All Are Smart… The Great Ones Make Their Clients Smart

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

I’ve had the privilege of coaching some of the world’s best and brightest business talents over the last several years, many of them earning their leadership stripes in the rough-and-tumble consulting game. Competition is stiff to get a gig as a management consultant with a top-flight firm, and the firm I’ve worked with has been at the very top of the industry. By the time they became my clients, these consultants had already bested a wide and deep field of competitors for the positions they held… they’d proved they had the smarts to get into the game. And that’s no small feat.

But it was my job to help them develop from competent, smart consultants to outstanding consultants. And what I learned in that pursuit, I now realize, applies across a wide array of advice-giving professions, from wealth and investment advice to big-ticket sales to the practice of medicine and law.

Many times during the course of my career as a coach to the world’s best consultants, I’ve been asked what it takes to make a good advisor. The short answer – a synthesis of many key attributes – is that great advisors are all about the development of their clients. All consultants are smart, and have good systems backing them up. The great ones don’t focus on their own smarts. Their focus is on the smarts of their clients.

You can tell the rookies from the pros when they speak. Rookies talk a lot about what they know; pros find out first what the client already knows. Rookies lean on (or hide behind) their firms, saying things like “our firm feels” or “we found out” or “our research shows”… pros are often caught saying things like “I see it differently,” or “I think” or “I’m not convinced.” (If you ever hear a rookie say the word “I,” it’s usually in the context of such phrases as “yes, I know” or “I’ve got it.”) Rookies bring answers; pros ask a lot of questions. Rookies come across as convinced; pros, as curious.

For more information on the surprising difference between rookies and pros in the advice game, search “performance anxiety” on my web site and you’ll find a piece I published last summer on this very topic. And, of course, I’m still available for coaching!

And that might provide insight into what drives the mindset of a great consultant. Sure, like everyone else in the game, the great advisor can be nervous. She feels the same performance anxiety you feel… she doesn’t want the client to “find her out” any more than you do. But she plucks up the courage to come across with enough confidence to build assurance within the client. She knows her client is smart, and will see through any bluff right away. And she knows that her firm wouldn’t have put her in front of that client unless she really did have what it takes (however hard to see) to render true service in the engagement and in the relationship.

Great advisors in any field project confidence, put the client (and his development) first, and work hard to nurture the long-term relationship with the client and his firm. They don’t rest on what they earned the day they joined the game. They know their smarts alone won’t be enough to differentiate them from the wide selection of advisors available to their clients. They know everybody’s smart, but no one’s going to care enough to take as much personal responsibility for their client’s success… and that awareness is the key “secret weapon” that helps them play the game to win.


 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at
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