Does Everyone Need A Consigliere?

I’ll never forget the moment I gave up my freedom.

I did what we all do: I confided to my friend Steve at work about a work problem I was having. After all, he was the friend/co-worker I could tell my troubles to.

What I really did was complain for an hour about someone just to make myself feel better. But what’s wrong with that? We all do that? Right? Don’t we all confide in a friend and ask for guidance?

How stupid could I be?

Really, really stupid, it turns out. Fortunately, Steve kept the information between the two of us. He didn’t rat me out, but he easily could have.

I’ll bet you’ve confided in a friend at work too. It feels good, doesn’t it, confiding in a friend? You bond. You gossip a little. You get some advice.

What a great way to build rapport.

Confiding in a friend at work can be one of the worst things you can do!

Let me explain more about what I am saying and not saying.

I am not saying you shouldn’t confide in people. On the contrary, it’s human nature to confide in people. It’s hard to keep all your feelings bottled up, and you need a release.

I am not saying you can’t confide in someone at work. I am not saying you can’t discuss real work-related problems such as a problem with a project. You can, but you have to do it within certain parameters. You have to respect a few important boundaries:

  • Legal – There are some things that you’re legally obligated not to discuss, for example, information that could be the subject of insider trading. Hopefully, your employer educates you about this. Even a relatively low-level employee may know some “material nonpublic information” that could lead you into serious trouble.
  • Confidential Information – This doesn’t just include trade secrets, like company plans and research. It might also include customer information, personnel information, or anything that you know your employer doesn’t want you discussing with people who don’t know the information, even if they’re co-workers.
  • Gossip & Hurtful Communication – It’s not just that water cooler talk kills. You have to be aware that something hurtful you say about a co-worker can and usually will get back to them. That’s why you can’t complain about another co-worker to a friend at work. Save that for a discussion with your boss if it really becomes serious.

It’s even more difficult to confide in someone at work as you become a senior executive or CEO. You have access to so much more information that fits within those boundaries.

That’s why people say “it’s lonely at the top.” Believe me, it is!

That’s also why everyone needs a consigliere. There’s a hitch, however. Your consigliere can’t be another employee at the company. In fact, your consigliere can’t be someone who works at a company in the same industry.

Why? The minute you tell another employee, especially a peer, a secret or a problem you are having, they have complete control over you. Most people are not very good keeping secrets, so your problem, the personnel issue you shared in that moment of anguish, is likely to be heard by people you don’t want to have hear it.

Do you want to take that risk?

Good, I didn’t think so.

So, how do you choose a good consigliere? Let’s use the greatest of all business manuals, The Godfather I and The Godfather II movies. Not the Godfather III though; it was a really bad, ill-conceived movie. Maybe it’s a bad movie because Michael didn’t have a consigliere in Godfather III.

Michael first consigliere was his father, Vito. As Michael said, “Who better than my father?” Dad’s can make great consiglieres. By the way, Moms can make great consiglieres too.

Michael didn’t just want to confide in his father. What good is that? Michael wanted advice and guidance from someone he trusted and respected. That’s what a good consigliere does for you.

Michael’s second consigliore was his “brother”, Tom Hagen. Tom was the family lawyer. The company lawyer can make a great consigliere for a CEO, especially at a start up. For the most part, they are obligated to keep your conversations confidential, and they have a lot of business experience from the various start-ups they have worked with. Our lawyer, Marcia, was an excellent consigliere to me. Marcia did some amazing things well beyond her responsibilities as corporate council for us, but that’s another story.

Lawyers and parents are just some of the people you can have as consigliere’s. What you are looking for is someone you TRUST, respect, and has lots of knowledge. Now, there are rules when you go outside your company for a consigiliere. The big rule being you still have to respect the first two boundaries.

Again, you’re looking for someone you TRUST, respect, and who has lots of knowledge – with a big, and I mean big, emphasis on TRUST. Who are those people in your life?

Just remember, it likely isn’t someone you work with.

That’s all for know,


Photo: (michele.pautasso –