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Many years ago, I became intensely interested in the stages people go through when faced with a negative life event.

Death is the obvious one. Serious illness is another, but there are a number of extraordinary life events that result in extraordinary (and often counter-intuitive) emotional reactions.

This sounds very morbid, I apologise. But I’m the kind of person who thinks about this stuff. Rachel isn’t a fan. She doesn’t like talking about it.

At a deep level, I’m very interested in the thin barriers that exist between the conscious and the subconscious mind, and the ways people manage and are managed by their emotions

The stages of grief, according to medically-accepted sources, are:

  1. Denial and isolation (What the hell has this got to do with anything? I’ll unsubscribe)
  2. Anger (Idiot! This blog is a bunch of crap)
  3. Bargaining (Ok, so maybe he’s right about #2, but not #3)
  4. Depression (Damn. He’s right. I was bargaining and I didn’t even spot it)
  5. Acceptance (Good blog. I’m going to Vegas…)

…and often jumping back and forth between stages.

I’m raising this because recently I’ve noticed more and more of these stages arising within business owners, particularly as they face a period of high workload, uncertainty, and impending change.

I’ve heard before that change is hard. When I hear this, I tend to respond by disagreeing.

Change isn’t hard. Deciding to change is hard.

In truth, when somebody has decided that the future they can see ahead of them has a greater attraction than the now (or the past), the change decision is usually a question of what, when and how.

If I go back six months and look at many advice business owners facing indirect criticism and potential disruption from media, education and legislation, I notice a lot of people that could be categorised as being in a stage of denial.

“It might not happen”

“It hasn’t been passed yet”

” A change of government will change everything”

“They won’t do that”

Nothing wrong with this. It is, after all, natural when change of significant nature is upon us.

I personally don’t see any point in changing something if it’s working, until you’re 100% sure it’s not an option anymore (although I do think having a Plan B is always a good Plan B).

Thankfully, as time has progressed fewer business owners I’m speaking to seem to have remained in the stage of denial.

I’m not hearing comments like, “It won’t happen“, or “They’ll make changes“, or “It won’t affect me“.

Instead I’m seeing the move into what I call the second stage; when you realise not doing anything is no longer an option and that question arises. 

“Okay. WHAT do I need to do?”

You know.

  • What education do I need to meet FASEA requirements? 
  • What projects do I need to undertake in my business, to make sure my service model is sustainable, and my pricing will enable me to remain profitable.
  • What do I need to do to communicate changes to my clients and make sure we’re on the same page?

I love this stage, probably because this is where I feel I can start to help. Also because it means that people have got their head up, looking forward to the future and looking for ways to make that journey easier.

Future-focused coaching is what I love most. I’ve never been the coach to say to people, “Have you done your homework? Why not? Okay, well, you gotta do it next time, okay?

I’ve always preferred to be the coach to have a session with a client that’s more, “So, you nailed that last bit. Shall we work on what comes next?

People love talking about the future. You know this from your clients, so the fact I love it too won’t come as a surprise.

Then there’s stage three. The most important of all. When you start to ask HOW. 

I don’t know how many advisers are there yet. Maybe you already are. If you’re reading this, it’s a good chance you are.

You might have decided that what you need to do is to undertake certain educational studies in order to meet your requirements. Fantastic. You might have worked out what credits you’ve already got, what is missing and which courses you need to do.

But that’s not going to help you pass the exam.

Identifying the solution isn’t the same as implementing it, even though it feels the same (scientifically speaking, the dopamine boost is the same).

Years ago when I was at Uni, I read many books about how to study. Different methods, different ways of doing it, different ways of planning things out.

Some believe in cramming. Others in rote learning. Some people use flashcards. Some record lectures and play them whilst sleeping.

You get the idea.

When was the last time you had to approach studying as a longer-term project, because you knew “last minute” might not cut it? 

Trust me, I’ve been there when I tried to study Japanese in my first year, whilst combining it with a freestyle social life (zero regrets). You can’t cram the Japanese language. Honto ni, dekinai.

Same goes for topics like service model, pricing transition, putting in place a marketing plan to get engagement with clients or any of the other things you need to do.

You might know what you need to do, but that key step of stepping sitting down and working out how to do it is the difference between having the solution and achieving the outcome.

I recently sent out an email to everybody on the program. The message I wanted to get across was that when time feels like a scarce commodity is often when it’s most important to manage that resource well.

Time is one of the things we’re often lied to about. We told we don’t have time, or time runs out.

Truth, time is made.

It’s made by blocking out the important things out in your diary.

It’s made by working to a schedule and protecting important things from the demands of urgent things.

It’s made by getting urgent stuff done quickly and as soon as possible, and getting better at delegating the urgent so other people can help out. 

A big part about is making sure that when you sit down to do the work, you’re not just armed with what to do, but you’re also clear on how to do it.

Some time ago, I worked with a business who would block out every Friday afternoon to work on their business. But three weeks after we started, I noticed that we weren’t making the right progress.

When we dug deep, they weren’t sitting down to do the work clear on the steps they needed to take.

They were wasting time because the didn’t have a clear set of steps to follow. They hadn’t done the “plan” bit.

These are challenging times, but let’s be real. There are people out there who have come through more challenging times. 

We’re rushed, sometimes overwhelmed, maybe stressed, too easily distracted, not focused enough, too easy to contact, unmotivated and way too connected. But we have time.

There’s a great opportunity if you’ve already moved on from the denial piece, as I expect most of you already have.

As long as you have a plan, you have the means to turn intention into results.


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