22 minutes | Oct 15th 2019

48. How to Become a Trusted Advisor, with Special Guest Andrew Sykes

Today’s show is about How to Become a Trusted Advisor with Special Guest, Andrew Sykes, CEO & Founder of Habits at Work. Listen to the show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Andrew [00:00:01] Trust is not only given but something that can be built and reinforced through all deliberate actions over time. Becoming a trusted advisor is a habit, not an accident. Being a trusted advisor is the license we need to help employees and customers solve their problems with our input. It’s the price you pay to be at the table and in the conversation. Don [00:00:28] My name is Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions, and author of the book “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.” I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement, and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized, and validated. Employees who feel safe, are happier, healthier, and more productive. Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers, and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges. And you’re listening to Thrive By Design, a podcast created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs, and leaders tips, strategies, and tools needed to create an engaged culture. Don [00:01:19] Welcome. I’m your host Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions. We are thrilled to welcome back Andrew Sykes, an expert on leadership, organizational performance, and business development, to help us finish off his four-part series on high-performing habits at work. For listeners that missed those episodes, be sure to go back and tune into episodes 39 and 40. Andrew is the CEO of Habits at Work, a Chicago-based firm that helps people create and master high-impact work habits and has spent years researching workplace habits that make business performances thrive. Today and next week Andrew will conclude his Habits at Work series and speak about not only how to become a trusted advisor but how to solve problems and negotiate, so that you can get what you want while customers get what they need. Welcome, Andrew, and it’s great to have you back on the show. Andrew [00:02:14] Don, it’s my pleasure. I always love our conversations. Thank you for having me. Don [00:02:18] Oh, it’s fun too. And this notion of creating better habits is probably essential at what we’re doing at E3 Solutions as well because we’re essentially asking managers not to do it the way you used to do it, but to create these new habits, so that you become more predictable and consistent in applying new skills. So, this series is particularly interesting to me, too. Andrew, in the last two episodes, you spoke to our listeners about the three habits around how to become a magnetic leader and also how to help leaders and managers really prepare to perform at their highest levels in the workplace. Both of those topics that help improve employee engagement significantly. Now today, we’re going to focus on how to become a trusted advisor. After this episode, our listeners will learn three habits to embrace to become a trusted advisor and why these habits are critical for leaders and managers in driving employee engagement. So, let’s get started. Andrew, define what a trusted advisor really is, and what it means, and how it impacts workplace engagement. Andrew [00:03:23] Don, in short, a trusted advisor is someone who willingly and actually is consulted before you take action or decide on what action you will take. And if you are in that position of being a trusted advisor, either for a customer or for your employee, or as a salesperson and a leader, it’s really a high honor and takes a lot to achieve that. And what you can expect as a result is to have a seat at the table, so you’re included in conversations right from the beginning of the process. Don [00:03:54] Yeah. And we think of these collaborative leaders as just being much more effective because then the things that they decide, the decisions they make don’t feel like they’re out of the blue, or they don’t blindside people. But, tell me how and why is it particularly important as a leader and a manager to work toward establishing themselves as a trusted advisor. How does this help the company or the organization? Andrew [00:04:19] Well, Don, we know that one of the strong things that motivates employees is their perceived autonomy, and they don’t like being micromanaged, and because micromanaging people is demotivating for them. What you’d rather have as a leader is a situation where people come to you if and only if they need your input on something that’s both efficient for you and for your time, and it leaves them with a feeling that they’re trusted and they have the autonomy to act on their own. So, by preserving their autonomy – a key motivation driver – while ensuring your expertise and leadership is called on when needed, that trusted advisor status allows the business to progress with speed and efficiency. Don [00:05:06] And we see this as well when we go into organizations, Andrew. When we use our 28-question online survey on engagement, sometimes the first thing we see: Is this a manager who does things with employees or to employees? And the manager that does things to employees – top down, hierarchical, rarely consultative – those work groups are rarely as engaged as those with a manager who does things with employees. And I think you’ve captured it here too – that manager that can do it with employees does become more trusted and their direct reports are more likely to go to them to both provide input and to seek input. Andrew [00:05:44] Yeah. I love that distinction between doing it with or doing it to. And you know, as a leader, or in my case, as a leader who is also a salesperson, I know I’ve reached this point of being a trusted advisor. When I get a particular type of call like I did last month from a customer, they call to say, “Andrew we’re thinking about developing a new leadership development program, and I’d like to get your input before we decide if and how we should do this.” And that kind of call for me is a real privilege to receive and a strong signal that over time we’ve provided enough trustable advice that this customer thought to call us first before they made any decisions, in fact, while they were just thinking about possibly doing or creating a program. Don [00:06:35] Yeah. What their call is they’re hoping to not just to be sold to, but they want you to help guide them. And it may be that what you guide them toward or what they decide to do is to use your services. But first and foremost, they want to run some ideas past you because they see you as an expert and one who they can trust and rely on. That is an honor. Yeah. Let’s dive in. How does one become a trusted advisor? Andrew [00:06:58] Well, Don, in previous episodes, we’ve talked about the importance of some habits like asking questions, listening empathically, and asking for feedback to create you as a magnetic leader or salesperson or manager. And that’s a great place to start, but once you have people drawn to you, who want to be in your presence, the question is: What do you do with that attention? And that’s where the habits of being a trusted advisor come in. Trusted advisors excel in three more habits: the habit of telling stories, of presenting ideas, and of building trust. Don [00:07:36] So, can we break each one of these down for our listeners and just take a little bit of a deeper dive in each one. Andrew [00:07:42] Sure. And telling stories is the safest way to share facts and figures and advice and direction without feeling threatening or argumentative to the person to whom you’re speaking. Facts and figures on their own often only harden people’s pre-existing opinions because they often see them as threats to what they already believe. But stories change minds. And if you’re familiar with that old Trojan Horse legend, I like to think of stories as if they are a Trojan horse that carry new ideas from one brain to another. More importantly, stories carry emotion, and human beings, we know, make all decisions emotionally. Despite the fact that, when we look back on a decision we’ve made, we tell ourselves we made it rationally by looking at pros and cons in retrospect in the moment, it’s our emotions that drive decisions. So, stories are like feedback a gift to other people, providing them with the emotion they need to make the right decision. The clarity and the context that’s provided by the story, so that they can make the right decision and have the motivation to act on those decisions now. In a sense, it is the guiding pathway for action, where facts and figures seldom get that job done. Don [00:09:06] Yeah. I’m so glad to hear you say that, and even some of the literature on difficult conversations – they all focus, it seems that they start with the facts. But, that’s just not my experience and that’s not what the science says where people make decisions either. And one other thing, Andrew, I think you’ll find interesting in some of the really fascinating brain mapping work that’s going on. There is apparently a group a pocket of neurons that only seem to activate, and they light up like a Christmas tree, but only in one instance – when they’re hearing stories. So, there’s even a part of the brain that has a unique attribute to dive in when that happens. I just I couldn’t agree with you more about the power of stories. Andrew [00:09:45] It reminds me, you know, from when we are three years old until we’re 103. All we ever want to do is listen to stories. So, whether
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