5 steps to deliberate practice growth

In our latest episode of Conversations on Wealth, Sarah Widmeyer, SVP and Head of Wealth Strategies, chats with Christina Clement, Vice President Growth and Execution about how advisors can deliberately grow their practice.

Emphasizing the need to move away from repetitive behaviors and set specific goals, Christina outlines a five-step framework of purposeful action, focusing on incremental improvements and the importance of feedback.

Sarah Widmeyer  0:16 

Welcome to Conversations on Wealth, a podcast dedicated to helping Canadians navigate the complexities of wealth with a multi-dimensional approach to planning and wealth management. I’m Sarah Widmeyer, SVP and Head of Wealth Strategies at Richardson Wealth, and today, we’re talking to advisors about something called deliberate practice. And you may wonder what this means, and it’s really the notion that if you want to get very good at something, you need to pay attention, and move away from doing the same things over and over. But many of us of course fall into these default behaviours. My guest today is going to walk us through a five-step framework built on purposeful action that will help us move away from repetitiveness and into a more diligent pursuit of deliberate practice to grow your business. I’m so pleased to have my colleague Christina Clement, joining me today. She is Vice President, Growth and Execution here at Richardson Wealth, and a coach that works very closely with our advisors across the country to help them enhance their practice, and achieve success. Welcome Christina.

Christina Clement  01:30

Thanks for having me back Sarah.

Sarah Widmeyer  01:31

So glad to have you. So let’s start by talking about this notion of deliberate practice. What is it? And what is the science behind it?

Christina Clement  01:42

So deliberate practice is all about, I guess, consciousness versus automatic behavior. And I think some advisors who have been in this business a long time, they fall into a default mode. So how is it that I do discovery? How is it that I do a client review, and there’s not a lot of opportunity to have other people observe that, so they get into kind of a routine, which is not necessarily bad, but they will fall back into those default behaviors. And this is about, okay, if I want to make my business more efficient, and a better client experience, why don’t I have a look at some of the things I’m doing and perhaps choose one, and try to genuinely get better at that one thing.

Sarah Widmeyer  02:27

The thing that kind of comes to mind is driving home from work everyday, you get home safely, but you really can’t explain what you saw or did along the way, because it’s so repetitive,

Christina Clement 02:30

Right… automatic, automatic move, though, so for me, it’s going down the stairs, you know how you’re going down the stairs, and you’re walking downstairs and you’re thinking about 12 other things and all of a sudden, you snap back into consciousness and I almost trip.

Sarah Widmeyer  02:53

Yeah (laughs), that’s dangerous.

Christina Clement  02:55

That is dangerous

Sarah Widmeyer  02:57

So I’m thinking that there are five things I’ve heard you talk about that must be true for deliberate practice to occur. So let’s start with number one. And that’s the importance of having a specific goal and a plan to measure our progress towards that goal. Goal setting is so important, it’s important for everything, but it really is a powerful motivator, isn’t it?

Christina Clement  03:22

It is true, and again, common knowledge would be yes, this is something I should do, and not many people do it, unfortunately. So we’ve read the science, we know it works. But typically, as human beings, we are less likely to be inclined. And everyone well, not everyone, but the common acronym around goals is SMART. So S M A R T

Sarah Widmeyer  03:43


Christina Clement  03:44

stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, are the things that should go into the makeup of a goal. I recently read a study and they talked about three additional acronyms just to make it harder

Sarah Widmeyer  03:58

Oh, because we need to remember those too (laughs)

Christina Clement  03:59

We need to  But they are the letter T S, S, and T stands for Tools. So what tools do you need in order to make this change or this enhancement? Good question. The second one is Support. So instead of doing this alone, who do I need to involve in me helping to attain this goal?

Sarah Widmeyer  04:09

Yeah (laughs) And sometimes it’s just communicating what that goal is

Christina Clement  04:20

Right. Saying it out loud,

Sarah Widmeyer  04:20


Christina Clement  04:21

Asking someone to hold me accountable to it. And the last S is Stop, which this is the one I really like, because it means what do I need to stop doing? Because I find successful advisory teams, there’s the lead advisor, there’s so many good ideas and they come to them, and it’s like, let’s add, they go back to the team. Let’s add this, I heard this, I went to a conference, I read this book, let’s do these things. And the team is kind of like, what are we going to not do in order to put that in?

Sarah Widmeyer  04:55

Yeah, and that takes courage. That takes big courage because sometimes the ideas are so bountiful and so all great, but choosing three, or five or one or whatever that attainable number is, takes courage.

Christina Clement  05:11

Yeah, well, it takes courage for someone to tell maybe the IA

Sarah Widmeyer  05:14


Christina Clement  05:14

All right,

Sarah Widmeyer  05:15

Maybe that’s what I was thinking (laughs).

Christina Clement  05:16


Sarah Widmeyer  05:18

So also thinking about the phrase, “get out of your comfort zone”. This is a tough one for a lot of us. Maybe I’m speaking about myself, uh, in many areas of life. So how do we do this in a focused way?

Christina Clement  05:34

Yeah, so this is not a natural thing, right? The natural thing is to do what we’ve always done, because we know it works to some level,

Sarah Widmeyer  05:41

Or we tell ourselves it works

Christina Clement  05:43

Right. Exactly. So there’s something called safe practice, right? So how is it that you can do something where you save face as an individual and as a professional, but you actually stretch and grow and learn. So roleplay is the perfect example of something like this,

Sarah Widmeyer  06:00


Christina Clement  06:01

But you need to do it in a…, in an environment and with people who, right? who are going to support you and keep you, you know, confidence and competence are going to be, and typically, as adults, right long time, after we’ve got our, you know, whatever, 10,000 hours on something, we think I got this. So to put ourselves in a vulnerable position and say, “Okay, we’re going to run a, a roleplay scenario, and I want you to play a client in this scenario, and I need some feedback.” That’s like, oh,

Sarah Widmeyer  06:32

(Laughs in astonishment)

Christina Clement  06:33

You know, because I want to do a good job, and I want you to think I’m doing a good job, and in our profession, confidence, you always need to have your confidence on. So putting yourself in a vulnerable position is challenging, but that’s how you stretch and grow.

Sarah Widmeyer  06:48

Right. So… thinking about this a little bit more deeply, we hear about trying harder. We’ve been told in order to improve, you just need to try harder, no matter what it is, you know, might be losing weight, try harder. But it turns out that it’s not really the case if we want to get better at something. It’s really about doing something differently. It’s not trying harder, because maybe what you’re doing isn’t working. It really is something about differentness, a different approach. Thinking about it differently.

Christina Clement  07:25

Yeah, I really like this I’d like so I’m, I’m a collector of phrases. And I like this right? Not “try harder”, try to, because “try harder” sounds laborious, it sounds like well, “I’ve kind of feel like I’ve reached my maximum”. But instead of doing that, okay, it’s kind of like work smarter, not harder, right?

Sarah Widmeyer  07:43


Christina Clement  07:43

So try different. So what are my colleagues doing? What is the best practice when it comes to this, because I’m, as an IA team, I’m in my own little vacuum, and I don’t know what other people are doing. So the advantage I have is because I have insight into those teams, I can bring different practices through to other people, “so how about we do this?” Or “Let’s,” or “Would you be comfortable”, like, so it’s about me suggesting different things

Sarah Widmeyer  08:11


Christina Clement  08:11

And then kind of wrapping their head around “Well could I try that? Let’s try that. Let me do it once. Maybe with a with a client, that’s not my best client, not my most critical client or not my most, ugh, a client that provides a lot of good positive feedback, but let’s try it with someone a little safer. And see what happens.” And oh like, oh, I kind of liked that, or I tried it once and the client reacted differently, or the client opened up about something. It’s like, “oh okay, that works, and then that gives me courage to try differently again.”

Sarah Widmeyer  08:44

Hmm. I love that. Um, I’m also thinking about coaches and coaches that you’ve worked with and coaches that you read about, and read about how they help advisors. I’ve heard you talk about having coaches as a mental representation of what great looks like, what do coaches do? And how do we find them?

Christina Clement  09:07

Yeah, so I was doing some research about kind of this area. And they were saying, and I think this is true, they were saying coaches are all around us, right? So it’s not just this person in this profession that has the label coach. There are actually lots of people that surround us in business that there are observant, that have opinions that have best practices.

Sarah Widmeyer  09:26

And I love the other thing that you said about observing, like some of the most successful people that I know, are keen observers of others, what they say, how they act, how they approach, and being open to observing, I think is really important as well. I mean, apart from the concept of coaching being all around us and asking for feedback. It’s also on, on us, I think, to be very observant about how others approach problems, how others say things, how others are acting in client situations, if you’re lucky enough to sit in and observe something like that. Yeah

Christina Clement  09:26

So if you pay attention to those people around you, and you have a trusting relationship, so it could be members of your team. It could be peers, it could, you know, could be a whole bunch of people who, if you bother to ask, ‘what do you see when you sit in in this client meeting’, or ‘you hear me talking on the phone, what do you hear?’ Or ‘what did you notice about their body language in-in an interaction’ because I’m talking to you, a third person can just observe the behaviors between us because I have to concentrate on, you know, paying attention to you, responding well, taking notes, but they’re actually looking at you and me and all the cues that I missed because I’m too in my own head versus being fully present for you. So there’s a multitude of coaches, but again, you need to be open to the idea of asking for feedback from other people. Yeah, and I think what’s really uh, good about that is that, so as the advisor I know who I am, I know what my story is. I know what I want to say, so I’m rooted in myself in every interaction with a client. So I’m not worried about “oh, did I, is the file prepped properly?” “Oh, I forgot to do this.” I’m actually fully present, and I know what I’m going to say, not memorized, just rooted, so that when you talk, I can actually focus on you. And I can actually be observant, because I’m not worried about me.

Sarah Widmeyer  11:31

Mmhmm. Yeah. Yeah.

Christina Clement  11:33

So that’s a whole other different level of preparation.

Sarah Widmeyer  11:36

Love it. So how do you structure a conversation with coaches to get that feedback? And how important is feedback in the moment? I love the concept of feedback in the moment, like I love it in terms of, you know, in what I do in terms of working with really skilled and creative people, giving feedback in the moment and not waiting for year-end reviews or formalized reviews, you see something you say good, bad, you know, you say it. So now I’m thinking about in terms of coaching, like in the question that I’m asking you, “How do you structure if you’re not getting that feedback, how do you structure a conversation so that you get that feedback so that you can be better at what you’re doing?

Christina Clement  12:20

So I read about this concept called Two by Two feedback. So and again, very simple to remember and implement, which is, so you and I have this kind of interaction, we have this kind of conversation. And after, I would say to you, “Sarah, what’s one thing that you think you did well in our conversation”, and you say, “Well, I think I did this well”, and then I come along and say, “This is what I observed that you did well”, okay, so that’s the confidence builder, right? And then the second part is, “what’s one thing do you think you could do better the next time we did one of these?” and you would make your comment, and I would make my comment. And then that’s it. That’s it. So it’s, you know, we hear feedback with a sandwich, right? Positive, negative, positive, that type of sandwich.

Sarah Widmeyer  13:06

Oh… Haha! Okay.

Christina Clement  13:06

So this is a different version, it’s two by two, very kind of short and concise. We’ve said one thing that we both think we did well, and then it’s one do better, and then that’s it. It’s not belaboured. It’s not, you know, there’s no drama. It’s this one little nugget. So that’s a great, you know, I think I did this, you saw that, that’s maybe two things, okay, yep, good. I’m good. We’re good. Next.

Sarah Widmeyer  13:31

Love it. Let’s start talking about how to apply these steps on a pathway to practice growth. I’m thinking about breaking it down, starting with number one, client acquisition is where everything starts. Where should an advisor be focusing their time and effort?

Christina Clement  13:50

Yeah, so there was a study I just read about successful advisors, and they tried to break down the behavior of these kinds of high growth practices. And we mean, this is like, no surprise to anyone, but it bears repeating, right? It’s the simple thing. So they said, teams that spend time in branding and prospecting, or kind of conscious effort, deliberate practice on marketing activity, do better.

Sarah Widmeyer  14:15

Ha. Ha.

Christina Clement  14:16

Ding ding ding. Well, one of the things they were saying is,  It’s not vanilla marketing. It’s “I understand my brand, and I understand my offering, and I’m clear on it, and I am able to tell it in a way that then has other people talking about it.” So that’s not just you know, we just don’t make that up on the spot, right? That, there’s actually a lot of effort that goes into

Sarah Widmeyer  14:20

Yeah Yeah

Christina Clement  14:41

creating very clear messaging. And I don’t think people always spend enough time there.

Sarah Widmeyer  14:47

I agree

Christina Clement  14:47

It’s kind of an afterthought.

Sarah Widmeyer  14:49

It’s really how advisor teams differentiate because let’s face it, there’s lots of advisors. So as a client, why would I do business with you? Who are you? What do you do?

Christina Clement  14:59


Sarah Widmeyer  14:59

And, and what am I going to receive in terms of a client experience by doing business with you?

Christina Clement  15:06


Sarah Widmeyer  15:06

And that’s how you differentiate.

Christina Clement  15:08

Absolutely. How good are you at telling your own story?

Sarah Widmeyer  15:10

Yeah. Where did the highest growth advisors that you work with find the most value?

Christina Clement  15:17

So, again, this study was talking about two differentiating factors, which again, are not new to us. One is education. So what do clients want? Clients want more information on things like educational planning, and so this ref-refer,

Sarah Widmeyer  15:32

What educational plan?

Christina Clement  15:33

Well, so typically, our clients are, you know, 50+, so they may have children that are, you know, young adults, or, you know, older adults? What are we doing for the G2, like the second generation G2?

Sarah Widmeyer  15:49

Got it.

Christina Clement  15:49

Are we educating them around “What the money’s for? How the money was made? What are the values attached to the money? What are the generational values? What are best practices around money management? I read an article that was titled something like I never took my dad’s advice around money management, and yet I watched him retire at 55. And so it was this whole thing around well, actually, he’s quite smart.

Sarah Widmeyer  16:16

How did he do that?

Christina Clement  16:19

Living, living below his means, right?

Sarah Widmeyer  16:21

That’s right.

Christina Clement  16:21

Like, you know, as a child of this person, it’s kind of like, ah, yeah, that’s my, you know, like, I’m gonna discount that, because it’s my father, or it’s my parent telling me that she was actually reflective and saying, here are the steps, here’s the conscious behavior they took, in order to create this life that they wanted, they had a goal.

Sarah Widmeyer  16:41


Christina Clement  16:41

And they were consistent in that goal. So educational planning is something that I think grandparents and parents are looking for help to, who it will ultimately be recipient of this money. They want those custodians to be well educated and well, and behaviors that are consistent.

Sarah Widmeyer  17:03

Makes sense. I also hear you talk about something called standard operator procedures, or SOP, because it’s a mouthful. Can you explain what that is and how it applies to client onboarding?

Christina Clement  17:17

Okay, so much like I might be as an IA ‘I’m very intelligent, charming, and I can think on my feet’, okay, good, good skill. What’s better, is actually having a process. So what does the client onboarding experience look like? And am I available to take off my team hat and put on my client hat? Right? And so do we have a process around this? How do we invite someone to the office? How do we run a virtual meeting? How do we prepare the client for the meeting? Is there an agenda that’s set out in advance? Do I get to participate in the creation of that agenda as a client? Right? How am I welcomed? Am I given something to drink? Like, all these things are so many factors. I heard someone say once, and I thought this was really true-when you invite someone into your office, that that is an extension of your home.

Sarah Widmeyer  18:12


Christina Clement  18:12

So what are you able to do in a business environment to create that feeling, right? Because a lot of clients say if I come into the boardroom, and we’re sitting across from each other, that that’s adversarial. Okay. So smaller meeting room, less ostentatiousness.

Sarah Widmeyer  18:32


Christina Clement  18:32

More intimate in a circular table versus a rectangular table less often. So all of these things, do you have a system for how I come in

Sarah Widmeyer  18:43


Christina Clement  18:44

and how I am treated? And can we repeat this, that s      ystem written down? So let’s say I’m a new team member? And what do we do? And why do we do it that way? Makes good sense. Because if it works, and it makes people feel a certain way, and you get feedback that reinforces the behavior, then you do it again. Exactly the same way.

Sarah Widmeyer  19:04


Christina Clement  19:04

And then remember my whole thing about being fully present?  So I don’t have to think about “was this person offered something to drink? Are they sitting in the right location in the room? That kind of thing? Are we positioned properly?” Because you’ve crafted this optimal environment for their benefit.

Sarah Widmeyer  19:07

Yes.  Right, right. Makes so much sense. I often hear you say that the highest growth practices focus on what they can control. Can you talk about what that means?

Christina Clement  19:34

Yeah, so I’m no market expert. But I, uh, my you know, 50 years on the planet says you can’t control the market. And yet this is a business where we seemingly pursue that. So if I accept that these things I cannot control, I’m doing my best with the best information I have. But what can I control? I can control as a team leader, the experience that the client has, how the client feels, is the client able to express themselves? Ask, you know, quote unquote stupid questions, right? I want clients to feel like they can ask any questions that they can a-be able to say, “Christina, you just explained that and I don’t understand, can you explain it to me in a different way?” Right? So I can control a little bit, the client experience, or I can set it up in an optimal way, I can have structure and process, I, right? So that I am taking care of my clients, the things I can do really well, I can do really well.

Sarah Widmeyer  20:33


Christina Clement  20:33

And some of the other stuff, you know, we, we, I heard Warren Buffett say, “Save like a pessimist and invest like an optimist.”

Sarah Widmeyer  20:44


Christina Clement  20:44

I love that. I love that, again, sayings. So right, I am controlling what I can control so that your experience and feeling like you have a little bit of control and something that maybe doesn’t feel like it has a lot of control, right? Because it’s ultimately how you feel right? That’s how people make decisions emotionally.

Sarah Widmeyer  21:05


Christina Clement  21:05

So doing what you can to control the experience for a client.

Sarah Widmeyer  21:10

Advisors are often surrounded by a strong supportive team. How can spending more time on time management and performance benefit that practice and client experience? I think you’ve talked about that in different ways. But-

Christina Clement  21:25

Yeah So some of the most successful teams I’ve seen, have a very solid team. Okay. No… IA is a island alone, you can’t this is a business where you need people, right? And increasingly, you need more people, right? This is a complex business, a lot of moving parts, full service. So how good is your team? Do you have the right people in the right roles? Where are you in terms of leadership… in front of this team? Do you spend time in your people? Are you invested in them? Do you understand them? Do you know what they want? Do you do performance reviews? Do you ask for their feedback, right? So it is not a guarantee because we are all human and individuals and make our own choices, but the strongest teams invest in their team, invest in the people and invest in good leadership of a team and creating their own individual culture.

Sarah Widmeyer  21:26

What say you? Christina, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I’ve so enjoyed our conversation. Any last thoughts that you’d like to share with us before we go?

Christina Clement  22:47

Yeah, so a couple things. I think the role of a coach, remember I said you can find coaches in

Sarah Widmeyer  22:52


Christina Clement  22:52

all kinds of walks of life is helping you see differently.

Sarah Widmeyer  22:57


Christina Clement  22:57

Right? So it’s just because they have a different perspective, and in being open to that feedback, helps you see things differently, which helps you get better as one. And then this is a business of evolution, not revolution. So when I talk about deliberate practice, it’s not “Oh, I’m, we’re going to throw out your system entirely and replace it with something else, or I’m going to take this person’s best practice, and absolutely do it that way. And it’s not that, because you need to be your authentic self, when you’re dealing with clients. And so increments of getting better. Not all of this goes out and in comes new processes. It’s “What one thing do I want to focus on, and try to make this more effective?” And then when that becomes part of your world, then you can go back and choose something else. I call it a buffet, right? Go choose one thing from the buffet, incorporate that into your business, and then go back to the buffet.

Sarah Widmeyer  23:52

Okay. It’s been so interesting today to learn about the science of deliberate practice and the methodology behind it. We’re so conditioned to do the same thing over and over again, often without even realizing it. And what we’ve learned today is that it’s not about trying harder. It’s about trying differently, going back to that buffet. And we’ve gotten some really practical ways to start doing that on the path to developing a thriving wealth practice. I want to thank my guest, Christina today for sharing this insight with us, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Sarah. Conversations on Wealth is available wherever you get your podcasts. Remember to follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook for the latest on wealth strategies. Thank you all for listening and join me again next time.

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