Can You Trust Your Trusted Advisors?

Viewed in Spencer Stuart.

Organizational leadership can be a very lonely undertaking, but that can be overcome at least partly with competent and trusted advisors.

Yet, trust is hard to come by in an advisor.

Stephen G. Patscot, who heads Spencer Stuart’s human resources practice, writes that one his colleagues “recently quoted a statistic that, on average, “a CEO may receive something like six percent of the actual truth of what is going on in his or her organization.”

That’s an immensely troubling statistic for the CEO who relies on advisors for input and counsel. But why is truth so hard to come by in advisor? Answer: “Most information coming to the top is filtered, sometimes with good intentions, sometimes not.”

Patscot says his experience in advising CEOs has taught him that three questions can help a CEO determine if they are receiving the full truth from their advisors:

First, is the advisor delivering the whole truth, including “tough, unpleasant or otherwise incongruent feedback that you might want or expect to hear”? Second, what is the advisor’s agenda?

It’s rare to find advisors with no agenda, but that agenda should be both transparent and secondary to the offering of objective counsel.

Third and finally, is the advisor okay with disagreement? “In my experience, trusted advisors always have thick skin.

They also know when to back off and try again later,” Patscot writes.

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