Do you have someone you rely on as a sounding board? Someone who guides your thinking to new levels? Perhaps a CPA, banker, lawyer, consultant, business coach, another executive at your level, or a mentor plays this role. Most advisors are hired for their expertise and grow into the trusted role, although you may develop this relationship with a peer or mentor by coincidence or by specifically seeking out someone you admire.

This person might not always provide an answer to the dilemma you currently face, but they ask probing questions helping you to explore and define the best result for your situation. They help you to see beyond the obvious, in-between the lines and in sync with your goals and objectives. At times, it may seem they are taking you on an unrelated tangent when, in reality, the view is clearer from a different vantage point.

If you don’t have at least one person you call a trusted advisor, here are some attributes to look for:

  1. Expertise in an area you are not strong in: accounting, finance, law, personnel, manufacturing, logistics, sales, marketing, even spirituality can enhance how you run your business, your career and your life.
  2. Advanced studies: while this might mean an advanced degree, it can also be certification in the relevant field. Longevity in their field is important, but so is ongoing growth and recognition by their peers or by certification.
  3. Professionalism: surround yourself with people of integrity and grit who will manage your confidences with decorum, discretion and grace.
  4. Directness and courage: having an advisor who can tell you the truth no matter how difficult is what makes them valuable.
  5. Problem solver: you’ll want to have a team of professional advisors who can brainstorm with you to find viable solutions that you will buy into and be successful with.
  6. Industry knowledge enhances the expertise a trusted advisor delivers. In coaching surveys, over 60% of coaching clients sought a coach with knowledge of their industy.

What should a trusted advisor provide?

  1. Trust, obviously. This is a two-way street and takes time to develop.
  2. Curiosity is the ability to stay open and in inquiry throughout the process, but especially initially. By probing, and digging deeper, nuances emerge that help define the issue and the desired result. Avoid someone who rushes to answers or who takes sides.
  3. Focus keeps you on track. Work with those who demonstrate the ability to maintain the conversation until it has developed a richness and completeness that has developed by honest inquiry. Once you are clear on your intention, getting to solve the problem solving becomes seamless. Then there is more focus needed to keep you engaged in the agreed upon goals in spite of delays, tangents and crisis that may emerge.
  4. Listening skills; asking the hard questions is only the beginning. Taking in all the nuances, synthesizing and helping the team to viable conclusions is a real gift. By listening fully, you’ll feel heard and validated; a great precursor to ultimate success.
  5. Responsibility to provide on time and on budget their consulting project without taking on the responsibility of your company. They are there to empower you with the tools so you and your team take responsibility and action.
  6. Being fearless; they take you to the top of the mountain where you can see the landscape from the heights you can attain. By starting at the top and deciding where to go, you can avoid the pitfalls you might never be aware of from the ground level view. By facing your fear, you’ll also see alternatives and solutions that might not have been obvious.

I welcome your feedback, case studies or discussion points about your experience with your Trusted Advisor.

Based on The Trusted Advisor by David Maister