In a recent posting I highlighted some of the scenarios that suggest that an adviser has not achieved the level of trust that we tend to seek from our clients. I have also written about what it means to be a ‘Trusted adviser’ and that just because an adviser is trusted by clients doesn’t automatically mean that the trust is justified.
The adviser may not have sufficient knowledge to give reliable advice on the matter at hand. If he or she goes ahead however the client may still feel able to rely on it as they are unaware that the accountant is either naïve, lazy or out to deceive.
- Perhaps they give advice in good faith but have insufficient knowledge or expertise to realise that the advice is wrong, incomplete or inappropriate;
- Perhaps they hope the advice is ok even though they haven’t checked; or
- Perhaps they are out to deceive in that they know they don’t know the answer but seek to convince the client that they do and that their waffle is good advice.
In all 3 scenarios the client may be unaware that the adviser should not be trusted.
The motivations are different in each case. Which is worst do you think and which is the most common?
Some years back I recall discussing two tax managers with a fellow partner in the accountancy firm where I worked. He was a general practitioner and evidently favoured one manager over the other. He told me why:
‘Rosie’ never seemed confident of the tax advice she gave him. She always wanted to double check it with someone else. He preferred ‘Cathy’ as she always provided him with definitive advice and never insisted on ‘wasting time’ getting confirmation.
I told him that I would prefer to rely on ‘Rosie’ any day. She knew what she didn’t know. She was neither naïve, lazy or out to deceive. ‘Cathy’ on the other hand evidently wanted to please the partner but I knew she did not have the experience or expertise to always have the right answers.
Some months later my partner thanked me for opening his eyes. He had been checking up on ‘Cathy’ and found that her advice was not always reliable. Several mistakes and problems had come to light. She had attempted to explain them away but on reflection he knew that they were a function of her over eager attempts to give advice and to appear to be more knowledgeable than was the case.
If this had only happened once or twice he might have thought her simply naïve. She had attempted to cover her tracks – in a further effort to deceive.
She left the firm shortly afterwards.
If your colleagues can’t trust you why should your clients?
* Names changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!)