Once we’ve accepted we have fallibilities. The question then becomes how do we go about securing good quality advice. The biggest concern at this stage is we all have is how to choose the right support provider. A common criteria to use when seeking business support providers is:
- Ensure the support provider has a well rounded understanding of business. This means more than just an MBA. It means they can understand your business the way you have organised it.
- Verify they bring an outside perspective. This encourages innovation and creative problem solving. Industry/ sector specific understanding is useful - but has its limitations.
- Understand the approach the support provider uses. Business support comes in many flavours and the delivery is often designed to deliver an outcome.
- Ensure they follow a Code of Ethics. This helps to plug the gaps between what you agreed with them and the actual outcome. For example, if a situation emerges not covered by the contract you know they will act in good faith.
- Will working with the support provider generate a positive ROI ? Both Financial and otherwise. It can be difficult to calculate non financial returns. This does not mean we should not target them.
The next concern then is how to ensure we make effective use of the advice once we have received it? The concern here is leaders are expected to use their judgement. This demand can limit their willingness to accept an outside perspective. More often than not as leaders we misjudge the quality of the advice we receive. Leaders will usually tend to seek validation or praise for our own solutions. The more powerful the leader is the more likely we tend to be guilty of this. This leads to a situation where no material impact on the decision making is made or the performance of the leader. Here the support provider will need to earn the trust and respect of the leader in order he/ she is looking to support. There are no short cuts here.
Some potential problems to be careful of when working with support providers.
- Business support providers can overstep invisible boundaries. They can replace the leader as the decision maker. They can end up becoming the decision maker without knowing it This changes the nature of their relationship with their clients. For example, McKinsey and Co. experienced this concern when dealing with Swiss Air at the turn of the century. This is to be avoided at all costs.
- Lets not forget if the leader is reiterating decisions made by someone else they will not nurture their own capacity. They will also be held accountable - including potential legal liability - because they did not do their own job.
- Business support providers can also be at fault by failing to clearly outline the reasoning for the advice.
- Communicating the advice poorly.
- Misdiagnosing the problem - it is common to see similarities with issues they have faced before. By neglecting to ask the kind of probing questions that will get to the heart of the matter or by giving self-centred guidance.
These pitfalls can be avoided by understanding the approach the support providers take. Professional support providers usually use processes and procedures. They help to limit the impact of these types of concerns. For instance, members of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council are encouraged to use contracts and project management methodologies. This helps to ensure clarity. Expectations are also accurately highlighted at the start of the relationship.
Leaders need to understand we need support. We cannot go it alone. The concerns of isolation, mono thought and limitations of being human can destroy perfectly capable leaders. The dilemmas for leaders is even if accept we need support. Asking for help may make us look like we lack the required competency to be a leader. This concern is then exacerbated by not knowing who to turn to for what kind of help and more importantly when. Here tapping into the right support at the right time makes all the difference. Therefore, part of being an effective leader means knowing when to ask for help, who to turn for it and when.
We look forward to you highlighting your experiences and thoughts on this.
This post was Co Authored by Tony Gimple and Zufi Deo.
Tony Gimple is the first entrepreneur to co own and run a Law firm owned by a non lawyer in the UK. He is also the MD of Planned Succession - a business estate, wills and probate specialist. He has mentored and provided advice to other Entrepreneurs for over 10 years via Gimple Associates. He is also a registered Growth Coach with the Growth Accelerator Scheme.
Zufi Deo is a UK Top 50 Business Adviser. He has offers Startegy Support for Entrepreneurs via www.bizstuff.co . He is a Co Founder at www.StartupReady.Net . He is also a fellow of the RSA and has organised the London Chapter of Entrepreneur Commons for nearly 5 years.