Periodically I’m asked, “How do I become a trusted advisor? I want to be more than just a project manager.”
It’s easy to rattle off that trusted advisors provide advice, listen, ask questions, partner with their customers, solve problems, and explain their value, but I always take a deep pause before I continue. A key trait for any trusted advisor is to be perceived as a leader and expert in their field. This means that a project manager who wants to become known as a trusted advisor needs to not only be knowledgeable and an expert in project management, but they also need to lead and educate others.
This article discusses what a trusted advisor is and provides suggestions to assist you with becoming such a leader. (If you read Build Your Own Learning Culture, consider adding these suggestions to your learning plan.)
What is a trusted advisor? How about a thought leader?
There are many definitions and variations, but a trusted advisor is a person who is not only informed about their field, but is also the go-to person because of their knowledge and expertise. They are thought of as a solution provider. They have credibility and trust with their audience, as well as inspire and educate others.
Trusted advisors can eventually become thought leaders. A thought leader is a trusted advisor, but a trusted advisor is not always a thought leader. Thought leaders push the boundaries in their field of expertise with innovative ideas—and turn those ideas into reality. Thought leaders look to the future, questioning “What if...?” They never remain still, always ensuring their ideas spread. Not only do they educate others, they influence the way world operations (think Steve Jobs).
Not an overnight event
Becoming a trusted advisor does not happen overnight. It takes time, patience and perseverance—particularly if you are starting at square one. But you need to start somewhere, so where do you start?
- Define your passion and focus. The project manager I noted in the first sentence told me his passion and focus was project management. He was upset when I said that his description was not refined enough. I recommended honing in on a specific niche within the project management field. Are you the go-to person for agile software development? Establishing project management offices? Building buildings?
- Refine your passion and focus by talking with others. Have a conversation with stakeholders who know and have worked with you. Ask not only for guidance as to how to become the go-to person, but ask the stakeholders to define your expertise. Explain your ideas. Discuss your opinions and points of view. You might be surprised by your stakeholders’ comments.
- Start building your credibility and reputation by putting yourself out in front. Expand your impact and connect with other leaders. Help “followers” learn and develop. Become not only an advocate, but “the advocate” for your focus area.
Becoming an advocate
You might already be an advocate with intellectual property and you don’t know it. Do you teach, write or speak? If so, you have already started down the path of becoming a trusted advisor, and all you need to do is expand what you are doing.
Below are five simple and easy ideas to help you move from being a project manager to becoming recognized as a trusted advisor:
- Educate: There might be possibilities within your organization to educate others in your field of expertise. Ask if you could hold brown bag lunches or mentor a colleague. Talk to HR and see if you can educate others within the organization on project management. Better yet, is there a local college or university that could use your help (and help does not necessarily mean in the classroom)? It could be with an entrepreneur organization or an internship program.
- Blogs: There are several project management-related blogs. Consider being a guest blogger or, better yet, become a regular blogger. If you work for a consulting organization and your company has a blog, ask if you can post to the site. It will elevate you to a position of expertise and help your firm by highlighting your consulting expertise.
- Write: Short articles with tips are great for sharing your ideas. Push the boundaries as you write and provide original or innovative ideas. You might even want to consider writing a short eBook about your focus area and sell it on Amazon. Consider providing it as a download on your LinkedIn profile and to members of your local PMI Chapter.
- Speak: Look for opportunities to speak on your topic. Give interviews. Speak at a PMI conference, for your local chapter or an industry-specific event. Getting in front of peers, people of authority or customers adds to your credibility and builds your reputation as an expert in the field. If you have your own consulting practice, it’s a great way to market your business and expertise. You can even host your own event (maybe a meet up).
- Podcasts: Creating a podcast with useful tidbits and advice is another effect way to increase your outreach and highlight your expertise and authority. They are simple to create, and short. Each podcast can focus on one specific problem or a better approach to a current daily task. Post the podcast on YouTube and see how many hits you get.
These five ideas are only food for thought. I am sure you can think of additional approaches to become an advocate for your project management focus.
As the saying goes, “All other things being equal, people buy from (or work with) people they know, like and trust.” A trusted advisor is just that person—the person people know, like and trust, the one people go to for problem solving and advice.
The challenge is that becoming recognized as a trusted advisor does not occur overnight. It takes time, but it is doable with a little effort and planning. To become a trusted advisor, start by asking yourself if you are known as the go-to person and then determine your focus. Next, decide what techniques work for you—educating, writing blogs, writing, speaking, creating podcasts or something else. Include the techniques in your learning plan. Regardless of what you do, the techniques are eligible for PDUs—an underlying bonus. Finally, execute your plan.
Good luck with whatever you decide is the right approach for you…and enjoy yourself as you do it.
Stevbros delivers project management training worldwide, our courses have proven their worldwide acceptance and reputation by being the choice of project management professionals in 168 countries.