How I get the most from outside advisors

Outside Advisor BlogIn my capacity as CEO I use a wide range of advisors.

My most trusted advisors are my Leadership Team.  I trust them the most because I know them the best – and they know me. We’ve worked long hours together. Sorted problems and opportunities together. Eaten meals together. We’re close and I count on them for their skills, insight and expertise. Also, they report to me and my direct influence over their priorities and performance is different than the dynamic I have with my outside advisors. Or is it?

My most trusted outside advisors are also smart and expert at what they do. Some report to me – if I’ve directly and formally engaged them – some don’t.

There are a couple of things I keep in mind in managing my outside advisors.

  1. They have expertise I don’t have. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t need them – therefore, I need to pay attention to what they’re advising me – even if I’m not always on-side.
  2. They have other work they could be doing. I don’t believe any of my most trusted advisors are simply ‘in it for the money’. If I were to treat them poorly enough or regularly downplay their expertise, I bet they would all move on to something more meaningful. I must treat them with respect. Show them concern and consideration.
  3. They are fairly paid for what they’re doing for me. I see to that. Therefore, I can have high expectations for their performance – and I can hold them accountable to deliver.
  4. We don’t work together 24/7. Therefore, the opportunities to get to know each other – for sharing, learning and problem-solving – don’t happen spontaneously. Those opportunities must be organized. Created. Simply winging it won’t work consistently and may even fail at the most inopportune time.
  5. Other than by association, none of them have any direct vested interest in the long-term success of my organization. Sweat equity doesn’t mean anything. Therefore, my direction to them must be clear, the expected outputs well understood, the timing precise and the compensation fair.

Bottom line, if I want the best performance out of my advisors – both internal and external – I need to treat them all the same  – with respect, caring, clear direction and accountability.


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