This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
A competency model won’t answer the mail when it comes to building trustworthiness—in fact, there’s risk in attempting to reduce trust to a series of behavioral definitions. At the same time, there is value in culling down the essential skills of a trusted advisor to a practical number. Charlie Green and I specifically identified five in The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. Heads up: each skill is at risk of being easily dismissed as too basic to merit your attention. Don’t be fooled.
The kind of listening that’s typically taught and practiced in the business world is listening with a purpose, and usually that purpose is self-oriented: to sell, to convince, to get smarter, to buy time. By contrast, the kind of listening that engenders deep trust focuses on the act of listening itself.
Be honest—do you regularly listen without an agenda? Do you pass the empathy mastery test?
Prepare well, for sure. Then realize that your true character gets revealed when you have to be fully present in the face of the unforeseen. And yes, it is possible to practice being good at improvising.
How much risk are you willing to regularly take … for real?
How strong a partner are you, really? Do you focus on making others look good, even if it means they look better than you? Are you equally adept at leading as well as following?
Have you truly done your homework in this regard? Do you keep doing it, as you keep evolving?
The five essential skills are to a trusted advisor what scales are to a maestro. They’re capabilities you can and should practice, over and over again.
They’re also inextricably linked. Improvisation requires risk, partnering requires listening, and all of them require knowing yourself well to be effective. So, unfortunately you can’t just master two or three; you’ve got to nail them all.
This week, pick one skill a day to attend to. Ask your colleagues or clients for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. What do you learn about yourself?
Read more about the downsides of competency models when it comes to trust building, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or dig deeper into the five trust skills in Chapter 5 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.