Review of The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford

The Trusted AdvisorOn Tuesday of last week, I was exchanging some emails with a person who has done some awesome things in her career, and I asked her if there were any subjects or books she recommended I study. She wrote back that The Trusted Advisor had recently been recommended to her, and while she hadn’t gotten far into it yet, it might be worth taking a look. The book took only a few seconds to download on Kindle and only a few hours to read, and I think it was worth the time invested.

The three men who collaborated on this book write that the lessons they’re sharing were hard won through years of making mistakes and doing things the wrong way. They’re all very successful in their careers as speakers, advisors, and consultants, but they got that way by attending the school of hard knocks, and their book The Trusted Advisor is full of both great recommendations to help the reader avoid making those mistakes and also stories of how they offended or alienated people and lost business because of it. The combination of good advice with examples of what happens when you say the wrong thing is very effective.

The book is organized in three parts. If you have read other books about conversing with people, consulting, or making friends, this first part will be very familiar to you. In part two, Maister, Green, and Galford start relating very practical steps for both how to mentally and emotionally approach people, and what to say, and I found these practical steps extremely insightful and helpful. And in part three, they provide more context for the practical steps we learned about in part two.

The book is concise and to the point, and you could easily read it in an afternoon (or while waiting for your flight to finally take off from O’Hare). Overall, I found it helpful, and have already begun employing some of its recommendations. If nothing else, it serves as a good reminder and reinforcement about stopping ourselves from talking too much and making sure we listen to the other person, and the authors systematically lay out an approach and a series of steps that, if they’re followed, result in far more gratifying and productive conversations than might otherwise happen.

Why should I read this book?

The Trusted Advisor is a concise primer for talking with people about sensitive subjects. Its context is sales and consulting, but it can be applicable for any role where you have to talk with someone about something serious, be it in a romantic, pastoral, supervisory, collegial, or friendly relationship.

There are a ton of books out there with the same goal, and which do a good job of achieving that goal, but The Trusted Advisor is also very short and can give you a few tools for dealing with those conversations really quickly. If you have a difficult conversation tomorrow, you could pick this book up today, read it, and be much better equipped in advance of your conversation.

Who should read this book?

If you are ever in the role of counselor or advisor–if you ever need to help people–then the book will be helpful to you. If you need to interact with people in any manner, this book can be helpful to you.

Who shouldn’t read this book?

If you have read or listened to How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie or Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Roger Fisher, then you already know a lot of what this book communicates. There are still some helpful steps in part two that will be new to you, but you could probably scan the appendix at the bookstore and get the gist of it without investing the 3-4 hours this book will take you to read.

How should I read this book?

Despite its short length (my Kindle estimated it at around 3.5 hours at my reading speed), I still took three days to read it. It goes quickly and the authors make liberal use of headings and bulleted lists to move through the material. You can stop in the middle of a section and retain the point, but the authors will regularly refer to earlier material and stories. It may be best to read this book one part at a time because each part (of which there are three) is building a system of ideas and approaches, and you’ll want everything fresh in your mind as your progress through it.

If you set aside an hour or so for each part, and read each part in full all at the same time, I think you’ll get the most out of this book.

Where can I get this book? has a number of formats available for The Trusted Advisor. I read it on Kindle, and while the authors do occasionally use tables to summarize a point, and those tables are tiny on Kindle, they aren’t really necessary. The tables just present their text or lists in a different format, and since the text is available in the paragraph, they aren’t really necessary.

While I liked The Trusted Advisor and found it helpful, I strongly recommend Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. I think they go well together, because The Trusted Advisor moves the concepts into the context of being an advisor or consultant, but Difficult Conversations will provide significantly more tools and suggestions that are helpful. One of the problems I had with The Trusted Advisor was how short it was, and I wish there had been more stories to help me figure out how best to apply their suggestions. You can find those sorts of stories in Difficult Conversations, and it really is a marvelous book.

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