April 28, 2022 How to Develop the Mind of a Strategist, Part 4 Straight Talk || The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Manifesto This article is the last

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April 28, 2022

How to Develop the Mind of a Strategist, Part 4

Straight Talk || The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Manifesto


This article is the last in this series and reflects the area Mr. Lukaszewski is most known for—being an important management communications strategist.

Part 1, “Straight Talk: Demystifying Strategy” (5/23/21) discussed Jim’s philosophy and assumptions, the expectations of trusted advisors, the five intentions of the strategist mindset, and how to demystify strategy. Read Here: How to Develop the Mind of a Strategist, Part 1

Part 2, “Having Strategic Impact” (1/27/22) discussed why strategies fail, how to use management language, how to have strategic insight, and making recommendations in an operations context. Read Here: How to Develop the Mind of a Strategist, Part 2

Part 3, “Straight Talk: The Table is a MYTH!!!” points out that The Table is an age-old staff myth, probably centuries in the making. It is designed to help you chase your tail to find a destination that never exists and at which no boss would ever be found. The lesson is “You are The Table” and this addresses how to get to be The Table. Read Here: Spoiler Alert || The Table is a MYTH!!! You are The Table, Part 3

Part 4, “The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Manifesto” will help you actively address ten areas for serious personal and professional reflection. It will help you build intentional decency into your thinking and actions. The manifesto will help you test if you have become a trusted strategic advisor.

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The Trusted Strategic Advisor’s Manifesto

Ten Areas for Personal and Professional Consideration and Reflection

Introduction: I have published this document in a variety of formats over the years. Its principal purpose is to help you have the mindset needed to be a trusted strategic advisor. This is an action document because that’s what manifestos are. Take these sections to heart, install them in your memory banks and use this as an organized guide to becoming and constantly perfecting being a trusted strategic advisor.

Whatever your staff function, being a trusted strategic advisor (TSA) builds on your expertise in a given area of interest but the whole concept of trust with a strategic advisor is based on the needs of people above you whose trust you need to maintain and strengthen. Being a TSA requires a dramatic change in mindset, regardless of your expertise. I think you’ll find this extremely helpful as a guide and ongoing tutorial for you to become and grow as a trusted strategic advisor. Good luck.

First, Change Your Mindset & Your Entire Philosophy of Work

1). All problems are management and organizational problems before they are any other kind of problem.
a. Whatever your area of special expertise, start where managers and leaders are rather than where you are.
b. Look at the world from a management perspective first and constantly. If you fail to start where management is, you will never arrive at the same destination at the same time.
c. Study leaders and leadership of all kinds (your staff expertise is valuable but matters very little).
d. All managers and leaders think they are excellent communicators (and better than you or me).
e. If all you have is your primary staff function, it will be a long time between calls from the boss. Work to develop real management expertise.

2). All management problems are leadership challenges.
a. Your job is to help reduce contention and get to consensus and decisions, maybe even agreement.
b. Stay focused on the problem rather than distractions -- like what happened yesterday or what the media might do.
c. When there are ethical problems, help leaders meet the ethical expectations of those they lead.

Find the truth as soon as possible: Tell that truth and act on it right away.
Promptly raise the tough questions and answer them thoughtfully: This includes asking and answering questions yet to be asked or thought of by those who will be affected by whatever the circumstance is.
Teach by parable: Emphasizing wrong-way/right-way options.
Vocalize core business values and ideals constantly: Most core values are a set of ideas thought up on a management golf outing, brought in on the back of a clubhouse napkin, then printed and posted without another word being spoken. But the values and ideals of a business are what employees and others bring to work every day.
Walk the talk: Be accessible; help people understand the organization within the context of its values and ideals at every opportunity.
Build trust: Eliminate fear.
Recognize what fear really is: The absence of trust. Trust is, therefore, the absence of fear.
Help, expect and enforce ethical leadership: People are watching; people are counting; people know when there are lapses in ethics causing trust to be broken. When bad things happen in good organizations, it’s those occasional lapses that deepen the troubles.
Preserve, protect, defend, and foster ethical pathways to the top of the organization: Constantly identify, explain, explore, and warn about situations where ethical processes can be compromised on the way, especially among executives who are on upward career trajectories.
Be a cheerleader, model, and teacher of ethical behavior: Ethical behavior builds and maintains trust. In fact, to maintain trust, an organization requires that its leaders constantly act ethically.
Make values equal in importance to profits: Most people seem to enjoy working more when they are with organizations they respect, people they trust, and leadership they can rely on. Wherever you find an organization or company that puts values on the same level as profits, there is often even more loyalty and support because companies who do this sacrifice profits for principle. Everybody notices.

3). Leadership resides with those who can maintain more supporters than detractors.
a. Help management and leadership stay focused.
b. Help the leaders preserve and develop new followers.

4). Remember whose "bus" it is and who’s driving.
a. It is their bus and they get to drive it wherever they want.
b. Staff functions exist and are funded by leadership to help leaders do their jobs better.
c. Staff functions have limitations.
d. Change the changeable; do the doable; know the knowable.

5). Act decently: Insist & model an environment of civility and accommodation.
a. Follow the Decency Credo.
b. Review the Ingredients of goodness.
c. Understand the most powerful decencies and civilities.
d. Civility is the foundation for your integrity.

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6). Managers and leaders want to make the decisions…and problem-solve based on the advice they receive from trusted strategic advisors.
a. Be very cautious about recommending solutions (staff people rarely know enough about the entire business or organization to credibly recommend them.)
b. Focus on recommending smaller, more doable options for immediate, incremental implementation that can lead to bigger, more important decisions and breakthroughs.
c. Rather than seek a single big recommendation, shoot for three smaller options every time. Option one: do nothing and see what happens is always an option bosses and lawyers are thinking about. Option two: do something that meets a reasonable number of expectations for resolution. Option three: do something more than is expected.
d. Train yourself to use this option recommendation strategy and you will be called back earlier and faster and will be listened to ahead of the counselor who always has the perfect single solution. See Part 2: The Three Minute Drill

7). Do what they want most.
a. Candor: Truth with an attitude, delivered right now. Stop withholding things. Candor is your most powerful trust builder.
b. Help with what to do next: Much of their work is unknown. They have to figure it out; be ready with options.
c. Provide advice on the spot: The biggest frustration for operators - staffers leave and then come back later with advice, often way too late. Train yourself to give cogent information on the spot.
d. Provide options: This strategy and approach will change your life and the lives of those you advise forever. They will notice you and you will become more influential and important.
e. Say things that matter: Stop with speculating about what the media will do, or any other player for that matter. Always say things that are substantial. When the conversation goes off track, you are the one who asks, "Does this really matter?” If something matters more, identify it and move on.
f. Stop being the “Chicken Little”: Communicators in many organizations are known "The Chicken Little” in the outfit: always trying to get attention by scaring people, warning about impending disaster, but then withholding or not really knowing key information.

8). Eight tests you’ll have to pass that demonstrate you have become a trusted strategic advisor:
1). People remember what you say and quote you when you’re not in the room.
2). People quote you in your presence.
3). People tell your stories and share the lessons, giving you the credit.
4). People tell your stories and share your lessons as though those stories and lessons belonged to them.
5). Others seek your opinions and ideas, then share their agendas and beliefs with you in the hope of influencing you to influence the behaviors and decisions of others more senior than either of you.
6). The boss asks others to run their stuff by you before running it by them.
7). Meetings are held up waiting for you to arrive to make important contributions or interpretations of current events.
8). The boss calls you first and speaks to you last.

9). Before you seek to become a trusted strategic advisor, ask yourself:
a. Do I have the stomach for the intense, conflict-ridden, and often confrontational environment in which decisions are made at the senior levels of organizations?
b. Can I dispassionately assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, options and threats to the organization from a variety of useful constructive perspectives?
c. What is the real expertise, beyond my area of staff knowledge, that I bring to those who run my organization?
d. Will I commit to mastering the Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor and harness their power for my success and the success of those I advise?
e. How do I credibly and convincingly answer the question, "Why should the boss listen to me?"

10). Random wisdom to be taken very seriously:
a. If you’re a communicator, talk about the media will get you nowhere.
b. Every executive and manager, even first-line supervisors, think they are great communicators.
c. You need more than communication or your present staff function. This is true even for lawyers. Most bosses think they are smarter than lawyers too.
d. Read and study the Harvard Business Review. There are many other good business journals, the more you review the better.
e. Find out what your bosses read or view and read those too.
f. Strive to be memorable, tell stories, seek to inspire, and motivate those you work for. These are skills you can learn that make you more valuable.

Big Mistakes to Avoid

1). Withholding information: Destroys trust, encourages avoiding you and your

2). Shielding the boss from other advisors, consultants and voices: When
there’s trouble, look for voices the boss should/like/need like to hear. Break down
the barriers and get them together. Do they have a favorite business author? Put
them together for lunch. Do they have a favorite business commentator or
academic? Get them together. Which peers should they be talking to? The point is
that bosses reach out for all the information they can possibly get and more. Be the one who shatters the ring of staff protection that forms around top people. That ring tends to hide malfeasance, disloyalty, unethical behaviors, and other bad things that will surface sometime, especially during times of trouble.

3). Pushing ideas that the boss will never do: A good rule to have about pushing ideas is if the boss avoids starting or at least starts talking about it within ten days, give it up. You have lots more ideas anyway so pick another one. If they choose to do something that is troubling, illegal, immoral, unethical, monumentally stupid, or wasteful, then you have two decisions to make about working for them: 1) Speak up and suggest another acceptable approach or approaches. 2) Seriously consider moving on. Adults rarely change, even in catastrophe. Whose bus is it? It’s their bus, they get to do what they want. So, give it up after 10 days and focus on something that matters more. If they ignore it and it doesn’t matter to them, why should it matter to you?

4). Staying too long: All too often I hear senior people complain about their bosses not listening or refusing to change. Perhaps this is the single most frequent question I’m asked by other senior practitioners: “Jim, just how do you get these top people to change their minds and do something different?” They don’t have to. Get over it. Senior practitioners often stay on, mistakenly thinking they could change the person they work for. I often hear things like, “I really like this person; I trust her; she seems so smart about so many other things.” Fool’s errand. They don’t know or care. Find another bus before you spend a bunch of years there and, looking back, realize that they were unchangeable.

5). Failing to quickly test the value of an idea (before you open your mouth): If
an idea you’re contemplating fails to meet all of these criteria, move on:
Test 1. Helps the boss achieve his or her objectives and goals.
Test 2. Helps the organization achieve its goals.
Test 3. If a and b are both yes, ask yourself: is the idea still truly necessary?
Test 4. Keeps money.
Test 5. Makes money.
Test 6. Saves money.
Test 7. Aspects of the business will fail or not progress without your suggestion.

6). Lying: The ultimate trust buster. If you’re really good, you might be forgiven the first time. If you’re not really good, better get your resignation letter prepared quickly. Being a trusted strategic advisor is the position of highest trust.

7). Overuse the word ‘crisis’: Very few problems that managers and leaders face are crises. All businesses have problems and issues to resolve so it’s important to keep the temperature of your concerns under control. Every crisis (victim producing circumstance) is a serious business, leadership, and organizational problem. Always talk about readiness, which is far preferable and management oriented than referring to situations as crises. Then tell it like it is.

Key ingredients of a crisis:
a. People stopper
b. Show stopper
c. Product stopper
d. Reputation redefining event(s)
e. Creates victims (people, animals, living systems)
f. Explosive visibility (but not always)

8). Disloyalty: PSSSSST, here’s what they know you are doing:

Criticizing, badmouthing, or whining about management behind their back.
Complaining about their inability to adequately recognize your inherent talent, insight and general smartness.
Holding back key information you should be sharing (or so they imagine, as it is rarely the case).
Talking solutions but delivering only tactical ideas without really knowing the business problems the organization and its leaders face. They already know all 14 public relations tactics.
Failing to speak up in meetings but expressing your disappointment that some of your best advice is regularly ignored. When you do speak up, it’s more an expression of exasperation than an offer of simple, sensible, doable, meaningful, constructive and positive advice.

9). Look the Other Way: This happens all too often among communications staff.
It’s that time when you hear an idea, concept or proposal that makes your stomach tighten up. This is an unfailing warning that something uncomfortable, and possibly unethical, is being advanced. The solution is always to speak up. Better to be wrong than to be late. Looking the other way is noticed by everyone in the room and will be remembered especially by the boss who knew you were holding back.


What I Believe & You Can Trust

-Words to Live By-

WTLB1: All questionable, inappropriate, unethical, unconscionable, immoral,
predatory, improper, victim-producing and criminal behaviors are intentional. All
ethical, moral, compassionate, decent, civil and lawful behaviors are also intentional. The choice is always clear and always yours.
WTLB 2: Workplaces with integrity, civility, respect and decency are safer and more ethical.
WTLB 3: Those who lead with genuine integrity, civility, respect and decency are likely to be more ethical.
WTLB 4: Apology is the atomic energy of empathy. Apologies tend to stop bad
things from starting and starting bad things to stop.
WTLB 5 : Empathy is positive, constructive actions and deeds that
demonstrate civility, decency and integrity while speaking louder than words
possibly can.
WTLB 6: Unconscionable intentions, behaviors, actions and decisions are those that:

-Cause Needless but Intentional Pain
-Damage Personally
-Demand or Bully
-Exceed the Boundaries of Decency, Civility & Integrity
-Express Excessive Anger & Irritation

Unconscionable labels are also:
-Harmfully Restrictive
-Intentionally Injurious
-Tone Deaf
-Without Empathy

After all this, ask or remind yourself why you are still working in such a place as
outlined in Mistakes to Avoid #4. It’s easy to stay too long. Better to leave early and start a new adventure than look back after a few years and realize that change is rarely the reward for persistent loyalty.

What America Needs Now More Than Ever

The Decency Code provides a fully developed and actionable model for building a decency workplace culture.  1

Marshall Goldsmith, #1 Leadership Thinker, Executive Coach, NYT
Bestselling Author, California:
“The Decency Code” is an important book with a vital and timely message to
leaders at all levels. Reading this book is an investment in building productive
and engaged workplaces.”
Helio Fred Garcia, President, Logos Consulting, New York City:
“The Decency Code is a much-needed antidote to the prevailing incivility we see
in both the workplace and the nation. Harrison and Lukaszewski plot a practical
approach to regain civility, integrity, and empathy in our relations with others.
This is a must-read for leaders, investors, employees, and engaged citizens
Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Swim With The
Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive:
“If ever there was a time to zero in on decency and integrity in business, Jim
Lukaszewski and Steve Harrison have chosen the prime moment. “The Decency
Code: The Leader’s Path to Building Integrity and Trust” is a goldmine of advice
and methods for everyone from the C-Suite to managers – and everyone who
reports to them – to establish the kind of company people want to work for and
customers want to patronize. Don’t just add this book to your “to-read” stack;
memorize their wisdom and put it into practice today!”

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