How powerful am I? What is power? Are you empowered? Power over? Power by? Power with? If only I had more power! Do I really want more power, or do I want more influence? Is there a difference?
As I think about all of the relationships of my life, power seems to have a major role. As a child, my parents had power over me. As a student, teachers and administrators had power over me. As a new employee, I gave my boss and my senior colleagues power over me. As a poor citizen in my city, I gave power to government and institutions. We have learned that the world works on a class system which relies on the belief that we must have people who have power and people who are subservient to power. In the subservient role, I seek safety and control, yet I give up freedom and choice.
In any conversation with clients, there are concerns that are rarely discussed. These doubts vary in intensity with their perceived risk and loss of control; they are personal to the individual and the situation—they are not the same for everyone.
Are you in a position to influence others, but have no authority to make changes or implement programs? If so, then you meet the definition of a “consultant” as found in Peter Block’s book, Flawless Consulting.
As internal consultants, we want to help solve our clients’ problems. We work to have our expertise used and our recommendations implemented. We strive to build and maintain partnerships with our clients.
In October 2019, Designed Learning marked the 40th anniversary of its founding with a webinar where Peter shared some thoughts on the origins of the company. It all began with a workshop, he said, that was grounded in a simple belief: relationships are decisive. What hasn’t changed over the years is this basic belief that relationships are decisive, not convenient, not rewarded, not comforting. And so it turns out that your ability to engage in honest, authentic relationships has everything to do with business performance.
In this blog post, Peter reflects farther back, into the origins of that simple belief that gave Designed Learning its footing.
Thanksgiving: a time for family, friends, football, and food… turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and of course pizza. What’s the matter? Don’t you have pizza on your Thanksgiving table?
Our Thanksgiving pizza tradition started years ago when I invited Bob, Diane, and their family to our house for Thanksgiving. They had recently moved to Connecticut and would be alone for the holiday. When I asked Bob’s children what they wanted for thanksgiving dinner his teenaged son yelled, “Pizza”! This drew a rebuke from Bob. He apologized to me and informed his son that pizza was not a traditional food for Thanksgiving.
The promise of consulting is a commitment to care and to serve. We promise to act in the interest of another, the client. This series of blog posts explored some of the complexities consultants face that interfere with our capacity to serve, even in the face of our best intentions. With this post, we wind the series up with a few more thoughts on what to do.