The role of the internal advisor has never been an easy one. Problems arise from the role being too loosely defined, having to play different roles or perform mundane operational tasks to gain traction with senior stakeholders or struggling with their credibility and dealing with office politics.
Put another way, as an internal advisor you aren’t in the ‘engine room’ but you are looking in and collaborating to advise and support key teams in the improvement and transformation of operations to align with company strategy. The expectations of you are broad and may not even be clearly defined.
They broadly fit into 3 categories: knowledge, delivery, and relationships.
You are expected to know more. Yes, you need to understand the business, its strategy, key challenges, and inner workings but you need to be able to see how things should or could be too. You need specific expertise and additional perspectives to bring to the conversation and processes. Independent thought and opinion are required – and the ability to articulate these diplomatically.
We call this having a Point of View.
A Point of View:
- Puts a stake in the ground and starts a conversation or a new line of thinking
- Reveals potential blind spots in the stakeholders’ thinking and exposes significant problems or opportunities
- It is NOT an attempt to sell a specific product or service
- Builds your credibility and ensures that you can position yourself as a business advisor, not only a technical expert
- It moves the stakeholder’s thinking forward to consider options for action
It is also essential to pose the right questions and to position these early in the process. Most internal advisors have ‘war stories’ to tell of being given a brief, spending many hours labouring on an assignment, and then finding that the real problem or ‘pain point’ was missed.
Delivering on time, to a high standard and within budget are essentials. What might be missed is that frequent communication and timely flagging of problems and obstacles is needed too.
A constructive working relationship with a stakeholder is needed to adopt the role of a trusted advisor. A baseline of respect and trust needs to be established – and it helps if you like each other. A complex mix of social and relationship skills, an ability to demonstrate credibility and the willingness to influence – and be influenced is needed.
Openside Group provides specific and tailored training for internal advisors in the areas of consulting skills, analytical problem solving techniques, leadership, storytelling and personal presence.