The Power of Reframing When Things Go Right – and When Things Go Wrong


When was the last time you asked to speak to a manager about an employee’s performance? Was it because the service was bad or because it was great?

Likely because it was bad.

But how wonderful would it be if when we had a great customer service experience, we called the manager to tell them about the positive experience?

With many advisors, if something goes wrong in their firm, they’ll call everybody together and ask, “What happened?” You examine where the system break occurred, so you can fix it and not do it again.

Now say you’re having success in client experience, lots of referrals and organic growth – how often do you sit down with your team and assess why things are going so well?

One thing we should start doing is meeting on a regular basis to determine whether the things you are doing are leading to success.

Here is some guidance on how to do that.

The Two Buckets

When things are going well for your business, you can categorize the “why” in two buckets: things you can’t control and things you can control.

Things you can’t control are things like the markets, which have been giving many folks – boomers like me – a nice tailwind to explore whether they can retire sooner than they’d hoped. You didn’t create these opportunities yourself, so you can’t replicate them. Rather, the positive market environment has created opportunities for you.

Then there are things you can control. These items could include adding client value with new tech, like Holistiplan. Or becoming better at telling an outcome-based planning story. Or firing up your advisory councils again to gain incredible insight that is helping you add value to your firm. Or having a record number of interactions with clients – whether it be outreach, client communication or touches.

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These are all things that you can quantify, focus on and keep doing to generate more success. You can also pinpoint what similar activities you could start doing to continue on that positive trajectory.

Continue the Momentum 

I once had a boss who was the smartest lady I think I’ve ever known. She would always say, “Let’s reframe the question.”

While there are several steps you can take to ensure you continue momentum when things are in your favor, the first step is to reframe your questions so you ask a better question. Rewire yourself to go from asking, “What went wrong?” to “What went right?” That reframing to a better question will generate a better process to think through situations, which will generate a better response, which ultimately increases the likelihood of a better result.

It’s amazing how if we just reframe a question, we get a hugely different answer. This exemplifies that more often than not, you don’t need to do grandiose things to get grandiose results.

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Think of it like this: You’re a golfer and you take a huge swing and crush it, but it goes into the rough by a yard. But if you were to make a tiny adjustment to your swing, it would go 10 feet to the right onto the fairway. The two golf balls are only 10 feet apart, but the one on the fairway has a better chance to make a good score. The difference between the two swings was next to nothing.

So after you’ve made your small adjustments to the questions you’re asking, identify the things you are doing well.

Lastly, start thinking about the things you can’t control and how you’ll prepare what you can control. That could be asking yourself how you are going to adjust when the market tailwinds go away. How will you respond when the markets stop going up?

While nobody can time the market or know when the next correction is going to come, we can prepare, so when it does come, we won’t be hurt as badly.

The Importance of Reframing When Things Go Wrong

Reframing your questions is also critical when exploring why things go wrong.

Things will go wrong, and when they do, it’s important to not misconstrue a result with a decision by reframing the way you look at it or the questions you ask. Let me explain.

There are two situations that could be true when things go wrong in your business. First, you did everything right and got a bad result. Second, you made the wrong moves, and it resulted in a bad outcome.

It’s critically important when things go wrong to go back to framing. Oftentimes when we get a bad result, we think, “I must have done something wrong,” when we should be saying, “We had this bad result. Why?”

Let’s get you to analyze using a better question, which will in turn generate a better answer or response to the bad result. That better answer increases your chance of a better result.

Sometimes you do make a good decision, and the outcomes are not good. It’s always a possibility that despite making all of the right decisions, things won’t work out.

Take fishing for example. I like to go fishing all the time. Sometimes you do everything right and in the end, the fish just don’t bite, or you hook a really good fish but you can’t land it. Instead of seeing it as you must have done something wrong, see it as an opportunity to see what you could tweak for next time.

Over the course of time, the more good decisions you make, the more good outcomes you’ll have.

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