Becoming a Trusted Advisor

A friend used to tell me a Prophetic Hadith that “One who is consulted is entrusted.” as a reminder when he/she wants to take advice in a personal matter or work-related advice. It means when I ask you for advice, then I gave you enough trust to give me good advice.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said: “One who is consulted is entrusted.”

The Messenger of Allah(ﷺ)

When you became requested to give any advice, it means that the other person is trusting you and seeking your advice for help.

It is not easy to become a trusted advisor without a strong relationship, and this strong relationship needs time. The time can be short or very long according to the advisor’s capabilities and the other party who is seeking and receiving the advice.

Many organizations today started their digital transformation journey, and many others would like to start. Most of them are lacking the digital transformation capabilities and skills that can build for them the digital transformation journey and turn that into reality. This creates the need for expert advice, how to start? when to start? what to start with? who should be involved? who will be impacted? and many other questions are flashed in the minds of the decision-makers when they are talking about digital transformation.

In this article, I would like to share with you the main principles to become a trusted advisor that I would recommend anyone in this industry to follow. These principles can apply in any consultation and advisory services whether in Technology or others. I will start now by listing them and illustrate each one briefly.

Conscious fairness over unconscious bias

Many advisors are falling into the trap of unconscious bias, for example, “I will not mention this subject to not open new debates and discussion”, “I will recommend this solution because this can lead to a new business opportunity for myself, my company, or for a company that I’m investing in”, “I will not recommend this solution as I do not have enough knowledge in this subject”, “I will not recommend this solution as It will enable another competitor to take shares in the account and it will be an entry point for competition”, and lots of unconscious biased judgments and decisions.

Sometimes, these decisions are taken unconsciously and other times they are made consciously for specific hidden reasons. 

If you are a trusted advisor, you should be fair and do not think about consequences and separate between; giving fair advice and who will execute or deliver your recommendations. 

I believe this will not only affect you as an individual who is doing that when your customer who is seeking your advice discovers that you hid information for your hidden agendas and reasons, but I am also sure it will affect the advisors as a profession in general, and it will be very difficult to gain the trust once more. 

The journey of trust starts with your personal brand and the stickiness to be fair. Fair in your recommendations, fair to your customer who initially puts the trust and invested their time with you, and fair to say and do the right thing. Some unfair situations when you agree on customer perspective to gain and maintain a good relationship which is considered unfair if this perspective is not the correct one.

I saw many situations when a consultant agrees with the customer in a wrong decision just to avoid a negative relationship or a tough situation.

Knowledge exchange over Knowledge Privilege

In many situations, I see some advisors and consultants act as superior in their knowledge and show off that we are brilliant minds, and the customer should listen to them and do exactly as we say. 

This is the wrong usage of the knowledge privilege that you have, if you succeeded to use the power of your knowledge to convince others about your recommendations, you have failed their understanding of the rationale behind those recommendations, and you have failed to make them open to share their experience and knowledge.

Every person has something that you can learn from. Exchange the knowledge to have better recommendations tailored to your customer concerns over this is what you should do because I say so.

Sometimes, you need to use your power of knowledge if there is uncertainty and with caution and not with overdose, or you will become the only voice in the room and you will end up with useless recommendations based on your imagination.

Inclusiveness over Selective

Stakeholders are important, and the key decision-makers are sometimes the most important to get approval on your delivered work and who may understand the value of your work. Although, your work will not be inclusive if you heard only the voice of the key stakeholders and decision-makers in a selective way. 

It is important equally to make sure that every voice is heard, and every representative can share the concerns that represent his/her group. This can open discoveries and lead to more problem-solving. This also will facilitate the buy-in and adoption process and their empowerment and engagement to be part of decision creation.

Moreover, when you put the final recommendations, make sure that those voices inside the organization are considered inclusively or you will have inadequate information that can lead to wrong recommendations and may harm the organization if implemented.

Tangible Outcome over frameworks

There are many frameworks and methodologies that you can follow and use. These frameworks are considered as guidance for the process, tools, and research to support the outcome, but they should not make you lose the focus on the outcome to just follow the framework.

Focus on the outcome over following the framework by the book. Frameworks can change and can be customizable and redefined. The customer will not give you trust or approval on your work because you are using a specific framework, the outcome is the most important for them, and how they can apply that outcome and turn it into actions to get results.

Simplicity over Complication

I found this as the hardest skill for advisors. Most of the time, I try to be simple as I can but still not simple enough for most of the audience to ease the understanding. How to become simple and in the same way to not neglect a single detail. It is hard, but there are techniques to reach that simplicity. 

People have different backgrounds and different ways of interpreting and digesting information. The simplest way to ensure simplicity is to ask yourself if I were the customer, would I understand this? Would I know what to do? Do I have a clear path? 

You can also ask for peer review. A fresh eye that seeing the outcome for the first time and criticize your work and give you constructive feedback. This is a good step to reach simplicity and It will give you more trust and boost your confidence that you are delivering something valuable and understandable.

Confidentiality over Boast

When you are advising anyone or any organization, they will be open to share information related or not related to the context. You should treat that with high confidentiality. You should not use the information for having another privilege unless you are directly asking the customer if this information is for sharing or not. 

For example, you may hear during a customer meeting or customer side-conversation that the customer is preparing for a big initiative. This initiative can be an opportunity for a new business with the customer, it was shared with you in a specific context to be aware of the situation. If you want to use this information, it should be with the customer’s authorization.

The other side of confidentiality is sharing the customer situation, data, and results with any other organizations, competition, or even with internal colleagues if this information is not for share or it may affect the customer business. Even if this information will give you a personal glory or ego to share your capabilities.

Evidence over Ambiguity

Some advisors unfortunately are trying to overwhelm customers with lots of information that does not have any evidence and put that under best practices or research says so. Additionally, those advisors may say, the source is confidential to dilute and devious the information.

Recommendations will need evidence and a trusted source of this information as support. Any numbers, the customer may ask where these numbers came from? you need to share the sources that support your ideas as much as possible. Especially, when you will build the outcomes based on these facts, information, or numbers. This will increase the level of your authenticity and respect.

Knowledge boundaries over Improvisation

You are an advisor, not a superhero. You do not have to know all subjects; it is not wrong to admit that you do not know and ask for expertise and support in other subject areas that you lack knowledge about.

It is important to know your knowledge boundaries and what you can do and what you cannot do. You can for sure take the risk and learn and study to share your perspective but remember to be fair as we discussed in the first principle. If you are not the best candidate for the task, admit that.

When you trust your knowledge and know its boundaries, you gain also more trust when you say I don’t know and let me find out what I can do in this subject. And this should not limit you from giving the extra mile for your customer if you can support them more in the context of your knowledge.

Quality over Coverage

Advisory and consultation services cost is not something affordable by all organizations while most of the organization are in a need of those services due to shortage of qualified resources that can deliver the right recommendations.

So, some customers will try to get discounts or fewer outcomes with less time or negotiate on the required time. If you cannot deliver giving those assumptions or this will impact the final quality, then do not be involved or it will be something not complete from the customer perspective. 

This can be solved to keep the same pace of your quality work but focus on a specific subject or concern and don’t cover all concerns. As a result, you will have one complete outcome that addresses a specific concern with decent quality, instead of a shallow diversified outcome.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading those principles and let me know if you have additional principles that should be considered.

Also published on Medium.

Becoming a trusted advisor
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Becoming a trusted advisor
A friend used to tell me a Prophetic Hadith that “One who is consulted is entrusted.” as a reminder when he/she wants to take advice in a personal matter or work-related advice. It means when I ask you for advice, then I gave you enough trust to give me good advice.
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