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Trusted Advisor

By John Airey

A set of skills and practices to help you utilise the concept of 'Trusted Advisor'

John Airey

John Airey

Senior Technology Consultant
Trusted Advisor: Part 1

Giving Advice

Advice Giving Process

As discussed in the video above the simple process for giving advice is as follows:

Everyone wants to understand the options open to them. Often just giving one way of doing things seems like you’re forcing your ideas on someone, or that you have another agenda that biases you to that option.

Even options you think are terrible are worth mentioning, at least they know what bad looks like then.

You want to explore the risks, the advantages, disadvantages and costs of any options you have given.

Try to avoid taking a stance on one option or another too early.

The client should have enough information to consider each option properly, maybe even some time to consider each.

Give your honest advice and explain how or why you have come to that conclusion.

The advisor is there to be a guide as they process what they want to do. Let them come to a conclusion. If they want you to decide for them, as some people might, then try to frame it tactfully. Phrases such as "If it were my business I would..." Or "If we were looking to spend that money we would..."

Styles of Giving Advice

A good way to think about how you give advice is with the Support-Challenge matrix, a tool often used for leadership style, but just as applicable to an advisor role.

The matrix is below, along with some of the behavioural traits and characteristics of each style.

  • Enabler - High Challenge - High Support
    When a certain level of trust has been built up and clients are developing this is the advisory style to use. If over-used, this advisory style will lead to frustration as clients may feel micromanaged.
  • Nurturer - Low Challenge - High Support
    This style is helpful when times are hard, but over-used it can lead to stagnation.
  • Task Master - Low Support - High Challenge
    Helpful when trust is high in a well developed relationship and clients need to stretch themselves or need a push. If over-used, this advisory style will lead to stress and resentment.
  • Abdicator - Low Support - Low Challenge
    When used appropriately this style can promote self-agency. If over-used, it leads to apathy.

There are times when each can be useful, but as advisors we have to pick when each style is appropriate. You need to have built a relationship before becoming too challenging - too early and our advice can be poorly received.

It would be impossible to maintain the top right style at all times, despite it often leading to the best outcomes, overuse will just lead to overstretch and would not be appropriate for all clients and relationship levels.

On the blank matrix below you can write in some of the names of your clients, or people you advise. You should see that if you have a more trusted relationship, you can offer in more challenge.

Find the right words

Giving advice is also partly about putting it in the write words, and a careful attention to language. Sometimes you might have the best advice but if its phrased poorly or put across untactfully your clients will be put off.

This can also just be as simple as basic grammatical errors, poor language or spelling eroding a clients confidence in what you are advising.

A few quick top tips:

  • Rehearse client conversations and presentations with colleagues or friends.
  • Have a colleague check over an email or written communication before you send it. Sometimes they will help us spot how something we’ve said could be interpreted differently.
  • Try to avoid hard and direct phrasing such as "You must do..." or "You’ve got to..."
  • Minimise unnecessary apologies
  • Try to avoid instances of doubt such as "am I making sense?"
  • Try to avoid hiding your point of view behind a question