Most people in business want to achieve success. But let's face it. It's not easy, and though many business people have intelligence and talent, few have all the knowledge and understanding to make the right decisions without outside guidance and advice.

As a consultant and mentor to many, I have learned that many people choose advisers on the basis of style over substance. They focus on personality fit or whether they are friendly. Not all great advisers are warm and fuzzy. Though these factors may make it easier for you to be open to someone's guidance, they are less important than the actual value the adviser can bring to your journey. There is no need to subject yourself to unnecessary abuse, but often the truth hurts and the best guidance can seem harsh even when delivered in a constructive manner.

Ultimately, the value of guidance you receive is your responsibility, and you will only get the adviser you truly want and deserve. It helps to know, however, the options. Below are three key types of guidance and some questions you can ask yourself to gauge if an adviser you are considering is worthy of continued engagement. The best advisers, of course, provide all three.

1. Supportive Guidance

This is the most common form of guidance. Supportive advisers are much-needed cheerleaders. They are encouraging and help give you the strength to move forward and take action. They make you feel better when times are tough and help with morale. This guidance is necessary in the early stages of the journey and establishes a foundation of security and self-confidence.

Eventually, however, at high levels of accomplishment, this guidance becomes less valuable. At a certain point, you become your own best cheerleader and have a strong sense of self-worth that drives you forward. Additionally, advisers at this level do not need to be highly invested in your success, so the value is limited in scope. You'll be craving something more practical than Atta girl! or Atta boy! Here are important questions to evaluate the supportive adviser.

  • Is the adviser truly familiar with you and your needs?
  • Does the adviser listen actively and show understanding of the objectives?
  • Is the adviser authentic and specific in communicating encouragement?

2. Corrective Guidance

This guidance is commonly labeled as criticism, constructive or otherwise. Advisers give you specific corrective action to fix a problem or get you back on path. They will point out mistakes, give you tips and tricks, and share tidbits from their experience and observations that will help you move forward. Depending upon the thickness of your skin and their bedside manner, style can play a big part in your receptivity of their critical nitpicking and constant adjustment. This guidance can solve up to medium problems but can often conflict with them and needs to be weighed in light of all the other observations and advice provided. Corrective advisers are great for when you have a verified plan in place and simply need to adjust for performance.

Challenges occur when problems are systemic and require a greater level of analysis and adjustment. Advisers must be vested enough in your success that they take the time to listen to your specific need, or their advice will have little merit. These advisers are usually only vested to the point at which their top-of-mind knowledge and guidance will solve an immediate problem and you are open to their solution. They are not generally interested or capable in constructive conflict or deep problem solving required for top-level achievement. Here are important questions to evaluate the corrective adviser.

  • Does the adviser have relevant expertise?
  • Does the adviser provide feedback with relevant and specific details?
  • Does the adviser give practical steps that can be implemented quickly?

3. Insightful Guidance

This is the most valuable and yet most difficult guidance to obtain. Advisers can only provide deep insights into your journey if they are fully vested in your vision and success. They need a comprehensive understanding of who you are and where you want to go. They can see the path before events occur and have a wealth of knowledge about how to master the journey.

The biggest challenge to benefitting from this guidance is you. You must be worthy and open of learning from this master. Most likely this adviser will show you, albeit painfully, the systemic flaws in your plan or character. Hence the reason this person must be fully vested. Most likely you will resist the massive change and work it will take to perform at the top level. It's only when you prove you are worthy that this adviser will invest in your success. You'll know you are ready when the adviser donates his or her most valuable commodity, time.

  • Does the adviser show experiential wisdom in addition to knowledge?
  • Does the adviser tailor the commentary to your particular listening style?
  • Does the adviser create a genuine paradigm shift or perspective change?
  • Does the adviser make your objectives a priority over your relationship or compensation?

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