During the days of the Roman Empire, a victorious general was often granted a Triumph where he would enter Rome with his legions of soldiers and the bounty and prisoners from his battles. The general’s face would be painted red to make him appear as Mars, the Roman god of war, and he would ride in a resplendent chariot pulled by beautiful horses. As he paraded through Rome and the crowds cheered him, a man stood behind him on the chariot and whispered in his ear, “Remember, you are not a god, you are only a man.”
While few executives get cheered at a Triumph, many are surrounded, whether purposely or not, by their own well-meaning, cheering crowds. Chances are, few have someone whispering in their ear the things that they don’t want to hear. Far too many executives have created an organizational environment where a lack of enthusiastic support for the direction laid out by the boss is viewed negatively. Yet, to be truly successful, executives need someone who challenges the current thinking.
The best executives in every field have at least one person they can count on to provide the whisper or, when necessary, the shout in their ear. Sometimes it’s a trusted colleague or an old friend. More often, it’s an outside advisor who knows how to provide honest, credible counsel in a way that will be heard. The biggest mistake that most executives make is that they don't have someone they trust whispering in their ear. As a result, they work in an echo chamber where their ideas are never challenged – even when they’re wrong. This can lead to missed opportunities, products being brought to market before they’re ready, financial assumptions that are incorrect or unreported quality and compliance issues. Even worse, in an environment where employees realize that problems exist but can’t be brought to management, morale suffers and the best employees often leave.
If you do not have a trusted advisor/whisperer but would like to find one, what characteristics should you look for?
They should know you and your company; how you think, reach decisions, deal with obstacles, manage staff; and, what you want to accomplish.
They shouldn’t hold back punches and should be able to provide advice as candidly as possibly and back up arguments with relevant information.
They should be discrete. Whether or not you follow their advice, no one but you should know what is was.
They should be knowledgeable about your business and have a deep understanding of the market, competitors, regulatory environment and critical issues the industry faces.
Most importantly, they should not back down when they believe you are about to make a serious mistake.
If you are looking for someone who can whisper in your ear, DeltaSigma is ready and able provide you with the best possible counsel as you lead your organization to success.