Everyone’s a Yannis

Always could believe all the things you tell to me
Always could believe the advice you give
Every day I bless the day you started to guide me
But lately, baby, I wonder if you’ve gone too far.
These days, everyone’s a Yannis, that’s the truth.
Giving advice is such a thrill. But sometimes it’s not right.

(with apologies to Errol Brown and Hot Chocolate … and Bootsauce)

“Everyone’s a Yannis.” What’s the truth? What does it mean?

Viral epidemics are no joke. We need to take them seriously. And many business leaders are struggling for a response. So it is no surprise that they turn to their strategic advisers for guidance.

Here at Archetypical, we have identified five types of strategic advisers. They are best explained via the analogy of a restaurant (click here for more details):
• Yannis the Yelper who provides the solution immediately.
• Martha the Maître d’ who is responsible for your overall experience.
• William the Waiter who takes orders.
• Salma the Sommelier who engages you in a chat about ‘solutions’.
• Christiane the Chef who is the technical expert you may never meet.

Many HRBPs and communication professionals complain that they are put into William roles, relegated to the job of order-taking and not adding value beyond telling managers (customers) what the soup of the day is.

Lately, though, we are seeing a surge of the Yannis archetype: advisers who feel that their role is to ‘instruct’ or ‘tell’. A ‘Yannis’ always knows best and positions themselves as the expert: he or she ‘knows’ the right solution. For example, here are some recent posts in my Linkedin feed:
• 5 Communication tips on how to deal with Covid-19.
• 10 ways HRBPs can reassure employees about Coronavirus.
• How to be productive while working at home.
• A checklist for employee communications around Coronavirus.
• Check out our blog to effectively lead during and after the outbreak.
• etc.

A Yannis is a good person to have by your side in a crisis. He or she will always have the answer and help you short-cut a complicated process; removing doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes it is helpful to have the decision taken away from you; let Yannis do the work – do what he says and you won’t go wrong.

A Yannis backed up by expertise is even better. When a medical professional appears on TV and plays Yannis; you will get reassurance and clear instructions.

However, there is a downside.

The challenge of the Yannis role is that s/he doesn’t know anything about your context, your circumstances, the specific situation of your organization, or your culture. When everyone’s a Yannis, you never can explain what’s happening to you.

As a Yannis, it is very tempting to blurt out the answer and share your ideas, but the challenge is that you might not be taken seriously because your advice is not helpful given the specific situation. Because s/he doesn’t take the receiver’s specific situation into account, there is a risk that Yannis gets side-lined and the advice is relegated to ‘noise’. For example, we all know to treat on-line hotel or Yelp reviews carefully and think for ourselves when deciding which reviewer (which Yannis) to listen to.

If you decide that Covid-19 constitutes a crisis for your organization, then Yannis can make a contribution. But if, on the other hand, you are still in the ‘taking precautions’ or ‘prevent’ phase then maybe you need Salma the Sommelier instead.

Salma – like all good wine waiters – operates quite differently from Yannis. She has equal (if not better) expertise but instead of telling the customer immediately what wine ‘solution’ to have (“here is my list of 10 wines you must have”), she’ll have a conversation and help you determine the best response, taking into account your specific context and requirements. She might have the checklist in her head but rather than blurting out the whole thing like Yannis would, she’ll guide you to one or two best answers for your business. Just like a sommelier will help you choose the right wine for you.

As strategic advisers, our ‘win’ is when leaders or clients listen and act on our advice. The challenge is to frame your advice in the best way to create success. Sometimes it is right to play Yannis. But there are other times when you need to play a different role.

Enter Salma.

“When everyone’s a Yannis, it’s no joke.
But baby, it’s amazing how wonderful it is,
when the roles we like to play can often change.”