Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Trusted Advisor

Engineers, especially consulting engineers, come with several universal titles.  Ones like "Professional" or "Expert' come to mind.  But another title might be just as appropriate - - "Trusted Advisor".

Authors David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford have written The Trusted Advisor (2001), which appears to be the handbook on the subject.

Consider the traits the authors consider important for the role of trusted advisor from the context of the advisee:
  1. Seem to understand us, effortlessly, and like us.
  2. Are consistent (we depend on them).
  3. Always help use to see things from fresh perspectives.
  4. Don't try to force things on us.
  5. Help us think things through (it's our decision).
  6. Don't substitute their judgment for ours.
  7. Don't panic or get overemotional (they stay calm).
  8. Help us think and separate our logic from our emotion.
  9. Criticize and correct us gently, lovingly.
  10. Don't pull their punches (we can rely on them to tell us the truth).
  11. Are in it for the long haul (the relationship is more important than the current issue).
  12. Give us reasoning (to help us think), not just their conclusions.
  13. Give us options, increase our understanding of those options, give us their recommendations, and let us choose.
  14. Challenge our assumptions (help us uncover the false assumptions we've been working under).
  15. Make us feel comfortable and casual personally (but they take the issues seriously).
  16. Act like a real person, not someone in a role.
  17. Are reliably on our side and always seem to have our interests at heart.
  18. Remember everything we ever said (without notes).
  19. Are always honorable (they don't gossip about others, and we trust their values).
  20. Help us put our issues in context, often through the use of metaphors, stories, and anecdotes (few problems are completely unique).
  21. Have a sense of humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations.
  22. Are smart (sometimes in ways we're not).
Those professionals who apply trust most successfully are those who are at ease with concepts like:
  • Do well by going good.
  • What goes around comes around.
  • You get back what you put in.
  • Use it or lose it.
They have a predisposition to focus on the client, rather than themselves - -
  • enough self-confidence to listen without pre-judging,
  • enough curiosity to inquire without supposing an answer,
  • willingness to see the client as co-equal in a joint journey,
  • and enough ego strength to subordinate their own ego.
Key characteristics of trust are:
  • Grows, rather than just appears.
  • Is both rational and emotional.
  • Presumes a two-way relationship.
  • Is intrinsically about perceived risk.
  • Is different for the client than it is for the advisor.
  • Is personal.
The trusted advisor is a master of Socratic teaching - - examples of key questions are:
  • Why do you think we have this problem?
  • What options do we have for doing things differently?
  • What advantages do you foresee for the different options?
  • How do you think the relevant players would react if we did that?
  • How do you suggest we deal with the following adverse consequences of such an action?
  • What can we do to prevent such things occurring?
  • What benefits might come if we tried the following approach?
The key principals of relationship building - -
  1. Go first
  2. Illustrate, don't tell
  3. Listen for what's different, not for what's familiar
  4. Be sure your advice is being sought
  5. Earn the right to offer advice
  6. Keep asking
  7. Say what you mean
  8. When you need help, ask for it
  9. Show an interest in the person
  10. Use compliments, not flattery
  11. Show appreciation
And finally - - the Trust Equation

T = (C + R + I) / S

T= Trust
C = Credibility
R = Reliability
I = Intimacy
S = Self-orientation

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