How to Be the Trusted Advisor
What behaviors and traits come to mind when you think of someone who is a trusted advisor? Perhaps this question is easier to answer if you think about the person or people (if you are extra lucky to have
more than one) in your life who you view as your trusted advisor. When I ask this question to participants in my training sessions, they describe trusted advisors as people who are:
- Honest and will tell me when I am part of the problem.
- Dependable – this person is there when needed.
- Knowledgeable about the issue or situation I need to discuss.
- Experienced (either in a specific area or in general life).
- Truthful – even when they have to tell me bad news.
- Able to keep confidences.
- Interested in my success.
- Supportive and let me know they have my back.
- Easy to talk to – even when the subject is a difficult one.
- Helpful and want the best for me (i.e., want me to succeed).
I deliberately ask people to describe the behaviors or characteristics (as
opposed to attitudes or mental outlooks) of those they view as trusted
advisors because we can emulate and imitate behaviors. Behaviors are
observable and measurable; mental outlooks and attitudes are not. For
example, if you are fortunate enough to have a trusted advisor, con-sider why this person has decided to fill this role and be your trusted advisor. Assuming this person is not one of your parents, do you really
know your trusted advisor’s motivation? Although you may guess the motivation, you really will never be sure unless the person tells you. And, even then, your trusted advisor may not be able to express the exact reasons that caused this special relationship to form. In fact, this person may not view his or her role in your life as one of a trusted advisor. This person may never have considered labeling your relation-
ship this way.
So, instead of focusing on labels and attitudes, concentrate on behaviors: yours and the other person’s. Is this person giving you sound advice, drawn from experience that is intended to help you suc-ceed? Are you participating in tough conversations during which this person (your trusted advisor) suggests that you may be part of the problem you are trying to solve? These behaviors are associated with trusted advisor relationships, regardless of whether you have labeled the relationship as such. Focusing on behavior instead of attitude streamlines the situation and makes it easier to receive information
and take action.
Consider this situation from a completely different perspective. Some organizations have buddy programs and mentor programs for new hires or those who have been identified as high-potential
employees. A component of these programs is to pair employees with experienced team members or senior managers. Simply pairing people together does not mean that any relationship will form – let alone a trusted advisor relationship.