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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 2

Key Principles

Managing Expectations

Top 10 tips for managing expectations:

  1. Clearly say what you will and won’t do.
  2. Clearly say what the client will and won’t do.
  3. Always tell the truth about what you cannot do.
  4. Agree methods and frequency of communication and updates.
  5. Agree how success will be measured.
  6. Check with the client any areas they don’t want you to be involved in, or people they don’t want you to speak with.
  7. Decide milestones and review dates early.
  8. Ask questions that are bothering you early and focus on the tough issues.
  9. Show that you’re enthusiastic if it’s work you enjoy, or a client you like.
  10. Prepare or start the project in advance and share your working.

Be Patient

Becoming a trusted advisor takes time, it requires patience. Everything about it is about building and maintaining long term relationships.

But there are still some things you can do to try and build up trust early on in a relationship:

Don’t be Afraid

Getting over some of our fears is one of the hardest ideas in the Trusted Advisor concept.

It’s natural to want to avoid awkward situations and looking foolish.

We try to avoid:

  • Financial loss
  • Public embarrassment
  • Not knowing the answer
  • Saying the wrong thing
  • Being humiliated or belittled

If we adopt the view that it is within our control how we respond to many of these situations, that we can respond with grace, or not look to gain the approval of others, then many of these will not affect us so much. Much easier said than done!

The Trusted Advisor concept, and in particular Patrick Lencioni’s book Getting Naked, explore 3 main fears we need to overcome:

No one wants to lose a client, but that fear hurts our ability to offer honest advice and keep business. What clients want to know more than anything is that we put their needs above our own, and that we are honest and direct with them even if that might jeopardise the relationship.

Good ways to demonstrate no fear of losing the business are:

No one likes to make mistakes, and that’s even more the case in public or in front of people who are paying for your advice. Even more so no one likes to appear to have no answer at all.

Trusted Advisors should be able to make suggestions that are wrong, maybe laughably so. Our sense of self-worth shouldn’t be entirely built on a need to be right all the time, or know everything.

Showing transparency, modesty and humility, perhaps an ability to laugh at ourselves, are great qualities in a trusted advisor.

Some ways to show you do not have the fear of embarrassment:

This final fear is about our pride and our ego, preserving a sense of importance or standing with the client. It is easy to be lured by the temptation to enjoy the feeling of influence and importance that comes with the title “consultant”.

A trusted Advisor does not seek to feel important or above their client. They seek the opposite, taking a back seat and getting their hands dirty, doing whatever is asked of them to help their clients. It links back to putting the clients need above our own.

Some ways to show you do not fear feeling inferior:


What stops you overcoming your fears?

Do you worry about winning work? Why?
What stops you being vulnerable with a client?
How comfortable are you admitting your mistakes?
What was your last public mistake? How did it feel?
Have you ever been given work you feel was beneath you?

Thank you for completing the course

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