Are You Strategic Enough To Leverage An Executive Advisor?

First appeared as a Forbes Coaches Council article on February 7, 2018.

At a recent conference, I was honored to have people in the audience tell me that I was “disrupting” the consulting

 industry. Disrupt used to be a bad word that made it sound like things were unstable, but in today’s society, we try to disrupt the norms to be more innovative and make things more efficient.

Traditional Management Consulting: Do You Need Something More?

As a 20-year veteran of management consulting companies, I’ve seen the way 35-plus companies work with consultants. Some hire big firms with consultants at a variety of levels of experience, from fresh-out-of-school beginners to seasoned veterans as staff augmentation to experts for specific projects.

I observed a dangerous cycle that I am proud to disrupt: Have you ever hired management consultants to be on-site 40-60 hours a week, build relationships within your organization, do the work for you and watch them get all the credit? Worse, when they leave, your team still doesn’t know how to utilize their strategy to optimize growth or duplicate it with future initiatives. If you want to replicate what they did on another initiative, you then have to rehire more consultants.

While there are times when you need a big firm to push through a large initiative, there are also times when taking the reins yourself, especially at the executive level, and hiring a part-time executive advisor as a thought partner will get you better results. You know your team best and you should be the face of driving strategy and growth.

Traditional Executive Coaching: Are You Getting What You Expect?

On the flip side, I’ve seen some of the best leaders realize that an executive coach can serve as a great sounding board to think through custom solutions for growing your own leadership skills, as well as manage your team through times of uncertainty, growth or change.

But much to my dismay, there are a lot of individuals who seem to consider a week of training enough background and expertise to call themselves executive coaches. These individuals try to stand head-and-shoulders with seasoned executive coaches but lack the real-world business experience needed to be truly effective. They may be great listeners, cheerleaders or life coaches, but lack the experience to be the thought partners that you need to truly grow your organization.

Executive Advisory: How Can You Get The Best Of Both Worlds?

The optimum solution for most business leaders is what I call an executive advisor, which is a certified, executive coach who also has extensive experience leading business. Such a professional can support you as a sounding board, thought partner and solution-creator.

There is a place for management consulting and life coaches, all of whom I respect immensely, but those are different services. If you want someone on the ground 50 hours a week doing the job for you, go to a management consulting firm. If you need to work through emotional issues or analyze your next move regarding physical fitness, hire a psychologist or life coach.

But if you want what most people assume is an executive coach, use the term executive advisor to make sure you are getting someone who not only knows how to be a thought partner to a C-suite executive but also has real-world leadership experience.

The Benefits Of Executive Advisory

In terms of management consulting, people typically know that the consultant is there on site doing all the work for you, and most of the time, they also hold the project leadership position, demonstrating you don’t know how to lead the work. They are also building a relationship with other departments and are seen as the thought leader.

With executive advisory, you get to leverage this thought partner anywhere from one to eight hours a week and remain the face of the initiative. Youcreate the relationships, you lead change, and you are seen as the expert going forward, which all improves your brand as an executive.

You will also teach your team to fish, save money and have greater in-house capability for future initiatives.

Who Should Work With An Executive Advisor

As an executive advisor, I look for clients who are already successful but want to take things to the next level. I have limited patience for those who aren’t ready and willing to work. You must be ready to exponentially advance your business and seek out a solution-oriented thought partnership. Executive advisors, unlike most management firms and executive coaches, prefer to take only the most successful and strategic people as clients.

For massive initiatives such as an acquisition, global expansion or IT system implementation, which require staff augmentation or technical expertise, you might need a management consulting firm that can put a lot of boots on the ground. But if you’re looking to increase your skills and enhance your personal brand, you want an executive advisor to be your partner in that process. The advisor can help you ensure you shine as an executive leader who leads change greatly, manages the consulting firm in a way that also creates lasting capability within your organization and exceeds expected results of the initiative.

Together, you could enable yourself, your initiative and your company to be more successful than you thought possible.

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