CEOs and Executive Teams Trusted Advisors: Who Should I Surround Myself with as My “ Trusted Advisor” Partners to Help Me Succeed?

The notion that CEOs and Executives are the sole visionaries who can lead and drive a company to success with no outside help is long gone.  Those leaders who leverage outside help go farther, faster and research shows are significantly more successful in both the short and long term.  Whether you are a CEO, a C Suite Executive, or an Emerging and/or Aspiring leader – there are some core considerations each of us should take as we contemplate our best partner advisors to assist us and our organizations with achieving success.

Below are a set of common challenges that advisors often consult with CEOs and business executives about:

  • Strategy around what markets my company wants to be in, globalization, who will carry my brand
  • Differentiation and staying ahead of competition and/or market challenges like overcoming obsolescence
  • Effectively retaining and engaging employees and people who currently or in the future could work with my company
  • Alliances I form around my business or partners who will take my company’s solutions and services to market
  • Verticals / Clients / partners I sell to – leads, sales, customer loyalty
  • Product lines and offers, directions, services
  • Financial, tax, and operational challenges – managing finances tactically and strategically
  • Capital optimization – what’s needed for short and long term success
  • IP and legal challenges
  • Unique industry specific challenges
  • My personal growth as a leader
  • The Executive Brand I need to represent my business

Assembling a Team of Advisor Partners

Debbie Tyler, accomplished CEO, and Vistage Chair coaching business leaders, shared some of her perspective and guidelines for assembling a first class team of advisor partners.

Guideline #1:  SKILLS & EXPERIENCE – Ensure your team of advisors cover relevant and diverse skills and experience ranging from:  financial, technical, people, and operations, the business outlook, and a perspective and relationships with your customer and prospects.

Guideline #2:  TALENT – One of the top issues on the minds of executives today centers around our talent; how do you affordably find the right talent, hire the right employees, challenge them,  keep and protect them?  Having a set of advisors with experience in successful corporate culture, human capital, incentive approaches and employee engagement, could help you look at this subject from a number of viewpoints and gain valuable insights and most likely resulting in different solutions that could positively impact your situation.

Guideline #3:  MIX – Consider the mix of your advisors:  having expertise from diverse backgrounds, diverse age groups, and diverse types of experience is important as well.   Statistics today support this; in a recent blog (Link – www.theresacaragol.com/blog/), we uncovered that profitability, innovation, and diversity are directly correlated according to extensive global 2016 research.  Evaluate potential advisors outside of your network and not solely your most trusted relationships.   It’s potentially dangerous to select advisors solely based on proximity or comfort, especially relationships of folks who are vested in you.   Do your advisors balance out any weakness in your operation – as that could deliver biased feedback for an executive?  It’s important that this set of advisors is people who will give you unfiltered sometimes provocative, innovative or even controversial insights.  It’s often in this type of feedback that golden nuggets for success exist.

Guideline #3:  COMPENSATION – Consider the compensation you give your advisors.  Is it an informal mentor or sponsor relationship that has no compensation?  Is it a relationship that carries an equity or dividend stake in the business associated with company growth?  Is it a standard advisory board that has set stipend compensation?  Your approach is dependent upon the stage of the company, the purpose of the advisors, and the sophistication and experience of the executive seeking the advice among other factors.  Most importantly, take care to properly set up and formalize the relationship with the advisor; be clear with all advisors about expectations, time and resource commitments, compensation model, and the timeline of the advisory role.

Guideline #4: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE – Test your own emotional intelligence; ensure you have a high degree of self-actualization and are brave enough to receive the input, as well as see and work on your own blind spots.  Are you truly open to hearing and receiving feedback and taking action on it?  High performing executives can handle confrontation and challenges from those around them.   Debbie Tyler asserts the right group of advisor should challenge you via healthy debate; top executives are assertive and confident but comfortable and frequently energized when challenged by their advisors.  If you don’t receive questions you haven’t thought of already, you likely are missing out on opportunity – money, footprint, or some area for growth.

Last, Debbie Tyler offers another key tip for assembling your board.  Consider an empty room, think about where it is you need to take your organization for success; and then list out the types of skills, experience, personalities, and connections required at the table to help you scale your mountain.  Then and only then do you place a name; unless of course it’s a no brainer like a Warren Buffet type!

Other Considerations and Executive Coaches

How many advisors and what types of boards an individual should participate in is dependent upon the complexity of the role the person holds, the cross functional nature of what his/her mission is, and the degree of change required for the organization’s success.  In general, the numbers range from 5 – 8 individuals with different backgrounds who can offer strong consult and perspective.  Other ways to obtain advisory services that can be extremely effective include:  formal CEO and Executive peer leadership groups like Vistage that offer advisory, peer networking, coaching, and global network access all in one.  Another option is to hire an individual executive coach.  According to a recent Fast Company article, 60% of growth stage CEOs use executive coaches, and 32% of seed-stage CEOs use a coach.

There are numerous ways to get trusted and confidential perspective; to learn from other seasoned and fellow executives; and to continuously invigorate and challenge your thinking as an executive.   Be deliberate about the advisors, be dedicated to listening and gaining consult, and be diverse in the group you assemble; and this will be a key tenet of you and your organization’s success.