The “Trusted Advisor” and the “Trusted Relationship”

So this rant was conceived one night while laying in bed and thinking about the term “Trusted Advisor” I am not sure why but I keep getting a vision of a guy trying to sell me a whole life policy – maybe this is because this term  is so heavily associated with the insurance and certified financial planning industry – maybe this is why the term “Trusted Advisor” makes me feel like I need to take a shower.  2007 marks my 12th year working in the storage industry in a customer facing role, over the twelve years I have meet with thousands of customer and I can honestly say never once have I billed myself as a “Trusted Advisor” but I have built hundreds of “Trusted Relationships”, I asked myself why the two terms are different to me and the following is what came to mind.  Technology is a moving target and as advisors we draw upon market data, practical experience and technical acumen but there are no true guarantees.  Is trust and can trust be the product of advice?  In my humble opinion trust is built on relationship and a relationship is built on something far less tangible than advice.

I gave this analogy to my wife last night.  I have a financial advisor who has delivered me good financial returns over the past 10 years, he considers himself “Trusted Advisor” – I consider him a financial advisor who makes me money because it makes him money.  This is not a negative statement but rather reality as he is running a business not a philanthropy.  BTW – I don’t “Trust” him, he does a good job and his competence and diligent nature is what keeps him around, he works hard and invests his personal time in me which I value.  On the other hand my brother is the worse financial mind possibly in the history of homo sapiens, but we have a trusted relationship, I trust him because of our relationship and the assurances that relationship provides, the fact that I just know he would never intentionally or knowing screw me is what I call “Trust”.

As technologists or financial advisors should we be or is it even possible to gain trust trough advice, in situations where hundreds, maybe even thousands of variables can affect the effectiveness of our advice?

I don’t have the answer, what I do know is that in my experience personal relationships are not replaceable and are not earned through solicited or unsolicited advice.  People trust people, not advice or technologies. 

Finally I have given advice on solutions over the past 12 years on solutions that made people heroes and I have provided advice that absolutely sucked, sometimes due to my own doing and sometimes due to variables outside my control.  The thing that I am most proud of is never abandoned anyone and I have never burnt a relationship – I have always worked hardest to make sure the perception was one of success – ultimately this is the only thing that matters.  In my opinion the strong personal bond that is a relationship can not be formed between a corporation and an individual, this will always be the job of individuals and the value of “Trusted Relationship” lies in the hands of the individual.  Corporations can only hope to be lucky enough to cash in on the dividends of the “Trusted Relationship”.

So what do this all really mean, well to me advice and trust have nothing to do with each and it should stay that way.  On the other hand trust and relationship go hand-and-hand, good advice or bad advice may very well effect these but neither trust nor relationship should be predicated on advice.

Not sure if anyone watches “The Colbert Report” but Steven Colbert uses the word “truthiness” in the political context.  Today every “Trusted Advisor” has their own sense of “truthiness”.  Betting my relationships or trust on truthiness just does not seem like a good idea 🙂

Well this is definitely a rant.  Oh and there is plenty of “truthiness” to go around as well 🙂

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