I saw a recent post by Fractional Financial Behavior Officer Ashley Quamme about how advisors should think about learning to engage and understand clients that got me thinking about the old Game of M.A.S.H.
Let me explain.
In her post, Ashley says, “The mental framework I like to think about is ‘What high-level information do I need to know today that would help me to understand how and why this person thinks, feels, and does what they do.’”
And this got me reminiscing about my childhood and the game of M.A.S.H.
Some of you might be old enough to remember this game, but essentially it's a game of chance intended to predict the future. You list four options under each category, whether that be job partners, pets or kids, then using your magic number, eliminate options until you discover your fate.
While a game of chance, what MASH did was give you an opportunity to consider what kind of future you wanted. You’d grimace at the options you didn’t want and celebrate when you landed on the things you wanted out of life. It provided you with the permission to dream, be vulnerable and question what you wanted out of life.
While I’m not suggesting that you play M.A.S.H. with your clients in your next meeting, the idea and framework behind it could very well help you understand your clients.
Applying M.A.S.H. to advice and planning
Let’s start with the basic principles behind M.A.S.H. The idea is to create a framework that helps you articulate what you want out of life in a fun, engaging and meaningful way.
So, how does your client experience open up clients to discuss their important areas of life? If your experience starts with a fact-finding questionnaire, taking a risk profiling assessment or sharing statements, I very much doubt you’re going to understand if they want to live in a mansion or house, have 4 kids, own a Ferrari, or become America’s next best baker.
These are simple examples of questions you could ask using M.A.S.H. as our inspiration:
M.A.S.H: Do they live in a mansion, apartment, shack or house and where would they want to live?
Job: What’s their current job or career and what do they think they would love to do if they could do anything?
Where do they want to live: What are the other places they would be excited to live in? Do they want to have a vacation or second home to live in?
Family: Do they have a partner or kids and how big a family would they want?
At Lumiant, we use the eight dimensions of well-being as our framework to open up conversations about life. We use a quick assessment to understand what dimensions are most important to clients before engaging them in a values experience, where we have clients select their top five values with their partners, and discuss why they are important to them, before defining their overall household values together.
We wanted to stage an experience that brought the couple closer together and helped them to define what is truly important to them in life first. Because we believe it is the life plan that should come before the financial plan. A financial plan without understanding the life plan and the “why” is less valuable than the paper is printed on and certainly the time it took you (or someone in your office) to create it.
So our version of M.A.S.H. starts with values and helps clients articulate what’s important to them.
Once you’ve defined your client’s version of “M.A.S.H”, make sure it doesn’t go in the bin or end up forgotten in a draw. It should be championed whenever possible - like a vision board.
It should be accessible to you and them, reviewed often and progress to achievement and fulfillment should be tracked, adjusting their answers over time to keep pace with the real changes in their lives.
So, while M.A.S.H. was a pure pen-and-paper play, it’s time to consider how you digitize this experience. How you will capture and visualize the outcomes. And, how you will track and measure success.
By keeping this high-level information as a central component of your advice experience and engagement process, your advisors will not only be able to understand how and why this person thinks, feels, and does what they do, but you’ll keep clients engaged and motivated to stay on track. And, as they tick off more of their dreams with you, they will keep coming back potentially with more and more of their schoolyard friends.
Because, at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to discover what future lives they might live with you by their side.