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Solving Problems: Trusted Advisor Style

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


“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence,

it is not the triumph of heart over head, it is the unique intersection of both.”

~David Caruso


My last three blog posts discussed your desired movement from technician to becoming a trusted advisor for your clients and the EQ skills you must possess to make that move. The three EQ facets I’ve shared so far are:

  1. Pursuit of Meaning: Your goal, desire and motivation is to become a trusted advisor
  2. Emotional Self Awareness: Your awareness of your emotions and how they impact your behavior and others
  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Your ability to develop mutually satisfying relationships

But even if you possess each of these emotional intelligence skills, in order to become a true trusted advisor you must still solve your client’s most challenging problems. And at the leader level, you must regularly solve their problems when the pressure is on, when the stakes are high and all focus is squarely on you. All while keeping your emotions in check.

In the realm of EQ, what does this problem solving skill entail? Problem solving in an EQ sense is not about the quality of your solutions, but rather at how effectively you use your emotions in the process of solving a problem. It’s your ability to gather information and make decisions without being emotionally distracted, stuck or overwhelmed in the process.

You can possess all the technical knowledge in the world but if your emotions cause you to be frozen in your decision making, unable to consider various perspectives or  avoid dealing with the problem all together, your technical expertise is of little use to your client.

It’s fitting that I’m writing this blog post on the day that one of my former business partners (and trusted advisor extraordinaire) retires from Plante & Moran. My dear friend, Brent Cousino, is one of the most amazing trusted advisors I’ve ever worked with.

Brent had many client facing roles at P&M and, regardless of his position, his clients could always count on Brent to solve their most challenging problems calmly, methodically and effectively. Pressure, deadlines, budgets and client expectations were a constant in Brent’s consulting role and he managed these challenges brilliantly. His clients knew that he would utilize his technical expertise combined with exceptional problem solving skills to make a difference for them

Oh, and he also possesses the first three EQ skills in droves! Brent will certainly take his trusted advisor skills on the next leg of his leadership journey.

How would evaluate your problem solving skills when emotions are in play? Can you be relied on to be there for your clients, cool headed, focused and determined?

Becoming a trusted advisor truly demands these superior problem solving skills.

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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