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What type of adviser are you?
This article will help you explore your personal advisory style. We have created a self-assessment tool which will help you understand your own preferences in how you like to advise others. Click here to complete the self-assessment.
SPOILER ALERT! We recommend you complete the questionnaire before reading on.
Have you done it? If so, read on….
For those who have completed the self-assessment, here’s a bit more about the Strategic Adviser archetypes and why they work.
One of the most popular tools we have helps people think about what type of adviser they are. In fact, being a ‘strategic adviser’ comes in five different flavours.
So what are the five? And which one are you? An easy way to think about it is via the analogy of a restaurant.
Imagine you are walking into an expensive restaurant for a date with the one you love. You will encounter several different people — all experts in their own field, and all ready to give you advice on how to have the best possible experience. But they will all do it in different ways.
Welcome to “Augustus”, your strategic adviser restaurant.
In fact, maybe your first adviser is one you encounter before you get to the restaurant. You meet a previous customer (or read an internet review): “Aah, you’re going to ‘Augustus’ for dinner! Wow! You must totally have the ‘Barcelona Chop’. It’s their specialty. Divine. And for dessert? There is only one choice. Of course you need to order the ‘Caramel Salée With Meringue’. It’s to die for.” This adviser’s heart is in the right place, and they generally believe that those choices are the best for you. But they have jumped to solution and ‘yelped’ it out before even having a detailed discussion. This is a great approach in a crisis: ‘just tell me what to do’. Yelping out the solution immediately they can save time and make your life easier. But the challenge for this type of adviser — the yelper— is that jumping straight to solution or action sometimes works but is not always the best approach.
As you enter the restaurant, you will meet your next adviser: the maître d’. Let’s call her Martha. Her main job is to ensure you have a good experience, and to marshal a team of specialists to meet your specific needs. Martha is supportive, helpful and attentive. She knows her stuff but doesn’t parade her knowledge. At times, she will bring in experts to enhance your experience; at other times she will develop a relationship with you to understand your needs in more detail. If you are a looking for a quick transaction, go to a different restaurant. Martha will ensure you feel better after leaving; and will place your needs above her own. As you share a taxi home with your loved one, you probably won’t even remember her name: but she’s the one who made it all happen.
After Martha shows you to your table, you’ll meet your waiter, William. This is the third adviser archetype. His job is transactional. He will give you a menu of options and then write down what you say. He’ll deliver whatever you ask. Maybe there will be a little conversation about options, but essentially the waiter’s job is to deliver. Sometimes as an adviser, that is what you need to do. A senior leader needs something and you need to deliver. There is a time and a place for this approach. But doing it too often is career-limiting.
As you choose your meal, you’ll maybe want some wine. Enter Salma, your sommelier. As your adviser, her job is to have a conversation to understand your needs, the context (the meal you have already chosen; your budget; your tastes) and then make a recommendation. At the beginning of your conversation, she doesn’t know your needs, your context, and there is no clear solution from her list of hundreds of options. If it was a crisis and you needed immediate wine, then the yelper is the adviser for you. But the sommelier will explore the issues, make recommendations and guide you towards a good outcome.
Your final archetype is Christiane, the chef. She’s the super expert — and has the Michelin stars, certificates and qualifications to prove it. In her hands, the mundane becomes dynamic. Her technical expertise is second to none and if you need an expert to solve your problems she’s the one for you. Like some chefs, she can be hard to handle. Unlike the maître d’, she doesn’t need interpersonal skills. In fact, you probably won’t even meet her. But her solution will be the thing that you rave about later. As an adviser, she’s the expert and the one that will go away and build a solution to meet your needs.
Successful business partners and strategic advisers will make sure there is an alignment between three components of the relationship:
What does the buyer want? Sometimes, actually, it is a waiter problem, pure and simple. Just do it. Going in with a sommelier approach is just going to annoy people.
What is the job? This might be a job description, an RFP or just an email request from one of your colleagues. You need to identify what type of response is needed.
Finally, as a person, where do you get your energy? Plenty of people ask us, “how do I become a maître d’?” but actually when we quiz them in detail it is apparent they are most happy being a chef.
This typology is a bit of fun, and it comes in useful when diagnosing business partnering relationships. One of the big challenges in consulting or business partner relationships is that the ‘buyer’ and the ‘seller’ can sometimes have different ideas of why the partnership exists.