What is the next most useful thing?
Exploring the tension between being right and being useful
“It is not enough for a professional to be right: An advisor’s job is to be helpful.”
I think about this quote often. It’s from the book The Trusted Advisor, which is well worth a read.
There’s this fundamental tension as a consultant between being right and being useful. These things are not the same. There’s a question I keep in mind for every consulting project to remind me of this tension: “What is the next most useful thing?”
First, though, I want to talk about coming of age in the SEO industry.
I spent most of my 20s in the world of SEO. It’s a world full of recommendations. Every agency (and internal team) is making SEO recommendations. It’s a world full of technical fixes and best practices. But it’s also a world full of frustration - clients are frustrated that all they get is a laundry list of best practices. While SEO practitioners are frustrated
Being strategic is simply about doing work in context.
It’s about being useful, not right. Let’s explore this tension.
Strategy & stewardship The work is always in service of the next action
Gives you license to push back on clients (they ask for legible work, not useful work)
Quotes from trusted advisor
Some foundational ideas:
1) Clients ask for work in the shape of deliverables because of convention and because of a sense of “control” 2) Clients are bad at providing the context for the work 3) The most useful thing you can do is often “below your pay grade” 4) Your value is
If you like this idea, read the deep dive: The Consultant Out of Time: Chronos & Kairos - a framework for just-in-time consulting
To work on the next most useful thing you need a north star in mind. What’s the ultimate objective? This kind of clarity is extremely useful. However client’s don’t give that to you - you have to ask good questions.