Care for Clients by First Caring for Yourself

 In Professional Development

Are your clients and staff seeing your best self? Guest blogger Kathleen Thomas shares how putting yourself first gives you energy to help others.

I’ve been reflecting on what it takes to get to the starting line of an Ironman Distance Race. The answer involves discipline, structure and a willingness to commit to the required 12 to 16 hours per week of training. It’s a goal I set a year before the race, but there are thousands of other goals I pursue on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. All of them require me to be my best self, which is the only self that can effectively serve my clients. Keeping my vitality reservoir topped off is what drives my professional success, a practice honed through Knowledge LabsTM’ Energy for Performance program.

Put Yourself First

As I write, I am getting ready to pack for Ironman Mont Tremblant Canada 140.6. I’m supercharged heading into the race, feeling the energy and confidence that come from keeping the promises I made to myself a year ago. Along the way I accepted the fact that
one missed workout meant letting down my future self, and I decided that wasn’t going to happen.

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Guest Blogger Kathleen Thomas

It’s all worth it, because putting myself first is what allows me to fully engage and present
my best self to my clients. Prioritizing my own needs isn’t a natural instinct. Like many women, I tend to accept the role of caregiver, whether I have the energy for it or not. This tendency extends into my financial advising practice, where my initial impulse is to give all of myself to every client, every minute of the day.

This is something I’ve worked hard to overcome during my career. I also coach my clients to stifle that urge to leap into action, without thought, every time someone makes a demand on their time. The best advisors care about their clients, but constant empathy drains energy. Putting yourself first empowers you to stay active, fueled and focused. It’s the only way you’ll be able to devote your time and talent to important matters, rather than doling it out in small percentages to the detriment of all and benefit of none. Remember: your clients are valuable, but so are you.

The Oxygen Mask Dilemma

Women frequently approach retirement with a smaller financial cushion than their male counterparts, for reasons familiar to most practitioners. Female retirees have fewer resources in the first place due to time out of the workforce and pay inequity while working. These underlying issues are compounded by the desire to help and support the important people in their lives.

When I coach women on what they need to do in order to enjoy their life goals, I remind them what every flight attendant says before the plane takes off: “If the cabin should lose pressure, place your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” This seems simple, but many of us still don’t understand that fulfilling our own needs better equips us to help others,

During that long year of Ironman training, the client feedback I’ve been most surprised by has been, “I can’t believe you’re willing to email me at 5:00 a.m.” The implication is that I’m making a personal sacrifice in order to be atop their inbox. The truth is, I get into my email while having breakfast because that’s how I clear my slate in preparation for my morning workout. It’s not selfishness, but rather a way to balance my caretaking instinct with the very real need for “me time.”

As I’m suiting up and clipping in for a ride, I can give training my full attention because I know my staff and clients have what they need. I arrive at the office post-workout calm, refreshed and filled with energy and purpose for my day. In other words: oxygen for everyone. We can all breathe easy.

For actionable tools to manage your everyday energy and stress, visit our Energy for Performance program.

About the Author

Kathleen Thomas, who often goes by KT, has more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and understands the need for women to take control of their financial lives. She is the author of “The Hardworking Woman’s Guide to Money”, which provides the information women need to make informed decisions about their own finances.

A Certified Investment Management Analyst, Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner, Thomas earned her degrees in finance and political science from Salem College.

Prior to founding NewDay Solutions, an independent Registered Advisor Firm, Thomas spent 20 years as a private wealth advisor for Ameriprise Financial Services. Many of her earliest clients continue to work with her.

Thomas is an avid long-distance runner and triathlon participant. She has completed the Boston Marathon seven times and the Ironman Distance Triathlon three times. She has volunteered as coach and mentor for Girls on the Run New Hampshire and Team in Training.

Raised in Newton, Massachusetts, Thomas now lives in Seabrook, New Hampshire, with her husband, John. They have one daughter.

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