Book Notes: The Trusted Advisor

The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is quite focused on the bussiness service of being an advisor however, I feel, that in companies we are all advisors to other people and as such there are a few key points that are relevant to nearly everyone. For an advisor to be effective it means that they have to be listened to – as such this is much more about the personal relationship rather than simply technical understanding.

Build Trust and a Relationship

Advising is very personal, there needs to be a high level of trust for it to be effective. The book proposes that Trustworthiness contains

  • Credibility – context expertise through accuracy and completeness over time. By:
    • Being truthful
    • Never exaggerating, even things like “our best people”
    • Show you have energy and care about their topic
    • Network people/bring others together to talk directly
    • When you don’t know say so quickly
    • Provide some examples of your work in advance
    • Relax, you know more than you think you do if not then don’t be there
    • Do your homework
    • Don’t show off
  • Reliability – be dependable and consistent. By:
    • Make specific commitments on small things and deliver quick
    • Send materials over in advance for review to save time
    • Ensure meetings have clear goals, not just agendas, and complete the goal
    • Match the clients fit and feel over terminology, format etc will save them time
    • Review agendas with the client to ensure they feel their time is well spent
    • Reconfirm scheduled events and notify of rescheduling as soon as possible
  • Intimacy – with someone you can talk about difficult topic and feel they care
    • Take courage and show trust first
    • Show candor as well, don’t be afraid to debate actively
    • Find fun and fascination by getting to the emotions of the decisions
    • Take care how you push – right topic, right time, right phrasing of questions.
    • Practice in advance to feel how you think things will land
    • To reduce bussiness risk you have to take a personal risk to grow intimacy.
    • One of you has to move first and it’s going to be you.

and is reduced by

  • Self focus – there is nothing worse than feeling the advisor cares about themselves more than the customer
Don’tDo
Have a tendency to relate our stories to ourselves
A need to too quickly finish their sentences
A need to fill empty spaces in conversations
A need to appear clever, bright, whitty, etc
An inability to provide a direct answer to a direct question
An unwillingness to say I don’t know
Name-dropping of other clients
A recitation of qualifications
A tendency to give answers too quickly
A tendency to want to have the last word
Closed-ended questions too early
Putting forward hypothesis or problem statements before the client has had chance to
Passive listening/watching the client like a TV set
Let the client fill in empty spaces
Ask the client to provide what is behind issues
Use open-ended questions
Not giving answers until given the right to do so
Focus on defining the problem not the solution
Reflect, listen, summarise
Say you don’t know when you don’t know
Acknowledge feelings
Listen without distractions
Resist requests to provide solutions too early
Trust in adding value after listening not during
Take responsibility for failed communication

Provide Advice

The key part with providing advice is to think from the client perspective – not just to provide advice but to provide options in a way that it is clear to them from which they can choose a direction based on your recommendation, shows a deep understanding of the bussiness and political world they are in and addresses any concerns so that the advice can be adopted.

  • Engage
    • Where there ideas worth talking about and an advisor worth talking to
    • Engagement is not a one time thing but regular to check in with old clients
  • Listen
    • Listening for what is said and unsaid to fully understand the client and problem
  • Frame
    • The advisor helps the client crystalise the problem and clarifying the many problems
    • Consists of formulating problem statements, hypothesis and points of view built around what is valuable for the client
  • Envision
    • Understanding what are we really aiming for?
    • What will it look like when we get there?
    • How will we know when we are there?
  • Commit
    • To understand what it will take to get to the vision
    • For the client to buy into the change

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