Health Check For The Trusted Advisor

Health Check For The Trusted Advisor

Posted by in Leadership, The Leadership Coach™

I was speaking in Singapore last week to a group of marketers from across Asia/Pacific on what it means to be a “Trusted Advisor”. These are turbulent times in the world of marketing. By nature marketing tends to be about longer term strategic direction yet many companies are sacrificing that agenda in the current climate in favour of short term results. Often marketing results take more time to produce and more effort to measure than areas like sales. And on top of all that, Web 2.0 and the likes of Facebook and Twitter are revolutionising traditional marketing and marketplaces.

Simply put, I believe there has never been a more important time for them to be Trusted Advisors. There are six distinctive traits that set Trusted Advisors apart from Typical Consultants. Regardless of your industry, if your role requires giving advice or expertise to others then your goal should be to transcend the Typical Consultant and become the Trusted Advisor. So what are the differences? Let’s talk about three.

Culture Creator vs Adaptable

I heard a respected CEO last week say “Leadership creates culture, and culture creates performance”. I wrote an article recently called “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast” because leaders must recognise that no amount of strategy will save you if your team culture does not support your goals. The Trusted Advisor sees it as part of their charter to help cultivate a culture that is conducive to lasting success. By contrast the Typical Consultant is simply adaptable – their goal is to fit in. Where one is a thermostat, the other is just a thermometer. One changes the temperature of the room, the other merely measures it.

Lifelong Learner vs “Qualified”

Something I’ve observed about Trusted Advisors is that they treat their education as a journey rather than an event. The Typical Consultant is merely “qualified”. They have degrees, experience, achievements and references. All past tense. But how much of what they learned is no longer true? To what extent does their experience blind them to new possibilities? Are they “qualified” for the future or only for the past? The Trusted Advisor recognises that there is always more to learn especially in an age of constant change. They learn to love learning. The humility to acknowledge their own need to grow is a key reason why others trust their advice.

Innovator vs Mechanic

Innovation is a word at risk of losing all meaning through overuse. My personal definition is: Innovation = Creativity Harnessed To Purpose. The Trusted Advisor is focused on future purpose and possibilities. Instead the Typical Consultant is more like a mechanic – fixing problems and keeping things running. There’s nothing wrong with being a mechanic, but to become a Trusted Advisor we must show that we can move from what is to what could be through innovation. Recently someone said to me that “marketers need to keep up with the developments in social media”. I don’t agree. Keeping up is not enough if you want to be a Trusted Advisor. The Trusted Advisor needs to lead the way.

So, which one are you being for the clients you serve? The fact is that Typical Consultants do good work and tend to get good results. Being a qualified, adaptable, skilled mechanic is a pretty reasonable start. But it’s not enough.

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback
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11 Responses to “Health Check For The Trusted Advisor”

  1. Virgil

    06. Oct, 2009

    Thank you! I honestly believe that is a powerful view!

  2. Robin Dickinson

    07. Oct, 2009

    Thanks, Paul. An excellent summary.

    Over the past two decades, I have seen the ‘Typical Consultant’ that you describe become an endangered species. Those who don’t shift rapidly to becoming a ‘Trusted Adviser’ in their field of expertise risk extinction.


    There’s a huge opportunity for consultants to shift from becoming A Trusted Adviser to THE Trusted Adviser.

    What I mean is, let’s raise the bar from delivering an excellent level of performance to delivering and sustaining an unprecedented level.

    For example, if you are THE Trusted Adviser, you are the FIRST port call for all relevant client questions, requests, ideas, information – even being a professional confidante. You are an essential resource when it comes to their short and long range planning and implementation.

    To be THE Trusted Adviser means constantly operating at your best and continually finding ways to ensure your answers tomorrow are even better for clients: more relevant, more valuable, more competitive.

    It’s setting up your systems to jet propel you into your ultimate performance, with zero tolerance for generic or mediocre advice and solutions. New and truly innovative answers for your clients – not as so many Typical Consultants do – wheel around their ‘bag of tricks, techniques, workshops etc’ to all of their clients. As if the same solution/key note/workshop somehow magically fits two different clients.

    No, THE Trusted Adviser offers fresh, unique, market leading advise and solutions specifically created for each and every client. This level of performance puts your client at a strong competitive advantage because they are the ONLY one with this solution. It’s unprecedented and unexpected by clients, and they value it highly.

    Andrew, I apologize for taking up so much space, but I know you have a strong, highly competent following and I wanted to unfold the idea a bit.

    Best to you and all of THE Trusted Advisers who follow you.


  3. Mavis Green

    07. Oct, 2009

    It honestly doesn’t matter what industry you are in… the value of this article is immeasurable – if applied! Thanks again Paul.

  4. Sky Hunt

    09. Oct, 2009

    Thank you for reminding me of my journey -it not just an event.

  5. Bernadette McClelland

    30. Mar, 2010

    Great point Paul.
    Yes, leadership does create culture and culture does create performance (one way or the other). I know of leaders whose culture creates performance demonstrated via a revolving door. The culture, whilst designed purely with the leaders expectations in mind was not sustainable with the talented staff employed.
    I also know leaders who cultivate a harmonious work environment, have loyal staff and create higher outputs due to a more stable performance platform and team based culture.
    Interesting point and great post!

  6. Luigi Fulk

    21. Apr, 2010

    awesome article thx!

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  11. Dany

    10. Dec, 2015

    I have trouble with that bieelf and expectations part. Right now I’m struggling at a new job it’s a terrific team and company, but I feel I’m short of the skills that would let me add value. Everyone is quite helpful, and we do pairing which is a great way to learn, but still, I just feel overwhelmed and like I’m dragging down the team. I will try to work on the bieelf and expectation thing.