When I teach leadership classes—which include client leadership—trust comes up a lot. I like to ask class members, “What makes a leader?” The answers are usually the same. The number one answer is that a leader must be trustworthy. Trustworthy usually expands to: they are worthy of following, they have integrity, their values are clear, they respect transparency, their decisions are predictable and they lead with a clear vision.

Developing a “trust mindset” is crucial to developing a “change mindset.” Advisors help clients get from where they are now to where they need to go. To accomplish that, advisors invariably ask clients to change their behavior. Asking clients to make changes requires clients to trust the advisor. Trustworthy client leadership is critical to keeping an advisor-client relationship strong.

Before asking a client to make a change or to implement something new, the advisor needs to make sure that it’s within the client’s scope of ability. The foundation of a change mindset comes from understanding what a person can do, not what they can’t do, and building from their personal baseline. Ensuring that they can succeed and accomplish the goals that are set for them is critical to maintaining client engagement. Clients will not trust an advisor if the advisor has not accurately assessed the client’s scope of ability and has unintentionally sent them up to fail.

There are three conditions necessary for people to change: they must be willing, ready and able.

• The first component for change is willingness. This is their why, which is a leading driver for most people. Motivation relates to the client’s willingness to change. There are many types of motivation, including intrinsic (based on internal rewards, e.g., self-improvement or aligned with personal values or pleasure), extrinsic (based on external rewards, e.g., money or recognition), goal-orientation (focused on reaching or completing specific tasks to achieve a planned outcome), self-efficacy (based on individual belief in their own capacity to achieve), and confidence (which generally enhances motivation). Advisors need to understand a client’s motivation, and its impact on their willingness, before recommending a change.

• The second factor is readiness to change. Do they have what it takes? Do they have the knowledge to be ready? Do they have the skills and facts as well as physical, social, mental, spiritual and emotional knowledge necessary to change their behavior? Knowledge and its applications are complex, and it may take a moment to sort through what the client can do in regard to their behavioral change. A trusted financial advisor can be the first-line resource for the knowledge and skills clients need to be capable decision-makers.

• Ability to change is the third factor. Organizational support, such as construction of a formal financial plan, helps the client to be able to change. This provides the how and the support system to get clients from their point A to their point B. Their financial plan, coupled with trusted leadership from their advisor, provides a safe space to modify behavior and accomplish new goals.

Just as we cannot assume that a client will have a “change mindset” and automatically implement our recommendations, we also cannot assume that clients have enough of a trust mindset to change their behavior immediately. Trust requires attention, action and visibility in all that we do with our clients. One way to earn trust is by making sure we only ask the client to make changes that they can successfully implement. This will depend on their individual capacity and means we must grow with them, considering their ability level, place of readiness and willingness to change in all that we do.

Dr. Daralee Barbera is the director of the MSM Program at The American College of Financial Services, the George G. Joseph and Richard A. Liddy Chair in Practice Management and Leadership, and Assistant Professor of Leadership.