5 Things I Learned From David Maister About Trust & Advising Clients

trusted advisor david maister

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If you’re a freelancer, consultant, or service provider of any kind, you can surely gain a lot from reading David Maister’s book The Trusted Advisor. There are so many ways we can improve, let’s take a look.

1. Consider Traits of People You Trust Already

It may not come naturally to put yourself in your clients shoes. But you can surely stand in your own shoes. So consider what traits the people you put your trust in have…

o don’t panic or get too emotional
o understand us without a terrible effort
o correct us & criticize gently
o are on our side & have our interests at heart
o don’t try to force things on us
o feel we can depend on them
o help us separate our logic from emotions
o remember the things we have said
o help us put our issues in context
o always provide fresh perspectives

Right out of the gates, Trusted Advisor is offering us some of those very characteristics. The first chapter alone is worth the purchase price.

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2. There’s An Equation For Trust

It may sound surprising to consider a calculation for trust. Let’s take a look.

Trustworthiness = (credibility + reliability + intimacy) / self-orientation

These are all words we know well, but to truly understand them, Maister lays them out very nicely for us. He takes an interesting approach. Our credibility is the words we use, as we describe what we’ve done. Reliability is the actions we take, arriving on time, doing what we promised to do, delivering etc. Intimacy is about emotions, empathizing with your clients needs. And lastly Self-orientation, which may be the toughest one, which involves putting your client first.

He then turns it all on it’s head. How are people have have poor marks in one of those areas characterized? Poor marks in credibility, a windbag, who is all talk. Low score in reliability, that person is irresponsible. How about bad marks in intimacy, they are thought of as technicians. Ouch! And how about if you score badly in self-orientation, devious is your cross to bear.

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3. Your Client May Not Want Your Advice

“One of the biggest mistakes that advisors make is to think that their client always wants their advice.”

Does that sound counterintuitive? I think as an engineer particularly, that may be hard to wrap your head around. I was just hired, so the client must want my advice and solutions, right?

Ultimately yes, but first they may want someone to listen to them. Listen, understand their position & discuss. Really to empathize with what they’ve been going through. The more you can do that, the more confidence they will have in your solving those problems & be ready for you to take action.

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4. What Good Listeners Don’t Do

We’re all trying to be better listeners, at least I hope we are. I’ve seen lots of lists of things listeners do. What about what they don’t do? Let’s turn things on their head.

If we’re a good listener we don’t…
o make judgements or jump to conclusions
o give our ideas first
o interrupt
o respond early
o try solving a problem too quickly
o take calls or text during meeting

We’ve probably all fallen prey to one of these mistakes, so we all have work to do!

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5. Take Responsibility

You’ve heard the refrain, but it’s not easy to do. Taking ownership means assuming the pain & worries of your client as if they were your own. As I learned in one engagement, sometimes it means taking the fall.

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