This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

The word QUIZ surrounded by arrows pointing right

I work with a lot of really smart clients who aren’t arrogant at all, they just come across that way. Sometimes their clients let them know it’s a problem; other times instead of feedback they get tuned out.

You might resemble that remark. Or you might not think you have an arrogant bone in your body. Either way, humor me and try this little “Cosmo quiz”—so named because it’s a quick-and-dirty survey, not because it’s about dating and romance. You might be surprised at what you see.

Use the scale below to give yourself (or your team or your organization) points for each question below. Be brutally honest:

1 – Never
2 – Rarely
3 – Occasionally/Sometimes
4 – Often
5 – Always
  • I/we use a slide deck that’s more than 30 pages long to guide our exploratory client conversations.
  • I/we offer solutions as quickly as possible in a first meeting on an issue the other has been grappling with for months or even years.
  • When planning for a meeting or conversation, I/we focus mostly on delivering the right message, not necessarily the right timing for the message.
  • When planning for a meeting or conversation, I/we focus mostly on delivering the right message, not necessarily how to deliver it in a way that the receiver(s) can best hear it.
  • I/we really like to be right (it’s what I’m/we’re paid for, after all) and will work to prove or even argue a point as a result.

(If you’re about to tune out because this is a silly little survey that’s poorly worded and neither reliable nor valid … pause before you click elsewhere to look at the big picture, because that’s what this is really all about.)

Add your total points and see how you made out. Think golf not bowling: you want the lowest score possible. If you got a lot of 1’s and 2’s, congratulations; you’re probably in pretty good shape. If you scored 3 or higher on any question, well, that might be a good reason to pause and revisit your approach—at least in some cases. (Full disclosure: I got at least one 3.)

For sure there are some key words in the statements, like “exploratory client conversations” and “as quickly as possible” in “a first meeting.” Some of the behaviors listed might be totally appropriate, depending on timing, and on the nature and purpose of an interaction.

Here’s the overall message: if you’re paid to be smart for a living, just beware how smart you’re being and when.

Make It Real

This week, be vigilant about how smart you’re being and when. Pay attention to messaging and timing, in particular. What do you learn about yourself?

Learn More

Read an interesting point of view on how not having a point of view is arrogant, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or brush up on ways to start a project off right in Chapter 20 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).