The Gatehouse Blog

Which type of advisor are you?

Our inaugural JoIC Live event took place on 14 September 2016, hosting participants from various industries. To lead the conversations of the evening, three experts in our profession discussed their experiences and challenges. Communication, HR and change consultant Stephen Welch was one of these speakers, describing his model of the four different types of partnership.

Which type of advisor are you?

I had the pleasure of attending the first inaugural “Journal of Internal Communication Live” (JOIC). This event, hosted by Gatehouse, was great combination of case studies, challenging perspectives and new approaches to thinking about your career and impact as an internal comms professional. We heard a fascinating story from Tereza Urbankova, and a lesson from the provocative Mike Klein about what Abraham Lincoln has to teach us. I covered my model of the four different types of partnership. You can read more about it here.

In essence, the model takes a medical analogy of the comms profession, where our role can range from “pharmacist” where the job is transactional and the value-add is low; all the way up to psychiatrist which is founded on long-term relationships, mutual understanding and high levels of trust.  Other roles are the ‘nurse’ (or coach) and ‘brain surgeon’ (or problem solver). 

I then got challenged, “surely there is a fifth role: the GP or family doctor?”. Well, yes and no. In some ways, communicators to play the doctor role all the time as they have to deal with different types of patients, some of whom want a quick repeat prescription (i.e. pharmacist), while others need more attention and support (i.e. nurse). So communicators are often GPs in that they often have to deal with different types of requests and demands.

But the model isn’t really about you or your role. It’s a situational one. The idea of the model is to help communicators think about the job, the RFP, the request, the situation they are in. And – over the course of a week — communicators can find themselves in all four types of situations, just as a GP or family doctor can. But the art of success is to be able to quickly identify the type of situation you are in and behave accordingly.

Mr. Transaction

I had a doctor once who was “Mr. Transaction”. He got motivated by dealing with a high number of patients in a short time. I bet his NHS bosses loved him. Sometimes this worked great for me. For example, I have a very mild allergy and sometimes need a Ventolin inhaler. It is very mild and I go through about one inhaler a year.

So every year I would go to my doctor and say: “I’ve run out”.

He would say “Repeat prescription?”

I would say: “Yes, please”.

Him: “Here you go”.

Me: “See you next year.”

Perfect: his motivation, my needs as a client, the job requirements. All in perfect alignment. We knew the situation and acted accordingly. But in another situation, the GP’s job may be more akin to a nurse or a psychiatrist: exploring the patient needs, maybe doing a bit of diagnosis and then coming up with a solution, and a follow-up consultation. This will take longer and require higher levels of skill and interaction.  I’m sure my GP would have modulated his behaviour accordingly, even if it wasn’t his natural behaviour.

Recognise and adapt your communication style

So, yes internal communicators are like family doctors. They do encounter lots of different situations that require different types of behaviour. The challenge is recognise what type of situation it is, and act accordingly. Is your client expecting a “pharmacy job” or is it something more detailed? And the challenge for a communicator is to quickly work out whether the situation as defined by the client is the right one, or use high level consulting and influencing skills to move the discussion to a different level.

But no, there is no “GP archetype” because the idea of the archetypes is to define the situation, the relationship, or the transaction.

And there’s more. The model can also help you think about where you get your personal energy. Are you “Mr. Transaction”, like my doctor? Or do you prefer one of other situations? What can you as a communicator do to put yourself into those “JOIC” situations where you will be at your best: Joyful, Outcome-focused, Impactful, and Committed to success?


Stephen Welch is a communication, HR and change professional. A part-time freelance consultant and part-time communicator with Dialog Semiconductor, Stephen comes from an HR background ensuring companies have strong connections between HR and business.