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A Relationship Story – The Truth and the Trusted Advisor

October 2006

…Consultants telling clients what they want to hear, or worse yet, just regurgitating the client’s own words and getting paid for it. Ever heard that one? Ugh.

A favorite saying of mine goes like this: “Buy it from someone you trust, even if you pay a little more, and you’re sure to have one less worry.” We all have enough worries already.

There’s a big difference between telling the truth with the intent to help versus just saying what will get you paid. It’s truthtelling that defines the real Trusted Advisor. Trust is just too broad and too easy to interpret; it can be far too transactional. Like a friend recently said, trust can be as simple as not counting the coins when you get change. However, Truth is an unquestionable concept, and there is no way to wiggle out of it. It’s either true or it’s not.

In “If Aristotle Ran General Motors”, Tom Morris describes this concept wonderfully, stating that “what you must do is always be true to your own deepest instincts about what the truth is and how it can best be used as the basis for your actions.” Now I’m not suggesting this means you have to be stupid and get yourself beaten up by not recognizing that things sometimes are better left unsaid. However, it reminds us that when we say it, it needs to meet the “looking-in-the-mirror” test.

So let me ask you, in running your business, are you holding your trusted advisors accountable for the truth? Don’t your stakeholders deserve it? And what about those of us who are delivering services and hoping to deserve the trust of clients and partners? Are we meeting the “looking in the mirror test?” After all, beyond the fact that truthtelling is the right thing to do, it’s really just good business. The fact that some people believe otherwise – that truth is just another business “variable” – makes the truth the most compelling of all business discriminators. Make sure it’s yours.

Thanks for sharing your time. I welcome your thoughts and comments. Also, this could be a good centerpiece kind of ethics message that I might offer in a speaking or panel role to support your company or group. I’ve done some great speaking/panel events this year with diverse groups including UCI, Meggitt/Endevco (a client), the Vance Caesar Group, FEI, and OC/MBA, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss similar ideas you might have. Thanks again.

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