If a client wasn’t growing, changing, implementing, building the organization of the future, they wouldn’t need a consultant. If a client was content with the status quo, they wouldn’t need a consultant.
That said, as a consultant you will find yourself on occasion questioning the past decisions or current decisions a client is making. How did they get to the place of multiple instances, redundant systems, silos, applications so customized they can’t be maintained efficiently, etc, etc, etc.
Laura Kelly, one of Keyot’s founders, gave a great and simple analogy. She loves to cook and I know from personal experience she is good at it. Anyone who has been to one of her dinner parties will attest to her culinary skills. She mentioned doing her yearly “clean out the spice cupboard” only to find she had 4 jars of cumin, 3 seasoned salts and several pepper variations when anyone could get the job done.
She asked the question…doesn’t this make me a crazy chef? Am I stupid? Where was my head when I made these purchases? The answer of course, like our clients, is of course not. Maybe my husband bought one, maybe it was on sale or buy one and get one free special. Who knows? Decisions were made with the best of intentions at the time. I may not love every recipe of Laura’s and we would talk about it but I wouldn’t dream of criticizing Laura’s cooking as I want to stay on the guest list!
As a consultant first “consult thy self”. Understand your own personal style when frustrated at the client site. Ask yourself: Do I tend to be the black and white, right and wrong type and question why don’t they see the world the way I do? Do I absorb the feelings of those around me and jump in to grumble at the lunch table or around the water cooler? Am I impatient with the time it takes to make what I feel are simple changes? Is my backup style anger or sarcasm? Am I a Pollyanna? Or do I just put my head down and ride the wave wherever it goes saying, not my problem?
Know transformation is hard and time consuming work for any company. It is also hard for us as consultants when we care about the work we do on behalf of our client. Remember as a consultant you are needed to help make positive change.
Consider these 10 Tips:
- Keep it perspective. You will never know all the reasons behind past decisions or the data points at the time. Respect all the great work and decisions that were made to grow a company to a fortune 1000 or a global player.
- Highlight progress, no matter how small.
- Demonstrate thought leadership- offer insights you have learned along the way.
- Consider Timing- when drowning, you need a life jacket, not a travel agent.
- Let go of what you can’t change.
- Be a role model for what you want to see. Nothing influences like results.
- Be Fact based-use data not emotions when communicating during frustrating times.
- Stay outcome focused-see the end game, not just the play.
- Appreciate that you are needed and show it.
- Remember you are a “guest” in your clients “home”. You may not love the recipe very day, but they do put food on the table!