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Three Things Every Trusted Advisor Should Know to Communicate with FINESSE

Artist Don Breeden's interpretation of the Communicating with FINESSE fishbone (cause and effect) diagram.

Making a decision requires an irrevocable allocation of resources. In a world full of complexity and uncertainty, decision makers turn to trusted advisors to help sort through the conundrums and chaos.

The Communicating with FINESSE fishbone diagram provides seven causal factors that lead to effective communication. Three themes underpin the seven bones and are worth constant reflection.

Communicating as a trusted advisor is different than for marketing

Your standard communications training focused on understanding the audience. That is because the marketers and political science experts that put it together are selling something. And in most cases, they are hoping for an impulse decision.

Communication for marketing and political purposes is about influencing perspective. It is persuasion at best. More likely, and at its worst, this type of communication is pure manipulation.

Trusted advisors are not selling anything. We are not persuading (and certainly not manipulating) our decision maker. Instead, we present information as fairly as possible to someone facing a great decision chalked full of complexity and uncertainty.

Complexity and uncertainty mean that the decision maker will not act on impulse. Our communication must stand the test of time and pass through many levels of the inner circle. Focusing on the needs of one audience comes at the expense of the next. You get only one shot at credibility.

Trusted advisors stand on the data and information first and the audience second.

As you do not want your trusted advisors persuading or manipulating you, resolve not to persuade or manipulate your decision maker. Resolve not to be a salesperson.

The burden is on the sender, not the receiver

Senior management may be faking it until they make it. Or maybe they were friends with someone who pulled them up the ladder. Or even worse, they may have gotten the job because they have enough technical limitations to agree with anything.

It is easy to call someone stupid when they disagree with you. The trouble is that you work for them.

Communication requires a sender, a receiver, and a message. The burden of effective communication is on the sender, not the receiver.

Think about your cellular phone provider, cable TV company, and internet service provider. Is it your fault (the receiver) when you don't get the signal?

The only way for communication to be effective – especially technical information that contains a high level of complexity and uncertainty – is for the burden to belong appropriately to the sender.

It is your fault, not theirs, if the decision maker 9reciever) does not understand the information.

It is about the decision maker, not you

Decision makers have more than one problem at any given time that contains elevated levels of complexity and uncertainty. In most cases, you are only working on one of them.

There are three reasons decision makers do not make the decision that their trusted advisors think they should:

  • They do not understand (the fault belongs to the trusted advisor)

  • The timing is not right (timing and dependencies are absent from most technical analyses)

  • They simply disagree (in most cases, the trusted advisor only has a partial view of the external factors)

Empathy is…

The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. - Merriman-Websters

Putting yourself in the shoes of the boss’s boss is a tall order to fill, especially when you have never been there. Nevertheless, great communicators find a way to do it, whether it is a learned skill or a natural ability.

To have empathy in a world full of complexity and uncertainty, trusted advisors must find a way to clear their opinions, biases, and preferences.

After all, it is their decision, not yours.

Communicating with FINESSE

The role of a trusted advisor is to communicate the data and information as fairly as possible to the decision maker. Most of us prefer that our trusted advisors do not persuade or manipulate us when we are making the biggest decisions of our careers. In other words, treat the boss's boss the way you wish to be treated.

The Communicating with FINESSE fishbone diagram provides seven causal factors that lead to effective communication. The three themes that underpin the seven bones and are worth constant reflection when serving as a trusted advisor.


Communicating with FINESSE is the community of trusted advisors dedicated to helping the boss's boss understand. Join the community to gain additional tips and insights.


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