Lessons From Guiding Blind Triathletes

November 9, 2015

by Dan Solin

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I learned some valuable lessons during my days as a trial lawyer in New York City. I remember giving a closing statement early in my career in a complex commercial case. At the end of it, I asked the jury to find in favor of my client and to award that client significant damages.

A far more experienced lawyer happened to be in the courtroom, waiting for his case to be called. He came up to me as I was leaving for the day and gave me this advice, which I still remember vividly: “If you show them, you don’t have to tell them.”

An inspiring talk

At a conference I recently attended, I thought of that sage counsel. I was listening to a talk by Caroline Gaynor, an associate at Dimensional Fund Advisors. Gaynor is an Ironman triathlete, which is impressive. This triathlon involves swimming 2.4 miles, followed by biking 112 miles and then running 26.2 miles.

Lessons From Guiding Blind Triathletes

She also serves as a guide during races for blind athletes. While swimming and running, blind athletes are physically tethered to her. Cycling is done on a tandem bicycle. These athletes are totally dependent on her – not just for completing the course, but at times for their very survival.

Her talk was a moving and inspiring story of selfless devotion to others.

Prioritize trust

As an advisor, you are confronted with the challenge of trying to convert prospects into clients. There’s ample evidence that establishing trust by demonstrating likeability and warmth is critical to establishing new relationships.

An article in the Harvard Business Review summarizes these findings well: “Even a few small nonverbal signals – a nod, a smile, an open gesture – can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.”

If you don’t come across as warm and likeable, you may not even have the opportunity to demonstrate your competence. There’s compelling evidence that we are judged first by the warmth we project and then by our competence. What your prospects think of you will likely trump what they think of your message.

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