On the practice of consulting
These are simply seven key points on the practice of consulting - tips and guidelines.
1. The "Golden Rule" - always start with an initial survey
The initial meeting between client and consultant is
crucial. If the client is in a rush or under
pressure, there is a danger that you might be agreeing to a
brief, resources and timescales without knowing very much at all
about the issues and difficulties.
Always aim to leave that initial meeting with an agreement to
you carrying out an initial survey so that you can assess the
task, issues and difficulties. This together with
a short proposal and a further meeting, gives both you and the
client a much better basis for moving forward.
2. If you are unsure or wish to change the brief - go back to the client
During the assignment things change. If you become at all unsure about the
brief or feel that it needs to be changed, go back to the client
and discuss it. If you feel that way then the likelihood
is that the client feels the same. If things are deviating from what
the client expects - tell them. What they want most of all is no
3. Be organised If you are acting as a consultant, the client expects that you will be professional.
that image, you do need to be well organised. If you
start to make errors or miss meetings, then that
image will be eroded. Plan and project manage your
4. Managing expectations is key
When assignments do start to flounder, in most cases it is
because a mis-match develops between the clients expectations and
what the consultant is doing. This is why in many
assignments, regular stock-takes, perhaps by note or phone, are
5. Get connected to their World
If you want to get and retain the client's confidence and respect, you need to convince them that you are connected - that you understand their world. Some key pointers are:
- get to know the client's business so that you understand their pressures, concerns and priorities;
- be aware of other projects going on so that you have a similar context to them;
- try to keep connected with the daily happenings in the
team e.g. concerns and priorities.
6. Consciously build your own reputation with the client
The more respect that the client has for you and your
work, the more impact you will have and the more they will ask
you to input. It also means that at the end you can
withdraw to return.
7. Learn to Read Situations
If managing relationships is the key to success in consulting, then it is the behaviour and interpersonal skills of the consultant that make that happen. All really skilled consultants have excellent interpersonal skills. They need them in order to read situations, build empathy with clients, and gain the trust and respect of those they are working with. The skills of listening, observing, questioning, challenging, influencing, negotiating - are fundamental to good consulting.