Choose and Use Your Advisors Wisely

Question Marks Indicates Frequently Asked Questions And AskingEvery leader surrounds themselves with advisors. We have all had mentors throughout our lives whose lessons have given us our ethics, values and acumen. Whether it be a parent, teacher, clergy or Dutch Uncle, our mentors have shaped our abilities to think, reason and solve.

If we are fortunate enough to have some of those early mentors still around, then they might be part of our current sphere of influence. Regardless, we all look to current advisors to shape our decision making today.  If we pick and use advisors wisely, they can provide unlimited knowledge and wisdom for the governance process. Most businesses have a core of trusted advisors; CPA, legal counsel, investment advisor, risk management consultant, benefits expert, etc. It would natural to use these folks for their field of expertise, but so often their professions overlap, making advice contradictory and difficult to assess. In many business settings this becomes even more exaggerated when there are multiple stakeholders with differing interests.

Surrounding yourself with professionals who understand the intersection of their field with others and can successfully collaborate with your team is a key indicator for success. I hate to mix politics with anything, but it is often said that good presidents have great cabinets. And so it should go for your business.

Like any good team, your advisory team will need a quarterback. Maybe that’s you, and maybe not. Your business quarterback needs a defined skill set: great communication skills, facilitation expertise, mediation talent, and foresightedness. They will need to “read the tea leaves” to put issues of future interest on the table for debate prior to those issues becoming IED’s.

There is also the issue of your participation in meetings. It is difficult to both facilitate and participate. If you can give up meeting control so that you can more fully participate, it is always a good choice. If there is a current member of your advisory team that fits the skill set of a good facilitator, then tap them for the job – if they are willing. If not, then you should go outside your current team and find someone who can both add to your lineup and play quarterback.

Your team needs to be willing to play together. Sometimes professionals are unwilling to step out of their comfort zones and engage in the collaborative process. Certainly egos can get in the way both with personalities and with some perceived hierarchy of professions. Your teammates need to understand the focus is what’s best for the business, its owners and other stakeholders.

If you have an existing core of advisors, float the idea of an annual review meeting centering on the Year End Financial Statements with an eye on the coming year’s goals. Address the idea individually with them and if you get any resistance then probably that professional won’t play in the sandbox well. You have to ask yourself “why” and respond accordingly. If their objections are reasonable and resolvable, then so be it. And if not, then maybe they no longer fit the mold you are trying to achieve for a teammate.

Replacing advisors can be difficult and challenging. First, identify any specific requirements. Next create a profile of the type of professional that would best fit your team. That profile should go well beyond the scope of the profession, it should include chemistry and the ability to collaborate with your team. Next circulate the profile to find eligible candidates. Narrow the candidates to the best three and check references. Then draft a list of questions. Assemble a small committee (3) to draft the questions and to conduct joint interviews using your list. Debate the selection with the committee after the interviews. Often a clear candidate emerges. Sometimes no one cuts the mustard and you may need to interview some of your other candidates until you find a match.

Don’t be afraid of thinking out of the box. HR professionals belong in the E suite – after all, what could be more critical than personnel? Be sure to put someone with those skills on your team…maybe an executive search professional. Many corporations use counselors, therapists, and psychologists on the team to offer insights to team building and corporate culture.

It’s wise on your part to pick professionals who have a proven track record of collaboration and to populate your team with folks who can see the big picture.

Corp! Magazine will be hosting Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots on June 23, 2016 at the VisTaTech Center in Livonia. (To register go to and hit the Events tab at the top.)   Part of the program will be a panel discussion and yours truly will be the moderator. Much of the discussion will focus on the topic of choosing advisors wisely.

For more information or event sponsorship details, please contact Sara Scheffer at [email protected] or (586) 393-8815, ext. 170.