February 3, 2020You Are The Table\* Lucky for you, the “table” everyone talks about getting to (and at which every top operating executive actually

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February 3, 2020

You Are The Table*

Lucky for you, the “table” everyone talks about getting to (and at which every top operating executive actually dreads being) is a myth. Yes, there are meetings, seminars, webinars, conferences, teleconferences, videoconferences, task forces, study groups, working groups, podcast briefings, executive teams, work teams, collaborative wiki websites, advisory committees, and boards – all populated by well-meaning, highly motivated, energetic individuals working to get things done. Although each of these groups can play a useful, often necessary role in the advancement of various organizational and business objectives, the meaningful breakthroughs are achieved through other means.

Significant progress and crystallization of leadership aspirations are usually the work of trusted individual advisors interacting with a leader or leadership group within an organization and having a constructive, measurable impact. This is because, if you are one of these trusted individuals, you are the table. You bring the table with you. When you are in the room, the table is full. When you study the significant decisions leaders make, when you study successful organizations and the actions of those who lead them, you find that these top individuals seek out those with special insight, those with special skills, and, individually rather than collectively, those who provide the crucial information increments these leaders need to make significant decisions and progress. Being a trusted strategic advisor is an individual achievement and responsibility. The truth is that senior executives directly and intentionally choose those whom they trust to advise them on the issues that matter. Senior managers look for expertise, insight, wisdom, loyalty, commitment, and specialized knowledge as preliminary credentials for the position of trusted advisor. If the only thing you have to offer is communications advice, HR advice, legal advice, security advice, marketing advice or financial advice, then, quite logically, you will be called in only to provide that kind of help. The questions asked of you will be limited to your specific area of expertise. Once you undertake to achieve the disciplines of the trusted strategic advisor you will experience significant individual rewards, such as greater access, influence, and impact.

What matters is the constructive connection between the leader and the advisor – the enhanced understanding and reliability that this relationship establishes, fosters, and nurtures. You are the table because no matter how many well-meaning individuals are jammed into a room, the likelihood of something productive occurring, from the boss’ perspective or as compared to your meeting with the boss alone, goes down dramatically with each additional voice present.

Most of my career has been spent working primarily in the fields of crisis communication management and response, leadership building, reputation recovery, and strategy. One of the most powerful early lessons I learned is that when big problems occur, the best strategy is not to call in an army of advisors to sit around and jibber-jabber, but rather to find one or two truly knowledgeable, experienced people who have been through a similar circumstance and can guide, coach or be truth revealers to the boss. Teams are or may be needed for many things – putting out fires, rebuilding relationships and facilities, reeducating and sometimes rehabilitating employee and community relationships – but as the number of people involved in trying to solve the crucial problems grows, so does the amount of time it takes to get things done. Sometimes situations never get resolved because management fails to bring in the intellect and focus of one or two knowledgeable, trusted strategic individuals. Another lesson is that when recovery missions get muddled, it is the boss who gets fired rather than the advisor or the staff people.

The most important step on the way to becoming a trusted strategic advisor is making your personal commitment to becoming one, then publicly and purposefully undertaking the steps and decisions to achieve your goal. Your manifesto, your publicly declared but personal list of daily obligations, is what will set you apart and ensure your success. Talk through these ideas with those you advise; they will be inspired when you do.

The trusted strategic advisor is committed to:

Understanding that leaders think and operate with a focus on solutions; understanding the pressures and obstacles leaders face, what matters from the leader’s perspective
Recognizing and anticipating what leaders expect
Studying leaders and leadership to understand their patterns of thinking, decision making, and action taking
Having a relationship with leaders built on trust and service
Practicing the disciplines of the trusted strategic advisor:

o Being trustworthy
o Becoming a verbal visionary
o Developing a management perspective
o Thinking strategically
o Being a window to tomorrow
o Advising constructively
o Showing the boss how to use your advice

You are on your own (YOYO). Be strategic. Be the table. Solution options are always your responsibility. Find the ingredients of successful strategy. Manage your own destiny by helping leaders achieve theirs.

You can do this. When you do, you will have an important, fulfilling, and happier professional career. See you at the top.

Please let me know what you learn along the way.

James E. Lukaszewski

*Excerpt from Why Should the Boss Listen to You: The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor, page 181-184, James E. Lukaszewski, Jossey Bass/Wiley Books © 2008


Lukaszewski and Two Others Honored with 2020 Lifetime Achievement Awards by Trust Across America – Trust Around the World™.

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2020 Top Thought Leaders in Trust Lifetime Achievement Award honorees include:

Jim Lukaszewski (The Lukaszewski Group): Chairman of The Lukaszewski Group, and America's Crisis Guru® Jim is an expert in managing and counteracting tough, touchy, ethically sensitive and contentious corporate communications issues.
Alain Bolea (Business Advisors Network): Alain Bolea is a management advisor who helps organizations integrate the necessity of "making money" and the desire to "do the right thing" in terms of sustainability and social responsibility.
Tom Patterson (Chief Trust Officer Unisys): Tom is one of the first and longest serving Chief Trust Officers. His work at Unisys focuses on engendering trust with a global network of critical infrastructure providers including governments and companies from energy, finance, health, transportation and more.

This year TAA-TAW is presenting its Lifetime Achievement Award to three professionals who have maintained Top Thought Leader status for five years, and their names are being permanently memorialized on our website. They are Alain Bolea, Jim Lukaszewski and Tom Patterson. We congratulate all of our honorees whose work is shining a spotlight on the importance of trust and providing a roadmap for others to follow. They inspire organizations to look more closely at their higher purpose…to create greater value for, and trust from all of their stakeholders, and understand trust is a “hard currency” with real returns.

The 2020 Lifetime Honorees can be accessed at this Link, while complete details including our methodology, judges, award winners, articles and additional trust resources can be found in the Winter 2020 issue of TRUST! Magazine, available at no cost by Registering Here.

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World™ is a program of Next Decade, Inc., an award-winning communications firm that has been unraveling and simplifying complex subjects for over 20 years. TAA-TAW helps organizations build trust through an abundance of resources and ever expanding tools. It also provides numerous time-tested and simple tools for organizations to improve trustworthy practices, and showcases individuals and organizations exhibiting high levels of trust and ethics.