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The “Approach-Avoidance Tango”

It can happen to anyone who sells a service:  We speak to someone who is thinking about hiring us.  She calls again with a question and leaves a message to call her back.  We’re enthusiastic about the prospect of working with her—but when we return her call, she’s suddenly unavailable—forever.

This is the “Approach-Avoidance Tango”, and it’s not unlike the dance you might have seen or done while playing the dating game.  After my first terrific date with Hannah (my wife of 44 years), I didn’t call her again for months.  I even stood her up once—which prompted her to throw the chocolate mousse she was making for me at the kitchen wall.  Come to think of it…I can’t imagine why she married me after all.

When someone is doing this Tango with you in your personal or business life, you usually start second-guessing yourself:  “Was I too enthusiastic?”  “Did I come on too strong?”  “Should I have waited a day or two so I would appear less interested or needy?”

But the dance is seldom about something you’ve done.  It takes a great deal of courage to decide to commit to anyone.  Choosing to be someone’s client means admitting to him or her that there’s something you can’t do on your own, and—particularly in our society—everyone wants to look like they’ve “got it together”.  It also means agreeing to trust that someone’s advice, even if you’re not always sure you want to follow it.

So, let’s say that a prospective client does find talking with you to be beneficial.  He thinks you might be the one who can finally help.  He picks up the phone with some trepidation and calls you—and you’re not there.  He leaves a message, but now his courage has waned.  By the time you dial back, it’s gone—and he can’t even dream of mustering it up again to pick up the phone, or to return your call.

Should you just let him go?  Or is there something you can do to convince him to stay?

Rory, an advisor in Seattle, did this to me just last week.  I decided to call him out on it in an email, since I could no longer reach him by phone:


When we last spoke, you may have genuinely had someone else you wanted to talk with, but I’m guessing that you didn’t hire anyone.  I think you know that opening up to someone (whether it’s me or someone else) will help you, but I bet it scares you, so you continue not to do anything.

Changing just this one approach (avoidance) in your life could mean boatloads in the long-term.  But it won’t happen without taking the first step…

I received another call from Rory over the weekend in response to this note.  In his message he told me I had given him a lot to think about and that he would be back from vacation—and would call me again—in two weeks.  We’ll see…

In any event, if the Tangoing client is lost, you have nothing to lose by boldly telling him you can see the dance he’s doing.  Try reaching out that one extra time like I did with Rory, and see what happens to your practice.

If you need it, don’t avoid the help I’m offering, and take me up on having a coaching conversation.  Whatever you do for yourself or your clients, always keep REACHING…


16 Disciplines

I suppose it would have been more fun if I called them 16 “hot tubs” for advisors, or less intimidating if I called them “practices,” but after 17 years of working with and observing how the most successful advisors, it's clear that there are branches of knowledge involved. 


Practice these simple 16 disciplines daily and watch how quickly and easily your practice grows.

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