What are you agreeing to?

As an internal consultant, I often hear messages embedded within the culture and hierarchy of the organization about how my work should be conducted. Pressure to be strategic in relationships, speak in an indirect way, and ignore what I’m experiencing at the moment. Those things define my dilemma. Mandates to “never say no” and expectations to convert difficult clients make internal consulting a high-risk endeavor. What I agree to can limit my expertise getting use. It also could amplify the possibility my consulting will be of lasting service.

“We need to run this like a business!”

This statement presumes more control, oversight, and predictability is what is needed. Agreeing to be controlled by this false safety that dehumanizes the culture in the workforce overlooks the most important element of this statement: We! The route to genuine change is less obvious than a list and some milestones. More prescription is what ensures tomorrow will be no more different than yesterday. Relationship is the delivery system of anything we’re looking to accomplish. Agreeing to answer, “What will people do differently because of anything we do together?” invites an exploration of answers that establishes a collaborative relationship and builds client commitment.

“The traditional sense of consulting is not what is needed here.”

As internal consultants, we’re often handed something someone else has started. In response to my want to have a more collaborative partnership with a client, my boss conveyed, “The traditional sense of consulting is not what is needed here.” Ah! The importance of making agreements with the client and my boss within a triangular contract. It is easier for me to agree to do the bidding of my boss as a pair of hands or as an expert. It is better for me to agree to our exchange of what we want of each other. A workable agreement between me and my boss is crucial to a successful client agreement. Just because being collaborative may not always be possible is not a reason to avoid authentically expressing in words what I want to get my expertise used. What future agreements could my boss learn to make with clients through agreements I make with her?

“This client likes to think they are special and is known for getting whatever they want.”

While facilitating a request for my team’s services, a relationship manager cautioned, “This client likes to think they are special and is known for getting whatever they want.” By agreeing to this, I’m confronted with how I am creating the world I’m living in. How might the client work within agreements where consultants have not directly expressed what they want? Could my belief in, and worse, retelling of stories about ogres and angels be contributing to the problem? Could it be prohibiting my expertise from being used? I can agree to look beyond my heroic wish to be all-powerful and successful, reflected in my own concerns of relevance, competence, and self-esteem. Also, I agree to see what is human about clients. I agree to acknowledge how they have similar concerns about losing control, becoming vulnerable, and making a commitment.

We can agree to identify the high self-trust choices we all have as internal consultants. Agree to be ourselves or agree to conform to the expectations we think others have of us. We can agree to play roles and adopt internally alien behavior. Agree to represent some loss of ourselves or agree to present information as simply, directly, and assertively as possible. We can agree to recycle familiar messages or agree to engage people together in a conversation they didn’t expect to have. We can agree not to collude and instead embark on a high-adventure path, operating in a realm of greater risk and reward while still earning the respect and appreciation of our clients, where we give up some safety in service of increased power, impact, and influence.

By JP Tier

Is Your Consulting Flawless?

As consulting professionals, each interaction with a client offers an opportunity to allow the flawless consultant within us to emerge. So is your consulting flawless? The preliminary events of consulting are where we have the most leverage to create successful outcomes during implementation. Furthermore, our reactions to a client, our feelings during conversations, our ability to solicit feedback from the client and give feedback to the client—can accelerate trust, instill balanced responsibility, and build client commitment throughout the consulting process. So, what strikes you about these choices?

Contracting

(Dealing with emotional issues and agreeing on how to proceed)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
How’s the weather in your area today?Things have not gone smoothly in our history of working together. That concerns me and I want to rewrite that history. What personal meaning do you find in what we’re doing?
How long has this been going on? Have you tried…?I hear your concern for… And what I hear really matters to you is…
What do you want from this project?What do you want from me?
It would be good to get your support on this.I want you to make the decision when others on this project come to a standstill or impasse.
Based on what we’ve discussed, next steps are…What doubts and reservations do you have about our agreement to work together?
I completely understand. Now, back to…You’ve really helped me see what’s at stake for you. Thank you for trusting me in that way. How do you feel about proceeding?

Discovery

(Discovering the underlying dimensions of the problem)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
I’m here to diagnose the problem.What can we create together that we cannot create alone?
What seems to be the problem?What capacities and strengths of others would make this successful?
What process seems to be missing?How is conflict managed?
Who has solved this elsewhere, and how do we import that knowledge?What is your contribution to the problem?
How did this problem start?What’s the future you want to see?
It sounds like the problem is… What if you…?What do you need to do to create the future you’ve described?

Feedback

(Getting the client to act on the underlying issues)

ConsultingFlawless Consulting
I’m here to teach you how to…What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform this group and inspire you?
As you can see on slide #36…Something you may have control over is… Something you can do is… What’s your reaction to what I just shared?
Another reason my recommendation will work is…What ideas do you recommend for turning this around?
Let me explain a third time what I mean.Are you getting what you want from this meeting?
Believe me—my plan is solid.Here are the choices you have. What promise are you willing to make that constitutes a risk or major shift for you?
I’ll send you the PowerPoint.Something you’ve done in this conversation that’s been of value to me is…

Flawless consultation means consulting as best we can, independent of outcomes. Letting our behavior be consistent with our beliefs and feelings. Trusting ourselves to raise the stakes, engage in caring confrontation, offer strong support, and ensure affirmation of what each of us knows. This is the path that serves us well with clients and increases the chances that our expertise will be used again and again. Make your consulting flawless today. Learn more here.

by JP Tier

3 Reasons Why Reading Flawless Consulting Is Not Enough

Yes, reading is fundamental. And as a valuable and essential method of learning, it does have its limitations, particularly when it comes to acquiring practical skills. Solely relying on reading to learn a skill can be as limiting as learning how to ride a bike by only reading an instruction manual. Mere words on a page won’t help you learn how to maintain balance, coordinate pedaling, steering, and braking, or anticipate obstacles. To avoid getting a flat tire when influencing others, here are 3 reasons why only reading Flawless Consulting is not enough to get your expertise used:

  1. Complex Skills: Consulting skills are intricate and multifaceted, requiring a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. For instance, you may read about the many steps required of consultants within each Consulting Phase, but without actually practicing and honing these steps, you won’t become proficient. Which steps might you have forgotten? What’s possible in reviewing these helpful checklists and worksheets with your clients and asking for their agreement to experience them together?
  2. Lack of Practical Application: Reading alone doesn’t provide hands-on experience. Consulting skills require practice and real-world application to truly master them. Without practical experience, you may struggle to translate theoretical knowledge into real-world actions. For example, consultants often find it easy to ask clients for what they want but can’t imagine putting directly into words what they want from the client to make a project successful. It’s not until this vital skill is practiced that asking for what you want becomes fathomable. Did you know Designed Learning offers coaching and consulting to help you solve problems and impact relationships? How might a conversation with one of Designed Learning’s certified coaches help you implement what you’ve read?
  3. Social Interaction and Collaboration: Consulting skills involve connecting and collaborating with others. Reading alone may not adequately prepare you for real-world interactions that are essential for flawless consultation. When learning a skill, feedback is crucial for improvement. Reading doesn’t offer immediate feedback on your performance or help you identify and correct mistakes in real-time. Did you know that even before the book was published, author Peter Block designed Flawless Consulting as a workshop? It’s true! Our Flawless Consulting® workshop inspires mastery of the promises and phases of the renowned book with an interactive and powerful learning experience. Through use of case studies, role plays, and simulations, participants gain insight into their own individual consulting skills, try new behaviors, and test assumptions to see what impact changes may have on their results and satisfaction back on the job.

Engaging with a skill beyond reading, such as through practical application and experiential learning, can enhance your motivation and enthusiasm for learning. Reading alone might not provide the same level of motivation. Better to combine it with hands-on practice, real-world experience, and interactive learning methods to fully develop your consulting skills. Just like learning to ride a bike, Designed Learning’s solutions and services ensure your skills to have your expertise used, transform organizations, and build healthy partnerships will quickly come back to you when needed.

by JP Tier