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Rate Your Client Relationships: Are You a Trusted Advisor?


By: Mary Werner, CPA, MOD, Big4 Guest Blogger  


“At its core, trust is about relationships.”

~David Maister

In my last two blog posts, I talked about two of the five key EQ skills needed to move from technician to trusted advisor: self actualization and emotional self-awareness.

It won’t come as a shock to you that the third EQ skill is your ability to build mutually satisfying relationships. The key words here are mutually and satisfying.

We’ve all been in client relationships that are one-sided or give us heartburn. Those relationships can never make it to a true trusted advisor status.

What I’m talking about in a trusted advisor relationship is based on a mutual give and take. You must give a favor to earn a favor.  In trusted advisor speak, you must “display your willingness to make an investment in the relationship in order to earn your client’s trust.”

What efforts do you put into maintaining healthy and effective relationships with your clients? Is your talk all technical and single focused? How do you get to know them on a personal level? What matters to them? Do they know what matters to you?  In the end, building a strong relationship requires a certain level of vulnerability and a willingness to open yourself up.

And we all know that a relationship that’s strong and satisfying is one based on thoughtfulness and openness to another’s ideas. The idea of collaboration and connection to others is something that trusted advisors value. And when a conflict arises, both parties work to resolve issues in a manner that is respectful and professional.

There is a misconception that strong trusted advisor relationships can only be built when the advisor is extraverted or gregarious. Quite the contrary. One of the most effective legal advisors I know is quite introverted but has forged strong relationships with his clients in a more reserved, one on one manner. Still strong. Still effective. Still a trusted advisor. He just accomplishes it in a more low-key manner. And his clients love him. He is their “go to guy.”

How would you rate your client relationships? Excellent? OK? Box Checking?

If you didn’t choose excellent, what’s holding you back from building deeper, more meaningful relationships with the clients you serve? Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extravert, you can begin today to build the skills that it takes for forge mutually satisfying relationships with your clients and move yourself to that coveted “trusted advisor” status.

To your success,


Mary C. Werner, CPA, MOD, formerly with Ernst & Whinney (now E&Y) and a Partner at a regional CPA firm, is the founder of Werner Coaching and Consulting, Inc., an executive coaching and organizational change consulting firm.  She is also a founding member of  The CPA Consultants’ Alliance, a working group of thought leaders unified in their efforts to further leadership in the accounting profession.  Mary, a certified executive coach through The Hudson Institute, is especially skilled at coaching and consulting with CPAs and other business professionals who are interested in accelerating their personal and professional growth for breakthrough results. She blogs regularly about leadership and change in individuals, firms and organizations.




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