopes and dreams. In many cases, the client needing the advice goes from one niche advisor to another. For example, the individual has three separate meetings: one with their CPA, another with an investment advisor, and still another meeting with an estate attorney. It is often a challenge for the client to process and integrate all the advice from each professional and make sense of it to make the best decisions. As the client, you want comprehensive and integrated guidance tailored to your personal, family, and financial situation.
2. Advisor Limitations
Your advisors pride themselves on their expertise in their niche and in answering your questions (if you can figure out what questions you should ask). They are subject matter experts, not experts in counseling or meaningful conversations of the heart. They do not know the breadth or depth of your personal, family, and situation and may not understand what is meaningful to you. Although you seek out the specific expertise of each of your advisors, it is essential that you be aware of three factors that may affect their engagement with you.
Niche Expertise: Professional advisors are trained with expertise on a specific topic, whether taxes, investments, legal affairs, or some other specialization. In many cases, they need to be privy to their overall personal, family, and financial situation. For most professional advisors, philanthropic advising is not one of their skill sets. So, it is essential to recognize each advisor’s perspective and specific niche of expertise. The goal is that it must tie in with everything else regarding your overall personal, family, and financial situation.
Philanthropic Conversations: Unless trained as counselors, most professional advisors may not be emotionally comfortable engaging in meaningful conversations about close-to-the-heart issues. For example, an accountant may not be comfortable discussing personal outreach or family dynamics because their specialized expertise is in numbers, taxes, and accounting.
Conflicts of interest: Within every profession, there is typically some conflict of interest. These conflicts may be of financial or service interest or a conflict of omission. For example, your estate attorney may omit to mention the essential mundane and practical administrative and paperwork details, such as completing beneficiary forms. Likewise, your financial advisor may be reluctant to initiate a conversation on financial outreach (i.e., giving money to a charity) if their income is based on managing your financial assets for a fee.
First and foremost, recognize that you are your advisory team’s leader, and your team should work together to meet your needs, hopes, and dreams. Your advisory group is there to serve and work on your behalf. They are there to serve you, and you need to be capable of initiating and engaging in conversation to guide them in steering and helping you. In addition, they should be collaborating and discussing amongst themselves. You may want to consider a lead advisor that serves as the focal point and integrator of the advice coming from your advisory team. A Certified Financial Planner® is comprehensively trained in various financial topics and should be able to synthesize and integrate the information on your behalf.
In summary, as the leader of your advisory team, there are three significant challenges:
- Understand the strengths of each advisor and limits in perspective and specialty.
- Assess each of your niche advisor’s ability and willingness to engage in conversations of the heart.
- Be willing to initiate and engage in conversations for full transparency and disclosure of potential conflicts of interest that may interfere with engaging in meaningful conversations.
As a final point, as the saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” To become an effective advisory team leader, it is essential to become equipped with the knowledge, tools, and terminology to engaging in fluent and meaningful conversations with members of your advisory team. Knowledge and leadership (influence) are needed to be an effective advisory group leader. Learning intentional generosity through the publications or online courses of the Aspirational Philanthropist Learning Series ® will help you become more effective in leading your advisory team.
Let’s do some good!