During This Crisis, We Should Take a Lesson From Jerry Maguire

Fewer clients that get more of your attention

During this crisis and the resurrection that will follow, one thing is for certain – we’re going to place much greater value on deep and trusting relationships.

In particular, our clients are going to look to consolidate vendor and service provider relationships; holding on to those they explicitly trust, and cutting lose everyone else.

The new normal is going to be the Jerry Maguire model - fewer clients that get more of your attention.

Moving forward, the critical success factor will be whether clients regard you as their trusted advisor - as a leader and a steward.

And, what does it take to become the trusted advisor? We know from the groundbreaking research in Neuro-leadership that it takes Character, Compassion, and Competence.


To be a trusted advisor you must be a model of integrity, and demonstrate that you live by the core values that you have clearly communicated to others. You must display your ability to enact a fair, just, and transparent process to resolve moral conflicts or to reallocate limited resources.

You’re going to be known by the company you keep, so you’re going to need to have the courage to hold others accountable for acting in a similar manner. One of the biggest shortfalls our industry has to overcome is our propensity to turn a blind eye to moral and ethical breaches. 

To be a trusted advisor, you also need to demonstrate the capacity to repair trust when (not if) you break it – when you chose the easier wrong instead of the harder right. When trust is broken you’ll need the courage to admit your mistakes and a willingness to accept responsibility for the consequences. As a trusted advisor, you’re going to be judged for how you handle your 15 minutes of shame; not your 15 minutes of fame.


Compassion (benevolence and empathy) is your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and then advocate for their well-being.

It requires the courage to act, even when all the facts are not known and there is a risk of unfavorable consequences. When I served as a Coast Guard helicopter pilot we would tell one another when the search and rescue alarm would sound – We have to go out…but, we don’t have to come back.

So too, you must have the ability to make clients feel that they are at the very heart of your sense of purpose. This requires a much deeper commitment then merely acting in a client’s best interests. 


Competence will no longer be measured in terms of what you know, but rather by who you know. Social networking, the ability to align with others who have greater expertise, and a willingness to let someone else be the smartest person on a video conference, will be the new critical core competences of a trusted advisor.

As a trusted advisor you’ll need to demonstrate the capacity to simplify complex procedures, and communicate sound solutions to what appears to be insurmountable problems.

And being competent also will include your ability to fail…and the courage to get back up. Grit, persistence, adaptability, and resilience will be the new trademarks of a trusted advisor.

A final word; the severity of this crisis warrants a response from trusted advisors who stand out as leaders and stewards – merely being a fiduciary just won’t cut it. Forthcoming fiduciary standards will be one of the greatest impediments to your formation as a trusted advisor because complex disclosures and rules breed uncertainty and doubt, not trust.

What does this all mean? Just ask Jerry Maguire – fewer clients who need to be the beneficiaries of your Character, Compassion, and Competence.

Related: During This Crisis, No One Is Looking for a Fiduciary