You didn’t become a department leader, high-level executive or business owner without some degree of risk. It takes entrepreneurial savvy as well as a certain confidence to lead others and forge a vision. Odds are you are smarter than the average bear. Along those lines, you’re probably at least somewhat skeptical of outside opinions regarding your business. At the same time, you know that “no one does it alone,” and you at least intellectually appreciate your need for smart insight from diverse people who care about your success.
Here’s you challenge: Where and how can you find good leadership advisors, and how do you know when to trust them and when to “trust your gut”?
Assembling Your Council
The nature of your current position and challenges will constrain who is fit to be an advisor. You might be able to look outsiders, such as a coach, consultant or trusted family member. Or you might need to speak with people inside your company or at least your industry.
Search for people with the following qualities:
- Trustworthiness. You want to trust their judgment and respect their integrity. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell them something for fear that such information will be used against you or shared inappropriately.
- Skills that complement your weaknesses. For instance, let’s say that you’re an “ideas person.” You lack the ability to be linear and systematic. Stock you leadership advisory team with people who are linear – who are strong where you are weak.
- Offer diverse and divergent viewpoints. You don’t want an echo chamber. Your leadership consultants should give you fresh perspectives on your business crises. You want people who are capable of challenging you and also exposing you to new points of view that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
How to Use Your Advisors to Best Effect
First, clearly define your problems and ideal outcomes. It’s a lot easier to wrap your head around a question like “how can we engineer the business to grow 20% by the fourth quarter?” than it is to answer a question like “how can we make the business more profitable?” Be specific with your questions.
Likewise, listen actively to what people tell you. (We’ll dive into the whys and wherefores of active listening in our other blog post this month.)
Recognize that changing your mind — getting confused about strategy and tactics — is all part of the game. The popular vision of a “leader” is of someone who is decisive and always confident. It’s may be more useful to think of yourself as a captain of a vessel on stormy seas in the middle of the ocean. You don’t want a captain who is overly confident and who doesn’t change her mind. You want the captain to be constantly checking conditions and willing to change course.
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