The role of strategic advisors

Have you ever thought about the role strategic advisors such as accountants, lawyers, risk managers, auditors, HR managers, IT managers and many other back of house advisors play in the success of organisations? I mean really thought about it? You probably have.

If you are a strategic leader receiving the advice you have probably thought about the need for key expertise and advice that you can rely on. Key elements required to develop trust in the relationship.

If you are a strategic advisor you have probably thought about ensuring your expertise is up to date, that your advice is sound, if not sage-like, and that you deliver it as clearly as possible so it is understood and acted on. You would have been seeking to develop trust also.

A major problem that is encountered is that strategic advisors are tasked with much more than providing this advice and these other tasks can interfere with the relationship and the level of trust. Finance need to put into place financial controls for example, usually along with a bunch of other administrative controls such as for travel and procurement. HR and IT do the same, as does legal and as do risk and compliance people while auditors are often seen as good cop and bad cop all in one. These controls create friction between the support departments and management. This leads to complaints and/or excuses being wielded at the strategic leaders.

The challenge of course is striking a balance. No one likes a back office Nazi. However, how many of the advisors in your organisation that provide you advice, or that work for you, gets the balance right? How many are cutting through with their advice and being invited to provide more?

If the answer is not nearly enough then you need to work with them to improve their ability to both design and build appropriate policy and systems while building trust through providing valuable advice. After all, for even an average piece of business advice given in 15 minutes, it has taken 8 hours of someone’s or a team’s time to prepare it. Whether giving or receiving you want those 15 minutes to be valuable.

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Bryan Whitefield works with strategic leaders across all sectors to help organisations harness uncertainty – uncertainty is the strategic leader’s best friend. He is the author of DECIDE: How to Manage the Risk in Your Decision Making and Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon. He is the designer of the Risk Culture: Build Your Tribe of Advocates Program for support functions and the Persuasive Adviser Program for internal advisers. Both can be booked individually or in-house.

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