I find myself wondering how I can take my skills to the next level. I have been an internal consultant for over 25 years. I continue to work at getting my expertise used and making a difference in my organization, my community, and the world. As l look for experiences that will take me to the next level, I sometimes find myself seeking “Advanced” consulting skills.
What I have learned when I am struggling to use my skills and make a difference, is that I really need to go back to the basics. World-class athletes have known for years that the key to top performance is going back to the basics. Golfers go back to their grip, stance, and set-up. Baseball pitchers focus on their arm slot and grip on the ball. Quarterbacks work on their footwork and release point. Basketball players work on the five basics of dribbling, shooting, running, passing, and jumping. As consultants—internal and external—we need to go back to the basics of Flawless Consulting by asking ourselves these self-diagnostic questions:
1. What is the agreement I have with my clients?
2. Am I focused as much on the relationship as the technical part of the work?
3. Do I truly listen to my clients/partners and share back with them what I hear?
4. Do I give support to others by specifically sharing what I appreciate, and the impact it has on me and our work?
5. Do I ask for what I want, specifically, clearly, and with empathy?
6. Do I take time to get my own clear picture of the situation before sharing my recommendations or jumping into implementation?
7. Have I identified what my own contribution is to the exact thing I am complaining about?
We sometimes hear from participants in our Flawless Consulting Workshops that it is “too basic.”
When we explore this further, we find people think they are doing the basics of consulting, but in reality, they understand the basics but aren’t implementing the basics.
We can always advance our skills in the area of our technical expertise, but our consulting skills just need more practice with the basics. When I coach individuals who are trying to get their expertise used, and they indicate they need more advanced skills, I discover several things:
They don’t put into words what they are experiencing.
They don’t listen and share with their clients what they hear.
They don’t ask for what they want.
They don’t recognize and manage resistance in themselves or their clients.
They don’t regularly share their appreciations (support) with others.
They quickly jump to implementation without taking the time to get a clear picture (discovery) of the situation.
They don’t provide feedback to others to get a collaborative decision to proceed to a solution that will be sustainable.
Intellectually, Flawless Consulting is very basic. It’s easy to understand and many people would say it is common sense. Unfortunately, it isn’t common practice in many organizations. The hard part is implementing the basics.
Here are the basic “Be’s”:
Be Direct (Put into words what you are experiencing)
Be Compassionate (Empathetic)
Be a Model for the organization you want to create
If you are struggling with getting your expertise used and you want to improve your business and personal relationships, get back to the basics!
Jeff Evans is a Vice President at Designed Learning and oversees delivery, product quality, and managing our team of international consultants. He’s been partnering with Designed Learning for over 25 years. He’s delivered training in more than ten countries to a diverse set of organizations and participants, including engineers, managers, manufacturing executives, healthcare professionals, human resources and IT.