A Fresh Look at Wisdom and the Way Forward

– First Published on Nasdaq –

In the midst of the pandemic, and particularly with vaccines and a new year on the way, we’re all more reflective. A direct benefit of such reflection is a willingness to change and reinvent. Where are you in this process?

As I continue my quality life journey – after all, isn’t that what we’re all on? – I’m reminded that, even with the best intentions, having the wisdom to make good decisions is foundational. Those decisions may be about life purpose, finances, relationships or…?

To wit, Plato believed that wisdom was theoretical or abstract. Aristotle, his pupil, disagreed, saying that wisdom was a kind of moral compass that guides our thinking and behavior. Whatever philosopher(s) you follow, there is no doubt gaining wisdom is worth pursuing.

How else can we make the best decisions for our lives, yet reflect on the theories, wisdom and experience of others and see what that might spark in ourselves?

Parsing and deploying wisdom

Central to my continuing pursuit of a quality life: I understand the importance of applying wisdom to the financial and life decisions I make. You might say that’s one of my superpowers that comes from the natural DNA behavior of being extremely rational. That’s coupled with the ability to quickly turn vision into practical reality and being able to easily make sense of messy situations and complicated information. We all have a superpower; it just varies individually.

And, knowing that I am goal-driven, that I will revel in complex challenges and that I will take initiative, it was important for me to understand and measure my level of wisdom. Yes, there are behavioral science tools that enable such measurement.

This measurable wisdom didn’t come without being self-aware, researching, surrounding myself with quality thought leaders and investing in educating myself. While I am inherently wise, I also know the importance of gaining knowledge and applying it judiciously.

As a single man, wisdom in making decisions was never an issue. What changed was becoming a family man, as the needs of others had to be built into my thinking. This is a good lesson for all: Your foundational behaviors do not change, but factors around them do and must be accounted for.

This Family Phase of life is when I began to understand the differences of practical wisdom. That is, knowing the right thing to do in a particular circumstance through understanding that particular circumstance, knowing what matters, and effectively reasoning to bring about what matters. The means to an end.

Practical versus theoretical

Theoretical wisdom is knowledge of things that don’t change. (Akin to unchanging innate behavior, which I talk about a lot because it is at the core of my work.) Then there are ethics – about what is really right and wrong…what is living well and living badly, as stated well in “Key Concepts in Practical Philosophy,” by David Arnaud and Tim LeBon.

Financial decision-making was my first real entry into the whole area of wisdom and decision-making. As a young man I was constantly confused by financial advisors who thought they understood me sufficiently to push investment opportunities my way. I never recall having a conversation about my life goals or reasons for wealth creation.

Their insight must have hinged – or so they thought – on generic or theoretical wisdom, because it certainly was not specific to me, the client.

So, began my (life and career) journey into understanding the importance of gaining wisdom through self-awareness, knowledge, experience and recognizing that I had, for example, a built-in, very high tolerance for financial market movements. And tolerance and resiliency around extreme life and business changes.

Put another way, I can quickly see changes coming and innately know what to do to position myself for the future. Also, with experience and with a rationale mind, I have learned to look at patterns of situations and the messages flowing out of them to discern what to do next. And the vision to synchronize and share that insight with others who needed to understand me in order to work with or advise me.

It became clear to me as I moved through life that wealth creation needed to have a purpose. Family security was obviously at the top of the list, but equally important was a quality life focus. THAT is the difference between theoretical and practical wisdom.

Wisdom, goals & wealth creation

The pandemic has clearly redefined direction for many people, and I’m no exception. Remote working has not harmed my business and the same can be said of many of our clients. Of course, like many others, I have had to invest in additional technology to make communication more effective, but in truth I – with my team – have continued to strategize and run and grow our global business (predominantly online).

In fact, over the last 8 or so years we had been moving the business to a virtual environment so we could be flexible and nimble, knowing that the world had become increasingly dynamic with fundamental business changes taking place every 2 years. The intuitive sense to do this could be said to be innate wisdom at work driven by rationality.

So, where does wisdom fit in this quality life scenario? For me, information alone is not wisdom. I believe wisdom is found in our own insight and the ability to piece together multiple bits of information to build a clearer picture. If nothing else, this period of being on lockdown has enabled many to rethink the life and lifestyle they have been leading.

Many of my friends and colleagues are reflecting on insights they’ve had. Often this is a reflection of ideas, life directions, goals and direction(s) they had in their youth. This fresh awakening of wisdom – and questioning the quality direction of their lives – is providing answers for the here and now.

And, yes, all of this can and should lead to conversations with financial advisors. Why? Wealth creation decisions are – and should be – made around life goals. And life goals are not the same for every person or even for the same people at different stages.

What role wisdom as life realigns?

If we’ve survived with remote working, can/should this approach continue? As our own opportunities increase, who can we help? Where can we make a difference? Who needs to be brought alongside us and coached?

All these thoughts have come not just from coping with a global virus but from knowing the importance of applying wisdom to our quality of life going into the future.

How will you calibrate your wisdom and sync such with quality life goals? In turn, how will you enable that to drive your work with and on behalf of clients, all the while helping them discover their balance for wisdom-quality life-financial decision-making?

Hugh Massie Year End Letter: Tough Years Drive Learning & Innovation

I know countless people who have taken the challenges and tumult of 2020 as an opportunity to level-set their life and business. So, as I put pen to paper to write my end-of-year letter, I’m reminded of courage like that.

Indeed, in the face of what may well be the most difficult global challenge most of us have faced, I salute those who have the courage and self-confidence to step into 2021 with new vigor, with a willingness to build their business, and maybe even with the inclination to take a different direction and start something new.

Whatever your (perhaps renewed) focus and outlook for 2021, I commend you.

DNA Behavior coping & flourishing during COVID-19

At DNA Behavior, we never could have known that the tools that are the core of our work and purpose would become significant to so many during the pandemic. A substantial number of businesses worked with us as they adapted to remote work. We helped them build a greater connection with their employees and their clients, which is vital to successful remote relationships.

These businesses gained access to scientifically based tools that enable them to manage the behavioral and communication issues these groups face as a consequence of remote work.

And, our Managing Director, Leon Morales (Initiator), and our Chief Learning Officer, Nikki Evans (Initiator), hosted a series of free webinars to help teams adjust to remote work and address best practices for remote team leadership. In this series we addressed common challenges and ways to handle miscommunications and uncertainties that arise. This series is available online for continued reference.

Our CTO, Ryan Scott (Reflective Thinker), donated his time to work with leaders at the University of Colorado Boulder. Ryan helped educate select leaders on how to move their teams to remote work, on behavioral attributes to adapt to this new work regime, and on accountability tools he uses while managing the DNA tech team.

Our CIL, Carol Pocklington (Facilitator), donated her time to speak with women in leadership who are required to work from home while also home-schooling children and running their businesses. They were keen to understand how to communicate with staff via social media or conferencing platforms, what previously unseen behaviors might surface and how best to juggle this tumultuous time.

Responding to the Digital Mandate

More than ever the global pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to become behaviorally smarter by providing digital solutions to meet the growing customized needs of employees and clients.

Fortunately, over the past two years we have enhanced our API capability, enabling a wide array of business types and sizes to leverage 500+ behavioral insights (covering virtually every human habit) via this “plug in.” The DNA API has added a significant human element to data and demographic information with behavioral details on the way a person communicates, invests, works and lives.

For example, financial advisors are now able to have a greater real-time understanding of their investors’ reactions to market shifts and be prompted to proactively engage so they are guided through these challenging times.

On the business operations side, the DNA API enables leaders to get real-time behavioral insights to better understand how people cope with online/remote working and how to motivate them based on their individual personalities.

A growing number of established and start-up businesses have embraced the idea of building behavioral insights directly into their tech platforms. This enables them to deliver enhanced engagement, productivity and pin-pointed solutions for each person/interaction. (Without jettisoning the tech they already have, as DNA’s API provides a behavioral plug-in for existing systems and platforms.)

Businesses also are growing as they have applied our tools and strategized new ways of working, investing, building business and staying connected with one another. Without this intersection of technology and behavior, none of this could have been done so easily and cost effectively – and at such a scale – for so many different organizations.

Building the Behavioral Ecosystem

Our development did not stop with the DNA API. In October, we announced the launch of the next generation behavior tech stack platform to facilitate API integration and a marketplace for our partners to sell their unique DNA Behavior-powered offerings around the world: The Helix Gateway Behavioral Network.

We were determined to build on the increased DNA API-enabled partnerships that had developed during this difficult year. The goal of the gateway is to connect partners or distributors with all of the resources needed to build, develop and scale behavior-enabled businesses which offer unique solutions that can deliver customized experiences. We’re onboarding distributors who facilitate and speed the work of organizations “plugging in” DNA’s “behavioral chip” to existing software and systems and new apps.

To accelerate the growth of this behavioral ecosystem – which, in turn, benefits all users – we recently completed a wholesale integration with Zapier, providing immediate access to over 2500 technology businesses. Zapier is the best solution that connects apps and automates workflows, making connectivity easy for our busy global clients.

When you add on top industry partners and distributors – such as Schwab, Salesforce, Wired to Perform, Brilliant fit, ARQ, Hadeda, Finwello and the like – the tech pathway to networking is simple and uncomplicated, ready to onboard the next tranche of digitally focused businesses into our behaviorally driven ecosystem.

Rapid change presents challenges for our clients and business partners. And, while we have had the opportunity to rapidly respond to the tech needs of our clients, we recognize that this transformation should always include people and relationships.

Every High-Performer Needs a Coach

In this difficult season we also recognized that powerful and private coaching customized to the individual leader is needed now more than ever, so we set up a DNA Coach Network.

Our behavioral management solutions, apps and tools have helped thousands of leaders, coaches, financial advisors, families and individuals achieve greater self-awareness and EQ. And, now – with the DNA Coach Network – even more people the world over can tap into these solutions and expertise.

 After all, behind every successful person is a coach, sounding board or team of advisors.

Onward into 2021!

As a serial entrepreneur, former wealth manager and “recovering CPA,” I recommend focusing on the TIPS principle because being able to clearly define Talent, Identity, Purpose and Significance (TIPS) sidelines frustration.

Individuals may well have a life vision but don’t have the confidence to get there without a coach. Without such guidance and reflection, they may lose focus to realize their vision.

A behavioral coach quickly identifies performance derailers. These can be natural DNA behavior-driven struggles, which are often strengths…but overplayed.

Beyond figuring out your TIPS, a behavioral coach also can identify behavioral blind spots that eventually become weaknesses. Very often this aspect of coaching can help determine how, where and why relationships have soured. This insight is critical for anyone building a new business or looking to rescue one that has fallen into a difficult place.

Through behavioral coaching, move forward with self-awareness, which (again) involves being conscious of different aspects of self, including traits, behaviors, feelings and EQ. With scientifically validated behavioral discovery, self-awareness can begin.

So, as we head into 2021, I wish you health, happiness and success as you stay connected to your TIPS. By doing so you will maximize your potential and mitigate conflicts that de-rail “good,” including your personal and business relationships.

Setting your annual intentionality

I look forward to continuing our journey together – or taking that first step if you’re just getting started with us. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote for reflection.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

What quote best frames the year you have planned for yourself or your organization? Drop me a line telling me about it: hugh.massie@dnabehavior.com

Diversity and Inclusion Make Teams Great

Is diversity and inclusion (DEI) in organizations and teams just the latest HR craze? Or maybe just a nod to equality compliance?

Neither. D&I, when introduced appropriately, mines the rich and often untapped talent within an organization. In fact, understanding what D&I means when implemented within a business can be the change that takes an organization from mediocrity to greatness.

Applied to teams, D&I opens doors to innovation, experience, creativity and an unmatched depth of knowledge. But – and it’s a big but – a multifaceted D&I strategy, if not handled appropriately, can lead to chaos and confusion.

The key is to tap into the inherent behaviors and biases of individuals. A highly-validated behavioral discovery process (think a quick-but-thorough assessment tool for every team player) will deliver this insight quickly, accurately and with comprehensive reports that cover every aspect of an individual’s inherent workplace and life behavior.

Such a process provides insight into hidden abilities, revealing behaviors below the surface that, if not managed, might result in disruptive behavior that could unsettle the team. It will highlight communication styles, which helps build a more engaged and productive workforce. Further, the process delivers a culture of openness, mutual respect and trust in the business environment that should satisfy any cultural or legal requirement.

Be mindful that D&I isn’t just about ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other such factors; its also about the behaviors that drive performance and reveal (and channel) such behaviors, biases and communication styles to foster successful team outcomes.

Harnessing these differences without the use of a behavioral insight tool can be challenging, if not impossible. People with different backgrounds bring unique information and experiences to tasks. They also bring a significant range of communication styles, decision-making approaches, and thought processes.

In any team, there will be those who passionately and tenaciously bring a vision to completion. Others will be spontaneous, creative and challenge conventional ideas. And there will be those whose experiences and behaviors cross-pollinate, bringing unique perspectives and approaches to work in different functional areas.

Plus, its good business practice to embrace diversity and inclusion: Complex and challenging issues are more likely to be resolved when a team includes a range of talents, thought processes and behaviors.

Dr. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and Summit, and Dr. Heidi Grant, a social psychologist, note in the Harvard Business Review that, striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan – it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Teams formed based on diversity and inclusion that are behaviorally aware, behaviorally smart and which include a range of different skills, are more likely to examine facts, consider a range of options and opinions, and remain objective. They will challenge each other professionally, without causing offense or disconnect. Biases will be openly discussed and resolved. Counterproductive thinking will be constructively argued to find mutually beneficial solutions. All of this leads to more effective decision making and organizational and business improvement.

As an example, Bain and Co. research shows that decision-making effectiveness is 95 percent correlated with financial performance.

Still, diversity and inclusion cannot be a one-off initiative. You should incorporate D&I at the hiring stage, and it’s a continuing work in progress, made more effective by the introduction of tools that reveal hidden behaviors and communication styles. D&I evolves, so your approach should too.?Diversity and inclusion make teams great and inclusion will set your organization apart from your competitors and improve your bottom line.

Have You Ever Seen Your Client Cry?

When you first started your professional journey as a financial advisor, did you ever think that the success of your work will rely on far more intricate things than your extensive knowledge of the market? If you have been doing this for some time you probably have realized by now that the financial success of your clients relies not only on your performance but most importantly on your relationship with them.

If you have been spending time and efforts developing a trusting relationship in order to create a customized portfolio and financial plan for your clients, then you’ve been doing it right. The trust they place in you will govern your relationship and their financial success. But what if we told you that there is one particular component that you failed to consider. A component that could obliterate all your efforts in the blink of an eye.

How susceptible is your client to outside influence? How does watching financial talk shows, the evening news, or reading the negative financial headlines in newspapers and magazines affect them?

Do they take the information for what it is, not read much into it, then draw their own conclusion? Or would they actually believe in it and see an “obvious” and “direct” correlation with their financial plan and reach out to you for an understanding and compassionate shoulder to cry on? 

Make no mistakes, no matter how irrational this might seem to you and unlikely to affect your work, nothing can be more concerning that a susceptible, impressionable, and fast reactive client who feels at liberty to change your entire scope of work and strategy because the news compelled them to do so. 

Now imagine a couple arriving together for their first annual review with you. One of them is extremely concerned that the markets are fluctuating a lot. And, since it is so close to retirement they worry that if you continue with the portfolio you have designed, it will mean major cutbacks in lifestyle spending. The other feels comfortable with the portfolio but concerned about your fee structure given all the recent press on advisors charging too much and damaging returns on retirement plans.

How would you address this? Would you dive into technical and financial related explanations to try to appeal to their common sense and convince them that the direction you’ve been going is the most suitable to their needs and financial goals? Or would you take a moment to understand them better, understand their communication style, where their fear emanates from, and phrase your answers in a way they will understand?

You see, this is not the time for you to re-sell this couple on your strategy so they don’t lose faith in you or the commitment to the plan. This is the time for you to get to know your clients better. 

Could you imagine how different the situation would be if you could identify during the on-boarding meeting with your clients those that are more emotional or whether they are attracted to the headlines? Your entire approach would change to be more client-centered to engage with them on their terms.

Don’t react. Be proactive and become a behaviorally smart advisor to build trusting relationships that will keep your “susceptible” clients engaged for life.

Don’t Reinvent Tech; Add Behavioral Power

– First Published on Nasdaq –

People are complicated. Some tell you their life story in the first few minutes. Others take time – and deep questioning – to reveal even the smallest details.

Financial advisors know that, around the emotional subject of money, gaining insight into clients’ financial personality is hard. But it doesn’t need to be. No matter how complicated – and different – each person is.

Knowing your clients at a deeper level and having real-time access to innate client behaviors and decision-making inclinations puts advisors in a powerful stance. Ready to deliver top-flight service – and results.

How will a client react to market movements? What are their biases? How do they consider and deal with risk? And what are their spending habits? Clients can tell you about themselves, and you can subjectively observe, but what if you had validated, objective client data built into systems on which you rely?

You’ve got tech; add #behaviortech

The solution is part of the move toward greater use of behavioral science. Financial advisors (and their clients) are coming to the realization that bona fide behavioral insights improve the effectiveness of financial advice – communication, service quality and outcomes.

Layering a behavioral data-gathering addition into your existing tech stack is easier than you may think. Hint: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Even if you don’t know what an API is, for instance, your IT people do. Imagine: A plug-in that adds behavioral info to the tech you already have.

This addition makes it possible for financial advisors to identify, engage and deliver client solutions in real time, leveraging data that informs financial planning from end to end. A behavioral tech stack combines customer engagement technology and behavioral insight data to inform client engagement. It enables the knowing-me-knowing-you element that creates trust from openness and transparency.

Plugging in personality

Client data collected through a quick, simple behavioral discovery informs the advisory process in significant ways:

  • Defining financial personality.
  • Advisor/client matching.
  • Individual client financial journey needs.
  • Quality life goal analytics.
  • Real-time access to client behavior data.
  • Client engagement via more effective communication.
  • Insights to inform marketing.
  • Eliminates information silos between client support teams.

Every financial advisor should have access to interactive business intelligence tools. And that includes but goes far beyond client EQ, to include a full range of behavioral insights. (In some cases, as many as 500-plus such insights.) That’s the power of modifying your tech stack to include the behavior module.

Be(havior) on the cutting edge

Imagine: In advance of every client meeting, whether face to face, on social media, conferencing platforms or the phone, an advisor could, at the click of a button, be able to deploy dashboards and personalized information to respond to specific client wants and needs. (Even wants and needs they may not know they have or cannot verbalize; again, you’ll be tapping into innate behavioral info.)

Best: The behavioral tech stack is so integrated into other advisor systems and platforms that client info and prompts appear as needed, with the advisor not even having to push that proverbial button. As an example, a pop-up might remind you the client you’re about to meet with has difficultly following set procedures and offers a checklist of ways you can simplify processes to ensure they stay on track.

This approach creates an experience tailored to individual client needs. Moreover, it’s the way of the future.

How to Spend $20 million in 3 Years

Whether you are leading an innovative tech company or managing the digital division of an organization, there is one dilemma that you surely have come across at least once: when needing a software solution, should you invest in a market-ready product or should you build it yourself using your IT resources? This is also equally true when it comes to behavioral science work. Should companies seek out thoroughly developed software solutions by subject matter experts? Or should they build their own?  

The dilemma you, along-side numerous organizations around the world are faced with is also known as Build vs Buy.

Identifying the Need

As you weigh in on the decision of buying a software solution vs building it, you need to start by assessing your need, identifying the issue you are trying to address, and do an inventory of your resources. Opting for “Build” or “Buy” can only make sense if it is a well thought out decision that takes into consideration all variables involved.

What is the problem you are seeking a software solution for? What purpose does it have? Is it meant to improve your business process, or optimize your operations? Does your in-house IT team have the knowledge and the capabilities of building such a solution? Do you even have IT resources, to begin with? If not, can your company afford to outsource such task?

These are all the questions you need to ask yourself when faced with the Build vs Buy dilemma.

Weighing Your Options

Opting for Build or Buy can only make sense if it is a well thought out decision that takes into consideration all variables involved. What is the problem you are seeking a software solution for? What purpose does it have? Is it meant to improve your business process, or optimize your operations? Does your in-house IT team have the knowledge and the capabilities of building such a solution? Do you even have IT resources, to begin with? If not, can your company afford to outsource such task?

From a behavioral tools perspective, the ramifications of building a solution from scratch are often costly. There are so many companies that have created new FinTech, HRTech, and MarketingTech behavioral solutions, and have failed after the first year. With a behavioral tool, you are only as good as the insights you provide. Generating accurate insights, quickly, and reliably takes a lot of research, finetuning, and time. Companies who do not operate in this field, are typically ill-equipped and unable to access the resources in order to create solutions from scratch.

Maintenance and Support

It is undeniable that having an IT department in your company is a substantial asset when it comes to running your operations smoothly. Having an on-call team that can proactively maintain your software solutions and provides unlimited support is the main appeal in investing in IT resources, to begin with. When opting for building your own software, your in-house IT team has full control over the process and is able to provide unlimited support. Whereas when you buy a market-ready product, your software vendor may not have as much of a proactive maintenance team, and it might take longer to have your support ticket processed. However, the perks of buying a software solution reside in the market reach of the vendor that grows exponentially which entices him to use his client’s feedback to develop his software, anticipate any bugs that may occur, and continuously expand his product features. Your IT team, however, unless an issue has risen they may not be as proactive in developing your software solution.

Return on Investment

No matter what industry you operate in, the concept of ROI is pretty straightforward and applicable to all: as an organization, you strive to generate high returns on your investment. This means that ROI is not only a metric to evaluate the success of your business decisions, it also dictates funding and resource allocation. That is a key element to take into consideration when faced with the Build vs Buy dilemma. Let’s look at it this way: if a firm needed an accounting software, they would rarely build their own. They would simply license software from Oracle, Quickbooks, or any of the other providers who have solutions, off the shelf. The truth of the matter is, companies such as Oracle have put thousands (millions?) of hours and have recruited top-notch experts to build their platform. To put things even more into perspective, our very own DNA Behavior solutions are available for as little as $75 per month but we have invested hundreds of man-years developing the insights with PhDs and experts from high-ranking government, private sector, and military positions. For you to replicate one of our products, it will cost your company $20 Million over 3 years.

Could your company commit to such investment? Does your ROI justify and support such expense? At this point, if you are still hesitant or unsure about which direction to go and whether you should Build or Buy, looking at it from your ROI perspective should tip the balance. 

VERDICT: Build

Did you know that even the most brilliant and resourceful tech companies around the world purchase software solutions from other vendors? That’s right, when needing a software solution for business processing or operation structure, they may have the capabilities and resources to build them, but their resources are much better invested in their field of expertise rather than gaging a foreign technology landscape that they know nothing about. So why would you try to build your own behavioral software where companies such as DNA Behavior exist? We have spent the past 19 years generating 575 behavioral insights that have been tested, improved, and are ready to use. You can now leverage our Financial and Business DNA retail packages as well as our Financial DNA API, with the possibility of co-branding or white labeling our solutions. The fact of the matter is, your resources are better used to help your company grow rather than investing in building a software solution you lack expertise in. 

If you’re still not sure, schedule your 15 min consultation with Leon Morales, our Managing Director to further discuss our products and solutions.