Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beyond Story-based Planning

July 2008

Beyond Story-Based Planning

If you’ve read Chapter 7 of Like a Library Burning by Scott Farnsworth and Peggy Hoyt, you understand that presently the best financial planning, estate planning, funeral planning, and philanthropic planning out there is “story-based planning.” At its core, The SunBridge Legacy Builder Network is all about story-based planning, because the essence of Legacy Building is sharing and saving stories. If you thoughtfully evaluate each component of the SunBridge Legacy Builder mind-set, skill-set, tool-set, and support-set, you will find they’re each about how to effectively, efficiently, and elegantly share and save stories. For all the dozens of reasons set forth in Like a Library Burning, sharing and saving stories is one of the most important things we can do for our clients, our clients’ loved ones, and ourselves.

As I wrote in the May 2008 blog (A New Breed of Planner), I believe the best advisors are those who are able to engage their clients on the story level and then use the insights and understandings gleaned in that exchange to build technically brilliant plans that reflect the values, personalities, fears, dreams, wisdom, and life-learning of their clients and their families. To do anything less is to grossly short-change and over-charge them, and to rob ourselves of the core reason we got into this business in the first place: to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Once you get that concept, you immediately recognize that Legacy Building or “story-based planning” should not be merely an add-on to your planning process. It’s not a quaint set of activities you stick into a workshop or a cute set of steps you append to the “real work” of estate planning or financial services. To the contrary, it is the heart and soul of good human-centered planning. It is not only what we do, but also who we are as we work with our clients.

To do that, we must move beyond story-based planning. The next step on this journey is what I call “story-based planning in a Thinking Environment®.” To become the most effective Legacy Builder advisor—and hence the best financial advisor or estate planner on the planet—you must not only master the art and science of story, you must also master Time to Think.

Thinking Environment principles, properly implemented, add incredible energy and impact to your story skills. With Time to Think under your belt, you can know which stories to tell and when, you can help your clients share their stories more effectively, and you can better understand their stories as they share them with you.

What I have learned from listening to Nancy Kline (creator of the Time-To-Think process) and then applying her message to my work with clients is that the most powerful planning occurs in a four-way confluence of expertise: 1) the planner’s technical training and experience; 2) the planner’s mastery of the art and science of story; 3) the clients’ unparalleled expertise about their world and their life; and 4) the planner’s skill at creating a Thinking Environment within which the other skills are at their best. When these four streams of expertise come together, magic happens and brilliance explodes in the room. The outcomes are unimaginable. There’s simply nothing like it in the world.

When a technically competent professional advisor who has mastered the art and science of story is also able to be a Thinking Environment in the presence of clients, the very best thinking, the very best stories, and the very best discernment about the meaning within those stories are available to push the planning to its human and technical zenith. Both the analytical and intuitive sides are fully honored, completely addressed, and elegantly woven into the finest possible result. When you’re working at that level, if feels as if each person involved is a genius and every product is a masterpiece. Which indeed they are!

Some day in the not-too-distant future, clients will insist on working only with planners who have the capability to bring these four skill-sets to the table. I plan on being there, and I invite you to join me.

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