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Cheerleaders are the people we count on to tell us we can do it. Advisors are the people we can count on to tell us whether we should do it.

Cheerleaders applaud us for having an idea. Advisors help us examine whether it's an idea worth pursuing.

Cheerleaders use a mirror that shows us the most flattering parts of our efforts & celebrate them. Advisors use a magnifying glass to help us see into the deeper layers of our efforts and guide us to emphasize the good and fix the not-good.

Cheerleaders are mood boosters. Advisors are effectiveness boosters.

Cheerleaders point out our clouds' silver linings. Advisors ask us to determine why the cloud is there and what might be done about it.

If we slide backward four steps for every one step forward, Cheerleaders will still cheer that one step forward. Advisors will challenge us to acknowledge that we're backsliding and determine how to minimize or reverse that trend.

Cheerleaders and Advisors are both vital members of an entrepreneurs' sphere. Both roles help us do what we do. Sometimes the same person can play both roles for us, depending on the day and context.

Where we run into problems is when we confuse Cheerleaders for Advisors.

If your group of associates consistently heralds every business idea suggested by any group member as “awesome,” you're in a group of Cheerleaders, not Advisors. Heed their encouragement accordingly.

If the people you turn to for business help never have a perspective that differs from yours, you're probably relying on Cheerleaders rather than Advisors. Keep the Cheerleaders, but seek out some trusted Advisors as well.

If someone greets every business obstacle you face with a pep talk but never with provocative questions, that person is a Cheerleader. Rely on him or her for revving up your enthusiasm motor, but turn to an Advisor to help you calibrate your GPS before you go speeding off.

One of the most valuable skill sets an entrepreneur can develop is:

  • the self-awareness to know when you need to seek out a Cheerleader,
  • the self-assuredness to seek out an Advisor when you need one,
  • the wisdom to know the difference,
  • and the tact to receive the input of each openly and with appreciation.

When do you turn to your Cheerleaders? When do you rely on your Advisors? Do the same people play both roles, or are your Cheerleaders different from your Advisors?

Image Credit: Julie Elliott-Abshire via SXC