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The Trusted Advisor

trusted-advisor2By David H. Maister

It’s always great when someone recommends a book to you because they’ve found it really useful and helpful in their work.

And for the ego, it’s amazing to then find that you’ve already been doing a lot of the stuff described in the book!  When I got over myself and moved past that over-confident initial reaction, I realised I was learning some great insight into why what we do works and how we can make it even better.

The Trusted Advisor helps us understand why we call one person a supplier or service provider – yet call on someone else in the same position or profession as more of a friend, confidant or – you guessed it, trusted advisor.

Getting somewhat complex in places with equations, which I fear could make the reader obsessive over the details – the ideas shared are powerful for considering how we can all build trust and be better advisors.  That’s invaluable to any roles where consulting and influencing is key (are there any roles where that isn’t the case?) – whether as an external supplier or as an in-house partner.

Can you describe three fascinating ideas suggested by the book?

Be more curious

We’re often asked how we know what questions to ask – whether that’s in a coaching context, consulting situation or everyday conversation.  This book nails it by simply explaining why we need to be more curious.  Of course there’s not much in the way of practical tips on how to be more curious – as it’s simply seen as a yes or no mindset.  Are you being curious right now or assuming you already know everything you need to know?  The powerful point here is that we can choose at any moment to be more curious and ask more questions.

Park your personal agenda

Low self-interest was consistently found in the authors’ research and examples as critical to building trust.  It makes sense –  if I’m going to trust you, confide in you and think you can help me, I must believe that you’re in it to help me, not yourself.

In spite of the common sense this seems to tap into, this is the number one area where people fall down.  We’ve all got our to-do lists, priorities, objectives and we come to every meeting with an agenda – so how can we possibly have no interest in what we need from every conversation?

What I love about this concept is once again, it’s a choice in the moment.  I may go into a meeting that immediately I sense suits me to drive my agenda and get what I need.  And minutes later, I may realise that the other person is not where I thought they were, they’re unsure what’s next and they need to talk about it.  I have a choice in that moment to park my agenda, and pay attention to my broader purpose: To make a difference.  I can’t possibly make a difference if I’m not listening, so I make my choice, and have a greater impact.

Give good advice (I know, it’s not rocket science!)

If you’re a fantastic listener and have no issue with the point above about parking your own agenda, maybe this tip is more for you.  Where a lot of people fall down with self-interest, others may fall down by not being forthcoming enough with their opinion, expertise and thinking.  It is a fine balancing act to take a high level of interest in a person, be curious and focused on their agenda – then as soon as it’s required (judging when that is may be the biggest challenge) – come in with your advice and suggestions.

The book suggests a three-step approach to giving advice – offer options, explain the pros and cons of each, then make a recommendation.

What’s the one thing that will stick with you after reading this book and why?

For me personally, as is perhaps evident from the way I have written this review, it is the need to be more forthcoming with advice that will stay with me.  At the time I was reading this book, I was working with a client who wanted me to give far more advice on how I thought a project should run, rather than follow his lead on what happened when.  That will not be the case with all people I work with, but I know the idea will stay with me for life that when I have an opinion on a subject that may be useful for someone, it’s better to share it.

You can buy the book from all good book stockists, or click on the image and be whisked away to a rainforest…