is a listing of traits that our trusted advisors have in common. They:
Seem to understand us, effortlessly, and like us
Are consistent: We can depend on them
Always help us see things from fresh perspectives
Don’t try to force things on us
Help us think things through (it’s our decision)
Don’t substitute their judgment for ours
Don’t panic or get overemotional. They stay calm
Help us think and separate our logic from our emotion
Criticize and correct us gently, lovingly
Don’t pull their punches: we can rely on them to tell us the truth
Are in it for the long haul (the relationship is more important than the
Give us reasoning (to help us think) not just their conclusions
Give us options, increase our understanding of those options, give us
their recommendation, and let us choose.
Challenge our assumptions: help us uncover the false assumptions we’ve
been working under
Make us feel comfortable and casual personally, (but they take the issues
Act like a person, not someone in a role
Are reliably on our side, and always seem to have our interests at heart
Remember everything we ever said (without notes)
Are always honourable: they don’t gossip about others (we trust their
Help us put our issues in context, often through the use of metaphors,
stories and anecdotes (Few problems are completely unique)
Have a sense of humour to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations
Are smart (sometimes in ways we’re not)
common trait of trusted advisor relationships is that the advisor places a
higher value on maintaining and preserving the relationship itself than on the
outcomes of the current transaction, financial and otherwise.
are two important things to note about building trust. First, it has to do with
keeping one’s self-interest in check, and, second, it can be won or lost very
of business is transacted “as if” it were all in the rational realm. While
outstanding technical competence (or content) is a non-negotiable, essential
ingredient in success, it is not sufficient. Trust is a lot richer than logic
alone, and it is a significant component of success.
movie The Godfather had it wrong when it said “It ain’t personal, it’s
business.” The truth is “It’s business; it is personal.”
professionals approach the task of giving advice as if it were an objective,
rational exercise based on their technical knowledge and expertise. However, it
is almost always an emotional "duet," played between the advice-giver
and the client. If you can't learn to recognize, deal with and respond to client
emotions, you will never be an effective advisor.
is not enough for a professional to be right: An advisor's job is to be helpful.
advising clients sometimes feels like explaining things to a child, the secret
to becoming a good advisor is to do exactly the opposite. We should act as if we
are trying to advise our mother or father.
are always a number of ways of expressing the same thought, each of which
differs in how it is received by the listener. Saying "You've got to do
X," even when correct, is very likely to evoke emotional resistance. No one
likes to be told that they must do anything (even when they do).
something as simple as "What are your problems?" This can easily be
taken as confrontational and challenging. A good substitute might be "What
is most in need of improvement?" As a quick rule of thumb, it is usually
better to try to turn assertions into questions.
many ways advisory skills are similar to those of great teaching. A teacher's
task is to help a student get from point A (what they know, understand and
believe now) to point B (an advanced state of deeper understanding and
advice giving requires an ability to suppress one's own ego and emotional needs.
The most effective way to influence a client is to help the client feel that the
solution was his or her idea, or at the very least his or her decision.
advisor's role is to be an expert guide in the process of reasoning through the
problem. Our ability to be accepted as a trustworthy guide can be damaged if our
client believes that we have already reached our own inflexible conclusion.
build a strong personal relationship, you try to be understanding, thoughtful,
considerate, sensitive to feelings and supportive. All of these adjectives apply
equally well to what is needed to build a strong business relationship.
earn a relationship, you must go first. You must give a favour to earn a favour.
primary goal of any relationship building activity is to create opportunities to
demonstrate that you have something to contribute. There’s no better way to do
this than to start contributing.
the core of earning someone’s trust is convincing them that you are dealing
with them as an individual human being, and not as a member of a group or class
or subset. Accordingly, as you listen to a client talk, the question on your
mind should be “What makes this person different from any other client I’ve
served?” This is hard work. The natural tendency of most of us is to do the
exact opposite: we listen for the things we recognize and have met before, so
that we can draw upon past experience to use the words, approaches and tools
that we already know well. It’s the way most of us work, but it doesn’t
always serve us well.
people, including clients, want affirmation, approval, support and appreciation.
In order to get your client to listen to and accept your advice, you must hold
back the temptation to say, early on, “I know how to solve your problem, you
need to do the following”. You may be right, but you will fail as a trusted
advisor, and your advice will probably not be accepted. Clients don’t always
want advice; they often just want a sympathetic ear.
get what you want from someone, you must first focus on giving them what they
major obstacle to focusing on the other person is worrying about ourselves. In
the midst of a conversation with a client, we are likely to find ourselves with
thoughts like, ‘How will I solve this problem?’ ‘How will I get the client
to buy this idea?’ If we are honest and strip down all these distractions to
the core, we are likely to find some form of fear at the root: fear of
embarrassment, of failure, of appearing ignorant or incompetent.
is crucial to both trust and relationships. If you have it and can show it,
you’ll do well. If you try to “fake it” (i.e. use the tactics without
really caring), but always act that way, you’ll probably end up creating
something that is indistinguishable from the genuine article. What will not work
is the use of occasional tactics that are inconsistent with the way you normally
behave. These will soon be spotted for what they are: phoney, insincere and
clumsy efforts, and they will not only be ineffective but will create an adverse
relationships, there are no win-lose or lose-win combinations: There are only
win-win and lose-lose. If the fit is not there for one party, then, just as for
couples who ultimately divorce, it will, in the end, not work for the either of
them. To speak the truth about the disparity may be difficult, but it is usually
the most efficient way out, not to mention the kindest.
professionals say: “My client knows I am credible and reliable. So why
doesn’t my client trust me?” The answer, of course, is that trust has
multiple dimensions: credibility, reliability, intimacy and lack of
self-orientation. Winning trust requires that you do well on all four dimensions
(in the client’s eyes), unless you are so superb at one or two dimensions that
you can overcome some relative weaknesses in the others. Even then, you have to
be truly superb, not just good.
does not diminish the importance of credibility to say that it is the one aspect
of trust that is most commonly achieved. This is the factor most likely to be
done well by you (and your competitors). Credibility isn't just content
expertise. It's content expertise plus "presence," which refers to how
we look, act, react and talk about our content.
is about whether clients think you are dependable and can be trusted to behave
in consistent ways. Judgments on reliability are strongly affected, if not
determined, by the number of times the client has interacted with you. We tend
to trust the people we know well, and assign less trustworthiness to those with
whom we have not interacted.
most common failure in building trust is the lack of intimacy. Some
professionals consider it a positive virtue to maintain an emotional distance
from their clients. They work hard at being “aloof.” We believe that they do
so not only at their own risk, but also to that of their clients.
is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested
in themselves than in trying to be of service and trying to help the client. We
must work hard to show that our self-orientation is under control.
the first stage of building trust, is the point in the process where the client
begins to feel two things: There is an issue worth talking about, and this
person is worth talking to on that issue.
when successful, is the point in the process where the client comes to believe
that the advisor understands him or her. The purpose of listening in building
trust is to earn the right to engage in a mutual exploration of ideas.
which is simultaneously a means to build trust and essential to the
advice-giving process, is the process by which advisor helps the client
crystallize and clarify the many issues involved in the client’s problem.
the stage of jointly “Envisioning”, the advisor and the client imagine (in
rich detail) how the end-result might look, without prematurely giving in to the
temptation to solve the problem. When done successfully, envisioning is usually
the point in the process where the client begins to understand his or her own
purpose of the Commitment stage of trust-building (and advice-giving) is to
ensure that the client understands (in all of its rational, emotional and
political complexity) what it will take to achieve the vision, and help the
client find the determination to do what is necessary.
do good listeners do that makes them good listeners? They:
Probe for clarification
Listen for unvoiced emotions
Listen for the story
Listen for what’s different, not for what’s familiar
Take it all seriously (they don’t say, “you shouldn’t worry about
Spot hidden assumptions
Let the client “get it out of his/her system”
Ask “How do you feel about that?”
Keep the client talking (What else have you considered?)
Keep asking for more detail that helps them understand
Get rid of distractions while listening
Focus on hearing your version first
Let you tell your story your way
Stand in your shoes, at least while they’re listening
Ask you how you think they might be of help
Ask what you’ve thought of before telling you what they’ve thought of
Look at (not stare at) the client as he or she speaks
Look for "congruency" (or incongruity) between what the client
says and how he/she gestures and postures.
Make it seem as if the client is the only thing that matters and that
they have all the time in the world.
Encourage by nodding head or slight smile
Are aware of their body movement (no moving around, shaking legs,
fiddling with a paper clip.)
is horribly tempting to omit discussions of risks, uncertainties and pitfalls at
the beginning of an assignment, or worse, when we are still trying to win the
assignment. A natural instinct is to project an air of “This can be done, no
problem, leave it to us, we’ll take care of everything!” This is often done
in the mistaken impression that such phrases create trust by projecting
self-confidence. However, it can equally often be interpreted as arrogance or
secrecy (“What’s he hiding?”)
professionals’ actions are driven by fears, including fear of not having the
answer; not being able to get the right answer quickly; having the wrong answer;
committing some social faux pas; looking confused; not knowing how to respond;
having missed some information; revealing some ignorance; misdiagnosing.
and desires we must learn to control include:
Wanting (needing?) to take credit for an idea
Wanting to fill blank airtime with content
Playing to our own insecurity by feeling we have to get all our
credentials out there
Wanting to put a cap on the problem so we can solve it later, without the
Wanting to hedge our answers in case we're wrong
Wanting (too soon) to relate our own version of the client's story or
does one sell? By demonstrating (not asserting) to a client that we have
something to offer and that we are someone in whom they can place their trust.
These are essentially serving actions. How does one serve? Serving means helping
the client and meeting his or her needs in such a way that the client is
delighted, wants to hire us again, and tells all their friends and business
acquaintances about us. What is that if not selling?
best selling technique is to not sell, but to commence the service process. Many
professionals, in their business development activities, will talk about
serving, rather than actually serving. (“It’s going to be wonderful once you
start paying, we promise you. But we won’t show you anything until money
changes hands”) This is not credible and is completely ineffective.
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