Gluck: What's next?

Kline: Information. The client has critically important information about his life, needs and values. Not just information about assets, but information about the client. The client is the major resource. Keep in mind, the advisor really is actually a person who does not know what the client will say. Advisors have to be able to hear anything and be respectful in the presence of those things. It's important to realize that a person thinks badly when they're in denial. Denial is the assumption that what's true is not true and what's not true is true. Basically, denial is a state of operating on false information. You must be mindful of this to get complete and accurate information. Shall I go to the next one?

Gluck: Please.

Kline: The next property of a thinking environment is diversity. Every human being that walks into your office is many groups of people. We are white and black and we are Jews. We are Christians and we are from Wisconsin and from Bangladesh. We are in wheelchairs and we're not. We're over 60 and we're under 30. We are mothers and we are fathers. We are so many groups. Many of those groups are the target of untrue, limiting assumptions that limit our power, dignity and well-being. In a thinking environment, the listener has to do as good a job as possible of divesting themselves of those untrue assumptions that they've been taught about various groups. Of course, we don't know of anybody that's ever done that wholly successfully.

To be conscious of the impact that our unstated, untrue assumptions about people-because of their identities-has on our thinking is important. Start being aware that, although you might say you're not prejudiced against any particular group, society has taught you to be. Just to recognize that is a start on the journey of recognizing the assumptions you may be making about clients. For example, let's talk about gender for a second, which is one group that everybody belongs to. Clients often won't think well in front of an advisor who, for example, might not be giving equal time to, let's say, the woman in the couple. The advisor is unaware that he is giving most of the time to the man. Or sometimes the reverse can happen. Diversity means welcoming groups different from and ideas different from your ideas. It will help the client think well.

Gluck: What's left to cover in creating a thinking environment in your office?

Kline: Actually, the office itself. The place is one of the components. The physical place where you are also has an impact on thinking. The place needs to say back to you that you matter. It's interesting, Andy, but the offices of professional advisors often seem to say, "You don't matter. I matter." Advisors can turn physical premises into places that welcome clients as an equal.  

Gluck: I've experienced firsthand the profound impact that Time To Think principles can have on a person. Can people fully understand your ideas without experiencing it in a training session with you?

Kline: Some people report that after reading Time To Think their attention is much more of this quality. Some advisors report that their clients tell them this. What's an improvement for one person may not be really quite at the level that clients need. A person can make the decision that, unless there is a fire, you will not interrupt anybody ever again in your work. Or start with the client. Commit to never again interrupt a client. That's a start.

Advisors can also decide that they will tell their clients that they won't interrupt them and that they're doing that because at least 50% of the planning process is getting generative thinking from the client. The deeper quality that one wants finally to attain takes practice. But I believe that you can decide to be interested. You can make a commitment to be interested in what another person is thinking and saying, and that makes a difference.
But the real issue is that advisors are educated to have answers, and they think that that's what expertise is. They think that that's what clients are buying, and the clients also think that's what they're buying. Advisors who have become "thinking-environment practices" re-educate themselves and their clients. They and their clients come to understand that, although the technical financial knowledge the advisor possesses is important, of equal importance is the advisor's expertise in generating the thinking of the client. When the client understands that's part of what they're buying, it becomes easier for the advisor to do it.

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