Are you more of a director, coach, expert, facilitator, or friend?
This is an in-depth results page for the Advisor Style Quiz.
Read through the descriptions and ideas below – some may pertain to you. Remember, many of us tend to combine two or more styles on a regular basis. And, there are a host of other styles of advising that could have been included – doctors, mentors, advocates, etc. If one particular style doesn’t stand out, don’t worry – you may be a successful generalist or a true chameleon in the client relationship!
These seasoned advisors tend to get results through a very direct and steady approach. They excel in eliciting confidence in their clients and often provide the backbone that is needed to drive to results. Directors find it easy to see the problems and develop solutions. They can get frustrated with inaction and tend to pull away from projects or clients where the commitment and drive is low. The Director style is very useful when a client really needs and is ready for a push. Sometimes a serious situation drives a client toward enlisting the services of a strong ‘Director’ – to make sure that he/she can get to where they need to go. Even if you are not a Director by nature, some advisors find they must wear this hat in order to get the client the results that they desire.
Trouble can brew when you believe that what the client needs is a Director, and/or that is your natural style, but what the client really wants, is someone who will take a more gentle approach. Sometimes clients are worried about being embarrassed or bullied by a strong Director and will shy away from the relationship. Look for signs that the client is pulling away, perhaps not sharing as freely or is resisting your approach. It may be time to flex your style for a while and rebuild some trust before you can move on.
The advisor that takes the Coach approach tends to engage in a one-on-one fashion with key players. The Coach focuses on helping their client through a process of both self-discovery and discovery regarding the business. This means that the Coach is likely to ask a lot of questions, use various assessments, engage in experiential activities and draw a host of insights from the client . The onus is on the client to ‘do the work’ rather than the Coach – while the Coach helps to maintain motivation, provides some level of accountability and consistency and is the person to ‘hold up the mirror’ when no one else can. Coaching can be a highly effective way to assist the client to make the personal changes necessary to impact many aspects of their lives, including the business.
Sometimes clients become frustrated with a coach approach. It can feel slow and too “touchy-feely”. Also, sometimes coaches fail to see the systemic issues in the organization and may only be getting information from a limited number of sources (sometimes just one). This can lead to issues in the long-run if the client is not aware of the interactions of various systems in their life. If you tend to work as a Coach, be sure you set clear expectations with the client about your role. Find ways to learn more about the company and/or the situation than just from your client’s experience and don’t hesitate to bring in other experts who may be able to address the issues that are not being addressed by the coaching process.
These experienced specialists often bring vital skills and knowledge to the organization. Clients seek out Experts when they have identified the problem themselves and want help to find and implement solid solutions. Many advisors are called upon to use their Expert skills, even if they have been hired in a different role, such as a process Facilitator or Coach. Experts can often build confidence quickly when they are able to demonstrate their skills and can relate those skills to the client’s needs.
It is sometimes hard for Experts to build trust. Your client may believe you can do the work, but may be wary of your impressive credentials or background and may hold back information – particularly if they believe that you will be critical of them or embarrass them along the way. If you believe you are being hired to be the Expert or that is your preferred style of working, be sure and check that this is your client’s expectation – they they have truly identified the right problem. Also, test boundaries often. It is easy for Experts to either overstep their boundaries – often because they can so much more based upon their experience or to fail to meet their client’s expectations because they are too narrowly focused on only their area of expertise. If you think this is the case, reach out to your network and see if you have colleagues who can help to assess the situation and look for areas to be addressed that are outside of your area of expertise, but that will hinder progress if not mitigated.
Most projects need to have someone with facilitation skills involved in the process. Facilitators are vital to ensuring long-term adoption and succession of ideas and improvements. Someone with a preference for using a Facilitation style of advising will look for opportunities to design processes that encourage participation, communication and integration. These are generally people who are comfortable at the front of the room, leading a discussion, capturing salient information and nudging the group toward effective problem solving and implementation.
Facilitators can sometimes get caught in a trap of focusing too much on the process, sharing of models, ideas, concepts and getting input from all parties and lose sight of the need for progress, accountability and results. Clients can become frustrated with Facilitators when the process takes too long, they don’t understand the design and intended outcomes or the Facilitator is so attached to his or her process that the loss of motivation, participation and engagement goes unnoticed. If you are a natural facilitator and you enjoy orchestrating processes, be attentive to the level of engagement and commitment you are witnessing. Be sure to check with your client that this is what he/she expected. Also, make sure that the process hasn’t become all about you – as the engaging, charming person at the front of the room and, rather, is about the business, client or problem at hand.
This last category is often the most confusing and many advisors will balk at the idea that they are using their practice as ‘friend-building’. However, many advisors will find themselves in a situation where you become one of the only, and sometimes THE only confident of the client. It is not unusual for clients to become so trusting and reliant on the advisor that they will share information and experiences that are not known to anyone else. In many cases, this can be both an honor and a big advantage to being able to understand some of the deep-seated drivers for behavior that often elude other professionals. Advisors who tend to use this style of engagement are often seen as warm, kind, compassionate, trust-worthy and loyal. These types of client/advisor relationships often lead to very long engagements and may well evolve into a true friendship.
This is also an area where the most amount of caution is needed. As the author of this article and one for whom this style is a strong personal preference, I can speak from experience when I say that it can be both rewarding and treacherous. It is vitally important to be clear about boundaries if this is a style that you prefer. Be specific that you are not a therapist or counselor. Remind your client about confidentiality and be open about your role, your own expectations and the level of involvement with which you are comfortable. It is important to be transparent and honest and remind the client that you are representing the best interest of the business, even though you care deeply about their personal experience. It is inevitable that you will meet people in this line of work with whom you feel a strong connection and deep commitment. To ensure that the relationship stays healthy, take the time to really define it and keep the lines of communication open. It is through mixed expectations that this type of advising relationship can go awry.