Trusting Advisors

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December 1, 2012

Advisory services, serving as an advisor to a business or executive, involves having expertise in the matters at hand, being understanding with the client, and being a safe haven for discussing these issues. It means trust.

It means understanding how the client is willing to be vulnerable with the advisor, that the advisor has:

  • The ability to help the executive by demonstrated expertise;
  • The honesty to hold confidences and intimacies of the client’s true and deep needs; and
  • The integrity of the soundest of moral principles and dependability.

At its heart, serving as an advisor is about the relationship between the advisor and client. It is about being valuable, helpful, and making the time and cost of the relationship worthwhile. It differs from coaching in that it does involve giving defensible opinions. But it’s more than just content expertise. It is equally about the emotional connection that provides reassurance, calms fears, and inspires confidence. It is the role of a teacher, understanding the issue from the beginning, and serving as the thought partner to guide the reasoning with the executive. Just like facilitation, the advisor is an expert in process, in reasoning and decision making.

Being and advisor requires having clients with whom the advisory relationship works. In the context of the old cliche, I never give advice because people don’t take it, the advisor finds himself in that role because the executive granted him entrance. Trust was built, perhaps in part by referral or reputation, but mostly by personal experience.

Like great coaches, teachers, and trainers, advisors draw out what the client thinks, feels, believes. The advisor, like the executive coach, helps expose reality and creates structure to lead the executive in thought, but also shares in a back and forth and an intimacy of mutual respect. Communication skills and rapport are key, like trust, they are lubricants that allow the exploration to move from data to information, from fuzziness to clarity. Advisors are expert communicators, one on one.