Let's start with a question: What benefits would you obtain if your clients trusted you more?
Here's our list. The more your clients trust you, the more they will:
- Reach for your advice
- Be inclined to accept and act on your recommendations
- Bring you in on more advanced, complex, strategic issues
- Treat you as you wish to be treated
- Respect you
- Share more information that helps you to help them, and improves the quality of the service you provide
- Pay your bills without question
- Refer you to their friends and business acquaintances
- Lower the level of stress in your interactions
- Give you the benefit of the doubt
- Forgive you when you make a mistake
- Protect you when you need it (even from their own organization)
- Warn you of dangers that you might avoid
- Be comfortable and allow you to be comfortable
- Involve you early on when their issues begin to form, rather than later in the process (or maybe even call you first!)
- Trust your instincts and judgments (including those about other people such as your colleagues and theirs)
We would all like to have such professional relationships! This book is about what you must do to obtain these benefits.
What changes would you make to this list? What would you add? Delete?
Next, let's consider three additional questions:
Do you have a trusted advisor, someone you turn to regularly to advise you on all your most important business, career, and perhaps even personal decisions?
If you do, what are the characteristics of that person?
If you do not, what characteristics would you look for in selecting your trusted advisor?
Here 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 current issue)
- 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 seriously)
- Act like a real 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 honorable (they don't gossip about others, and we trust their values)
- 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 humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations
- Are smart (sometimes in ways we're not)
What would you add to (or delete from) this list?
Using the Golden Rule (we should treat others as we wish to be treated), we can probably make a fair assumption (or at least a good first approximation) that this list, or your list, is not much different from a list your clients would make.
So, if you want your clients to treat you as their trusted advisor, then you must meet as many of the "tests" on this list as possible.
Ask yourself: Which of these traits do my clients think I possess? (Not what you think you possess, but what they think you do!) If you suspect that you might not demonstrate all these traits, then how do you get better at each of them? That's what this book will try to answer.
Note that this book is not (just) about the wonderful benefits that wait at the end of the rainbow for the full-fledged trusted advisor, who does (or is) everything listed here. The early benefits of beginning to earn trust are substantial and can be obtained quickly. The ability to earn trust is a learnable skill, and we shall try in the succeeding pages to show "the yellow brick road" that leads to success.
Copyright © 2000 by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford
The Trusted Advisor
In today's fast-paced networked economy, professionals must work harder than ever to maintain and improve their business skills and knowledge. But technical mastery of one's discipline is not enough, assert world-renowned professional advisors David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. The key to professional success, they argue, is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of clients. To demonstrate the paramount importance of trust, the authors use anecdotes, experiences, and examples -- successes and mistakes, their own and others' -- to great effect. The result is an immensely readable book that will be welcomed by the inexperienced advisor and the most seasoned expert alike.