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Feeling responsible for others certainly has its place in both our personal lives and in our careers as advice-based planners. However, the problems come in when you take that level of responsibility to an unhealthy level and it turns into over-responsibility. There are many reasons why your financial planning business may not be as successful as you want it to be, and over-responsibility is certainly one of them. When you’re over-responsible, you heighten your perceived level of control over situations and others and the outcome is never good.

What Does Over-Responsibility Look Like?

How do you know you’re being over-responsible with your clients? It can take on many different forms, depending on your personality, the types of clients you work with, and your own personal insecurities. Here are some examples of how over-responsibility can manifest in your business:

  • You feel personally responsible for the impending late-life divorce of one of your couple clients and frantically try to get them to attend counseling or work through their problems.
  • You become frustrated and bitter when your clients don’t take your advice and make necessary changes to their financial plans.
  • You agonize when a client passes away and their financial plans aren’t in order and feel you let down the entire family he or she left behind.
  • You argue with clients about decisions they’ve made (both financial and otherwise) and judge them (either openly or in your head) on their life choices.
  • You can’t stop worrying about your clients or their financial situations even when you’re done working for the day.

How Can You STOP Being Over-Responsible and Start Being Plain Old Responsible?

Though it may appear that feelings of over-responsibility indicate how much you care about your clients and how good of an advisor you are, this simply is not the truth. Feelings of over-responsibility are really more of an indictment of your own insecurities and need for control. If you don’t get these feelings in check, they will end up hurting your relationships with your clients, your business as a whole, and your own feelings of happiness and fulfillment. So how can you start making changes now to lessen your pattern of over-responsibility? Here are some tips.

Develop Trust  When it comes down to it, over-responsibility is about a lack of trust. You don’t trust your clients to make good decisions for themselves so you feel you have to make the decisions for them. You also don’t feel you can trust yourself to accept the decisions they end up making (especially if those decisions are against your advice), so you try to prevent it from happening in the first place. You must develop trust in others and stop thinking you know everyone else’s business better than they do. You must also trust that no matter what decisions they end up making, you can accept those decisions and still act as their mentor and an effective advisor.

Focus on What You Can Control  We’ve all heard the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  This is great advice for those suffering from over-responsibility. The bottom line is, we can only really control one thing: ourselves. You can’t control whether or not your clients will take your advice, you cannot control the stock market, and you cannot control how others will react to what you say or do. When you realize this, you can put the focus squarely back where it needs to be: on yourself and how you can run your practice according to your personal ideals, values, and rules of conduct.

Learn to Let Go  Those who are caught in a web of over-responsibility are often wracked with guilt because they feel responsible for when things go wrong (even when it really had nothing to do with them). It’s vital to learn how to let go—not only when the negative outcome was not your fault, but also when it was. When things go badly, look deeper into the situation and see if you could have done anything differently. If not, simply let it go. If it was in some way your fault, apologize for your mistake, understand how you can do better the next time, and then let it go. Staying in the guilt phase is a recipe for disaster.

Over-responsibility is a negative spiral that can suck you in and leave you continually feeling unappreciated and guilty. If you recognize the signs of over-responsibility, it’s vital that you take steps now to start changing your behavior before it has any more negative impacts on your business and your emotional health. If you’d like to talk more about reasons your business may not be succeeding, please reach out! I’d love to chat.

When you become a mentor to your clients, deeply understand them, and guide them toward a better future, then you’ve learned the ways of a financial caregiver. You’ve come to know what it means to be a true purveyor of advice, and how to use money as a conduit to a more fulfilling life for yourself and those you serve.

Patrick Tucker, owner of True Measure Wealth Management and founder of True Measure Financial Advisors, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He’s spent over $500,000 finding mentors, studying consulting businesses, taking courses, studying the soft sciences, running trial and error experiments, and learning how to be an entrepreneurial financial advisor. He’s simplified this into an easy to use blueprint for anyone who is entrepreneurial-minded and is tired of the sales culture. Patrick has been able to acquire over $158 million under management with little to no money spent on marketing.