Maybe its just me … but one of the few things that is in ready supply and comes free is advice! Perhaps that is exactly the value proposition that should explain why it is generally worth exactly what you pay for it!
So if you are looking for advisors or mentors I think you need to understand what you really want.
I gave some thought to the kind of advice I get, and the “relative” usefulness of it … and came out with a “home grown” formula to find the kind of advisor that you need, and a means to measure the relative worth of the advice you get on a regular basis. The following thought process relates to me in my world, but I think the end result is applicable to anyone.
1. First I thought maybe I valued “grey hair” … the people who had lived a life, seen lots of things and could bring a perspective based on real life experience. Seems like a good start, but I came to realise that it’s not the whole story, in fact if their experience was in a wholly different environment than mine then what use was their advice?
2. Then I thought that experience in my industry would be a good thing … a knowledge of the “nuances” of our world, and what really works. Again, I came to the conclusion that wasn’t the whole story.
3. So I got to thinking about people in a similar situation to mine … CEOs running companies. I have good experience with this, but again not the whole story, a CEO of a global publicly traded company will have a very different reality than the CEO of a small private company.
4. At the root of any problem requiring advice is a situation. It is the details of the situation that count and therefore the relevance of the advisor’s knowledge in that situation is what really counts.
What does this all mean?
1. If you have a tough situation and want some advice, the best advisor will be someone who has “been there done that, got the t-shirt”. If it is an issue specific to your specific industry then likely they should have relevant experience there, in addition to experience in a similar role to you.
2. If you want generic advice about business, strategy, operations etc. then you will likely want access to a group that can provide a multitude of inputs … BUT based on “been there done that, got the t-shirt”. Its always good to get a variety of inputs … but all need to bring “real” value.
3. When measuring the value of “advice” … use Kevin’s “been there, done that got the t-shirt” test. It should measure against:
> Real world experience;
> Similar level or role; and
> knowledge of your industry.
4. Beware the theorists who read a lot and think they know the answers … they don’t wear good t-shirts!!!
PS. The astute amongst you will of course recognize this as advice … and of course you paid nothing for it