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Leaders should behave like Trusted Advisors

Written by Ed Callahan on June 6, 2011

Implementers EOS Leadership Trust

A friend of mine, the CEO of a professional services firm, recently gave me a copy of David Maister’s The Trusted Advisor (2000). Buy it here. Maister is the author of the best selling, Managing The Professional Services Firm (1993).

Maister, and his two co-authors, Charlie Green and Rob Galford, posit that the realm of a true trusted advisor involves three skills,- 1. Earning Respect; 2. Giving Advice Effectively; and, 3. Building Relationships. The authors are adamant that professional service firms which focus only on content and expertise will be relegated to a service-offering or needs-based relationship.

The book is detailed, practical and prescriptive. It’s not just about what you should do during your journey to becoming a trusted advisor, but actionable suggestions on how you might accomplish your goal.

If the first of three parts, Perspectives on Trust, doesn’t align with your thinking, then the remainder of the book won’t work for you.

Leadership teams should find as much value in the book as professional services providers, including business coaches.

All of what Maister and company say about Trust serves as an exposition of the importance of Trust among leaders, as discussed in Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Leadership Team. Read my post about it. There are five causal dysfunctions on a leadership team. An absence of Trust inhibits healthy Conflict which leads to weak Commitment and a lack of Accountability. Without these four, leadership teams struggle to accomplish the Results they want.

Lencioni tells us that without Trust leadership teams can achieve the Results they want, but they will have to work a lot harder to do so and risk burn-out.

Similarly, Maister et al suggest that you might rise beyond vendor status to perhaps some sort of strategic partner relationship with your clients without Trust. But if you are not willing to be open and honest, vulnerable, and willing to take personal risks with the client’s key personnel, then you are not likely to become their Trusted Advisor.

What do you think?

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