getting advice from a coworker

The Ecosystem of Advice: Who do you turn to during a crisis?

I started putting together a post a few weeks ago called “The Ecosystem Of Advice.”

It was going to be a deep dive on who exactly we turn to when our business is in crisis and collapsing around us. I had a few thoughts, of course — consultants, attorneys, recommendations from past colleagues, trade associations, Google searches, Amazon, etc.

I realized after a few edits that I wasn’t making enough of a point. And that was because I hadn’t asked my kith:

image of th definition of the word kith

When your business or your clients are in a crisis, either revenue-wise or reputation-wise, who are you looking to for advice and next steps?

So I sent out that email. Here’s a little of what I got back.

 

It’s not about WHO you turn to, it’s about the process

I got this from the head of comms and marketing at a Silicon Valley VC:

“I think the better question is whether you have the right process and people/relationships so you can be prepared when a crisis hits. You can’t make friends in a crisis and having no process will bite you when things get tough.

I am a big believer in processes and convinced that the right process (and relationships) will ultimately lead to good outcomes.

For a crisis – do you have a process in place to distinguish between an issue and real crisis. Is it internal or external? Is it a business crisis or a legal crisis? Being clear about what you are dealing with and what the desired outcome is will help determine the right advisors. Do you have a team that’s dealing with the crisis – both leveraging internal resources and external advisors. There’s no one size fits all so that’s why having a process makes sense.”

 

Crisis as opportunity

One response came with its own mini-case study:

“Just this week, I had a client lambast my direction on a white paper and refuse payment. Now while this wasn’t the epic crisis you may be talking about, my response would determine if they would remain a large global client. I decided to reach out to a leading white paper consultant. I had read every piece of material he had online and his book, so I gave it a shot with a well-crafted email requesting advice. He responded within five minutes and I was on the phone with him the next morning, gratis. I proceeded with confidence and information not found in the words he wrote but what he said about my very specific problem. I ended up firing the client who had lambasted me. I never had fired a client before and it was all because of the connection I made around expertise.”

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t wait to build your kith
  • Take the shot; reach out to the best and do your research to find who stands out
  • We all need a place to ask the secret and perhaps embarrassing questions like “What should we do?”
  • Crisis can be an opportunity to both build and leverage these reciprocal relationships
  • Don’t assume you’ll be billed for professional advice; we all need it at some point and if you build your kith right, it’s more likely you’ll pay by being a valued source to them in the future.”

Use personal and professional relationships all over the spectrum of experience

Loved this one: (head of comms and marketing at a major university)

“If it’s on fire and I’m scared, I call a work colleague that I trust and get a few of the core team members together to apply the hive mind. I sometimes call a friend or therapist friend if it has emotional ramifications, or if I think that my emotions may be uncalibrated. in this case it’s usually a friend who is a peer in a completely different line of work, someone I’ve had a relationship with for many many years and is my age or older.

I try to take into account other perspectives from mine — say an African-American male who is 30 who I have a friendship with and who will be candid with me.

I never reach out to people I think will be critical or deflate me or who will judge. I don’t contact people I don’t know well and trust unless the idea is to get a cold man-on-the-street kind of opinion.

As for revenue, I used to have several older friends (some of whom were friends of my father or mother) who would mentor me because of their love for my folks. Often I have had some older businessman or relative of a friend hear every detail of some conundrum that was plaguing me so they could sort out all the exigencies and help me see what the situation really was. That has been very helpful. Now I do that for younger friends of mine.”

 

The simplest explanation

One client of mine sent me just this:

“Dig deep, do the work, show up and manage my mind to know that this too shall pass.”

 

Beautiful.

 

What does it all mean?

My big takeaway from the gamut of responses was this:

  • Community matters a lot: Make sure you’re building one. Make sure you have people from all experience levels and professional contexts you can reach out to if need be.
  • Have processes in place: We bemoan them because they can stifle, but when the crap hits the fan, they can be wonderful too.
  • Know who your stakeholders are: Both you need to please/ameliorate and who needs help from you.
  • Reach out to experts in a given field: They may be more likely to help than you’d think.

 

And simply put – think about who you would ask.

I suppose I was a touch surprised — I thought more would respond and say “consultants” or “lawyers.” It seemed more went with trusted colleagues, mentors, etc. That should actually give us hope that business is getting done in the right ways based on shared respect and connection, I’d like to think.

Here’s where I want to leave it: building a kith, to me, is about finding sophisticated friends, helpful people, and those will give you advice. In short, I want to be your friend and talk to you/engage with you about your business before there’s a crisis, even though I ultimately get “the call” when there’s a crisis. I’d prefer to work a little ahead, and build that community first.

That said: if we can be helpful, contact me or the team.