This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
The true test of your ability to demonstrate the traits of a trusted advisor, IMHO, comes not when you’re flawlessly executing your well-rehearsed plan, but when you’re working off script. Like when a prospective client asks you point blank, “What experience do you have in XYZ industry?” more directly than you expected (and when the honest answer is “Not as much as you’d probably like”).
These “moments of truth” are uncomfortable, for sure. They’re also extremely important because they give you an opportunity to show who you are, not just what you know.
How skilled are you at improvising? How well do you deal with the unexpected? Can you recover in a non-defensive way when you feel put on the spot? If you’re overall answer is “so-so” or “I could always be better,” you’re not alone.
Fortunately, you can get better at improvising by practicing improvisation—being quick to respond, offering “yes, and” responses, and subordinating your ego in the interest of collaboration.
Make It Real
This week, get together with a colleague or two and brainstorm a list of things your clients might say that would naturally put you on the defensive. An example: “Why are you so much more expensive?” Write down your knee-jerk responses (“Because we’re worth it.”) Then re-write the script to be less defensive, more human (“Tough question. Sounds like there’s concern about our fees.”)
- Discover an improv-inspired leadership mantra for modern times (“I failed!”), or learn how to think out loud in Chapter 8 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust.
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