What are you agreeing to?

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?


(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?


(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?


(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

Developing Flawless Clients

Flawless Consulting is the popular workshop and book by Peter Block, which are designed to develop skills that increase an internal consultant’s ability to have a strong and positive impact on their client’s business results. Individuals in staff positions such as human resources, training, organizational development, information systems, finance, safety, purchasing, and engineering have all benefited from Flawless Consulting over the years.

Recently, I was delivering a workshop to one such group: Human Resources. Near the end of the second day and after much exploration of the Flawless Consulting process and skills, a participant asked, “I love all this content for myself as a consultant. It would be great if my client could hear it as well. Do you have a class for them . . . on how to be a flawless client?”

After some laughter and agreement in the room, we talked about this idea of the flawless client. Who are they? What do they do or not do that makes them flawless? How can we as consultants help?

In his book Flawless Consulting, Block asserts that a consultant is a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, group, or organization, but with no power to make changes or implement programs. Most people in staff or support roles are really consultants, even if they don’t call themselves one. And if we take that thinking further, many of our clients may find themselves in the consultant role, too.

Most professionals are working in cross-functional, cross-business groups and other work models that do not maintain strict vertical business units grouped by function and geography. So, a client today may be a consultant tomorrow.


If we agree that any client may also be a consultant, the answer to how we help them becomes a whole lot simpler. Here are some ideas.

  • While we don’t have a workshop called Flawless Clients, we do have Flawless Consulting. Anyone inside your organization who is in a position to influence without the power to make the changes would be an excellent candidate. Invite them to attend—and if they do, get together to talk about what they learned and how it can help your own relationship moving forward. Many leaders/clients have attended the workshop and found great value in the experience.

  • Remember, we learn from each other—directly or indirectly. By being a Flawless Consultant, you are inviting your clients to learn from you through what you say and what you do. Have a discussion about the consulting process—specifically, as part of your conversations to lay the groundwork for how you will work together, not just what work you will do. Encourage questions and be intentional in sharing what you are doing and why. Throughout the process, ask the question, “What did we learn from that?” Push the pause button to reflect before moving on to the next task or step.

  • In any consulting agreement, maximum client involvement will occur to the extent that you involve them. Our goal as Flawless Consultants is to be collaborative, where the engagement is a 50/50 partnership with our client to solve a given problem. When collaborative, the client must be actively involved in data gathering and analysis, setting goals and developing action plans, and finally, sharing responsibility for success or failure. When we are collaborative, problem-solving becomes a joint undertaking: the better the odds for success after the consultant has left and the more that is learned.

When we are being authentic with our clients and completing the business of consulting in each phase, we are being Flawless. Even so, it won’t always mean our clients become flawless too. According to Block, “Your job, as a consultant, is to present information as simply, directly, and assertively as possible, and to complete the tasks of each phase of the consultation. That’s all there is to do, and it’s within each of us to do that perfectly.” Do that perfectly, and perhaps your clients will follow.

Beverly Crowell is an experienced facilitator, speaker, thought leader, and author specializing in the areas of business operations, organization, employee and human resources development.

A “Flawless” Conversation with your Boss

This is the most important ongoing conversation that you have in your organization. It sets the guidelines for how you and your boss will work together. It is the beginning of a partnership with your boss and a step toward empowerment for you.

Most of us believe that we are already having such conversations. I know I did. Yet when I dig deeper with people, I find that most conversations were as a benevolent parent (boss) to a compliant child (employee), not as partners.

First step: you will have to initiate this meeting. Do not wait for your boss. He or she has a lot going on so such a conversation isn’t on their radar. Prepare for the conversation by getting clear about the situation you are facing and what you want from your boss.

The contracting meeting from Flawless Consulting offers an excellent format with a couple of variations. Here are the key elements of the conversation.

Describe the situation. This is an opportunity to take ownership of your work, projects, etc., and describe how you want to complete the work. It is being proactive. Consider statements like:

  • Here’s what I see happening…

  • This is what I am working on…

  • Here’s what I’m planning to do…

  • These are the boundaries and constraints as I see them…

  • This is the priority I see for this work/project…

  • What information do you have that might change any of this?

Share your wants/offers. “The support, resources, understanding I want from you is… (be specific)”

Ask the boss for his/her wants/offers. “What do you want from me?”

Ask for concerns. “What concerns do you have about how I plan to proceed? What’s at risk for you, Boss?”

Summarize your conversation and offer to send an email outlining what you discussed.

I remember my first conversation like this with my boss. I was a nervous wreck anticipating all kinds of terrible endings, Once we got started, it became surprisingly pleasant… two adults talking as colleagues. Over the next few years, our relationship changed more to a partnership, then to a trusted advisor.

I learned to initiate these conversations in situations, like whenever I…

  • Had a new assignment

  • Planned something new

  • Attended training or development workshops

  • Learned about something that should be brought to the boss’ attention

  • Changed job assignments

In the Flawless Consulting Skills workshops, I began to ask participants to schedule a conversation with their bosses to discuss the workshop content and what they wanted to continue their learning.

So, here’s my encouragement to you. Schedule a conversation with your boss over the next five business days about something you’re working on, and go have a talk using the format above. It will take courage and it will change your relationship. Give it a try.

I’d love to hear your stories. Drop me a note. Let me know how it’s going.

Charles L Fields was a highly acclaimed Senior Consultant at Designed Learning and a lover of life. He traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship, watched the sunrise on Croagh Patrick, and set on Victoria Peak, weathered a perfect storm in the Pacific, bartered for a darbuka in the Grand Bazaar, prayed at Lord Nelson’s Sarcophagus, ate lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world. His prolific and thought-provoking writing contributed to the design and re-design of many DL products, including Flawless Consulting, Empowerment, and Stewardship. Charlie shared his passion for this body of work in over 25 countries. His impact is a blessing.

Collaborative Consulting: Three Degrees of Difficulty

Consulting—especially collaborative consulting—requires artful presence and, consequently, is inherently difficult. It requires us to manage at three levels simultaneously: the consulting process, our relationship with the client, and ourselves.

In my view, Peter Block’s description of a practitioner-based process represents one of the great contributions of Flawless Consulting. Collaborative consulting requires paying attention to the process while simultaneously being willing to improvise within it. This represents the first degree of difficulty.

W. Edwards Deming, in his quality control work (and I think he is not fully appreciated as an OD practitioner), discusses “natural” vs “special” variation. Collaborative consulting has a lot of natural variation resulting from organizational complexity and the uncertainty of human behavior. The problem with behavioral “science” is that the standard deviations are significant. Little we do is 100% predictable, yet there is an underlying process we as consultants are responsible for knowing and following.

Can I use the contracting conversation to open the doors to discovery and the meeting for decision? Can I renegotiate my wants when the scope and scale of the work changes? Can I confront the client with how his behavior affects the situation we are discussing? Can I identify the real client?

Each client is unique. Do I have the interpersonal flexibility to adapt to and connect with my clients? Can I interact with compassion and authenticity? So, managing the client relationship in a way that engenders trust and openness represents the second degree of difficulty.

Personally, I apply Carl Jung’s principles (and teach them) as part of my consulting and coaching practice. My personal favorite is Insights Discovery—but the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, and others all rest on the same foundation. What clues to the client rest in the physical appearance of her/his office? Is it neatly arranged and orderly with a lot of manuals? I’m probably going to need to be precise and detail oriented in my approach. Is it more casual with toys and a playful feel? I probably need to dial up my extroverted-feeling energy. In adapting, I have to remind myself that introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling, sensing/intuition are preferences I’ve developed and not hard-wired characteristics.

 If I want to connect (and we teach the principle of connection before content in our work), I will be more successful if I can move closer to the client’s preferences.

Managing myself in the face of client behavior, emotional resistance, lack of responsiveness, indecisiveness, and intellectual challenges represents the third degree of difficulty. For me personally, attitude toward authority is something I must continually monitor. There is a part of me that wants to find those who have power wrong simply because they have power. There is a part of me that wants to be viewed as capable. There is a part of me that wants to be seen as helpful. When I indulge any of these wants uncritically and without awareness, I can get in trouble as a consultant. If I am sitting in judgment, true connection will be unlikely. If I want to be seen as knowledgeable, I can get into expert mode. If I am intimidated by the client’s power, I might withhold valuable feedback or lapse into a pair of hands work because it feels safer.

How we handle these personal issues materially affects how we do our work. Let me conclude with a reference to Shakespeare. There are clients who want to seduce us into offering “expert” advice that supports their view of the world. This is captured in Julius Caesar in Act 2, Scene 1, when Metellus says:

“Oh, let us have him, for his silver hairs
Will purchase us a good opinion,
And buy men’s voices to commend our deeds
It shall be said his judgement ruled our hands.
Our youths and wildness shall no whit appear,
But all be buried in his gravity.”

My translation: the change agents (Metellus, Brutus, and their confederates) recruit an “expert consultant” (gray-haired Cicero) to cover for their insecurity and sell their change strategy (assassinate Caesar).

Jeff has been affiliated with Designed Learning for more than 20 years.

Having held leadership positions in marketing, sales, organizational development, and HR, Jeff brings years of large-system experience in internal consulting to his work with Designed Learning. Jeff believes that when the human spirit thrives, organizations thrive as well.

Another Look at Resistance

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.

Doubts and concerns get expressed through different behaviors. You see them as:

  • direct statements;

  • indirect expressions;

  • wrong questions; or

  • wanting proof, a promise, or power before committing to a course of action.

At the heart of these expressions are emotional harsh realities—the real doubts, concerns, or fears that the client has about the project or whatever you are discussing. These are expressions of refusal without actually saying “No.”

They are nature’s way of telling you something important is going on! They are signs of change and learning. They are not to be overcome, but to be understood and expressed. Don’t take them personally. That will only get in the way of your dealing with them effectively.

These doubts and concerns are not legitimate objections. Objections are generally logical.

The general techniques for addressing objections—making the business case; giving more proof; bartering; talking about features, benefits, and advantages—will not address the concerns . . . they usually make it worse! In these conversations, we are faced with two internal struggles: the client’s and ours.

The Client’s Internal Struggle:

  •  “Often when we’re talking, I will have concerns about what we’re discussing.

  • For me to tell you my doubts, I need to know that it’s safe for me to talk.

  • Deep inside, I worry that if I tell you my doubts, you’ll judge me, condemn me, expose meand this puts me at risk. 

  • When I am at risk, I feel vulnerable and can get hurt.

  • If I think I’ll get hurt, I‘ll act to protect myself.

  • I protect myself by trying to control the conversation and limiting your choices and actions.”

The Client’s Hope: to keep the conversation comfortable by not talking about my concerns.

The Consultant’s Internal Struggle:

  • “Often when we’re talking, your behaviors suggest that you may have concerns about what we’re discussing.

  • For me to let you talk about your doubts, I need to know that it’s safe for me to ask.

  • Deep inside, I worry that if I confront your doubts, you’ll become angry with me, yell at me, threaten meand this puts me at risk. 

  • When I am at risk, I feel vulnerable and can get hurt.

  • If I think I’ll get hurt, I‘ll act to protect myself.

  • I protect myself by offering a more compelling business case, bartering, going along, or withdrawing.”

The Consultant’s Hope: to keep the conversation comfortable by not confronting your behaviors.

This struggle is self-defeating. To break the cycle, the consultant needs to choose to confront what’s going on and create a safe space for the client to talk. To do this, we can:

1. Take the client’s side by listening, being patient, and seeking understanding.

2. Recognize the behaviors and not taking them personally.

3. Suspend our judgment by not interpreting the behaviors.

4. Choose to change the conversation that follows.

5. Ask questions of curiosity about their concerns instead of giving advice.

6. Act with courage.

I’d love to hear about your Resistance stories. Drop me a note. Let me know how it’s going.

Charles L Fields was a highly acclaimed Senior Consultant at Designed Learning and a lover of life. He traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship, watched the sunrise on Croagh Patrick, and set on Victoria Peak, weathered a perfect storm in the Pacific, bartered for a darbuka in the Grand Bazaar, prayed at Lord Nelson’s Sarcophagus, ate lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world. His prolific and thought-provoking writing contributed to the design and re-design of many DL products, including Flawless Consulting, Empowerment, and Stewardship. Charlie shared his passion for this body of work in over 25 countries. His impact is a blessing.

Tips And Traps For Internal Consultants

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.

Too many times, the results we get fall short of what we want. Too often, we end up with no-win consulting situations. Flawless Consulting outlines the five phases of consulting—Contracting, Diagnosis, Feedback, Implementation, and Evaluation—and offers a process that will minimize those no-win/no-fun situations.

Contracting, Diagnosis, and Feedback are considered the preliminary events. Consulting project failure can usually be traced to failure in one of these phases. What follows is a brief description of the purpose of each phase, with some tips and traps to help you be more successful.


The purpose of the Contracting phase is to negotiate roles and responsibilities, and to reach an agreement on how to proceed with the project.

TIP: State YOUR wants for the project. Clients usually spell out what THEY want from a project, but as consultants, we frequently don’t! Answer this question before your next contracting meeting—”What do I want front the client to make this a successful project?” We usually don’t get what we want because we don’t ask!

TRAP: Solving the client’s problem during the contracting meeting! Our tendency is to listen and prescribe immediately. We often think that this is what the client wants—immediate solutions. But a rush to solution trivializes the client’s situation. We need good active listening skills here, not quick solutions.


During the Diagnosis phase, we attempt to draw our own clear, independent picture of “what’s happening” and identify how the client is contributing to the situation.

TIP: Focus on things that the client CAN control. This helps build commitment. Too often, clients claim helplessness because we identify things that need to be fixed but are beyond the client’s control.

TRAP: Working on the technical side of the problem only! There are two sides to every problem—the technical side and the “how is it being managed?” side. Here’s an example…

Technical: The organization wants to implement a new strategic planning process.

How it is managed: The people involved in planning feel that this is another “flavor of the month”… here we go again… another change to the process.

You can go through the motions of teaching them how to use the new process, but unless you get to the level of dealing with their commitment, nothing will actually change.


The Feedback phase usually causes the most anxiety, but it is where we earn our money! In many instances, the client’s perception of the problem is different from the REAL problem. So, we have to tell the client what we’ve learned, deal with their reserva­tions, AND get a decision to act.

TIP: Use language that clearly and simply describes the situation, identifies the client’s contribution, and includes the impact on business. Such language will help focus on the real issues and prevent drifting into non-productive discussions.

TRAP: “Dumping all your data” and expecting the client to sift through it for the relevant elements. We tend to love what we’ve learned and present ALL of it to the client. We also tend to lace it with the jargon of the day. Remember, our task is to present a clear, simple picture.

A final thought…

In Flawless Consulting, Block likens our role as consultants to that of a courtroom. We could act as the judge, jury, defendant, prosecutor, etc. So, a final TIP: Act as a Witness to the situation, reflecting only what you see going on. TRAP: Acting as Judge and Jury (and sometimes executioner!) destroys trust and credibility.

Think about it… read the book… practice consulting “flawlessly”!

What’s Thanksgiving Without Pizza?

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.

Thanksgiving Day came and I set a large pizza on the table, near the turkey. Bob and Diane were stunned. My in-laws were shocked. All the kids were ecstatic. It was a first. Some one commented that pizza wasn’t traditional… and invoked the Lord’s forgiveness for what I’d done. “Be careful. You are tampering with sacred Thanksgiving traditions!”

Many things we take for granted were not at the original Thanksgiving. Sorry, there was no pumpkin pie, stuffing, or sweet potatoes. And no football games or forks! Forks? There were no forks at the first Thanksgiving. They were not in use at the time!

We all create traditions. For example, when our family learned that many international students at the nearby university stayed on campus for the holiday, we started inviting a few to join us for Thanksgiving.

They came from countries like China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Taiwan We would include a dish from their countries at the meal as a way to honor them. Our pizza grew into many other dishes. Sharing their stories about life and foods in their country became part of the tradition. Great memories!

You’ve seen traditions in your work life—these are the “policies, procedures, rules and regulations” that once organized us later taking on a life of their own. Some of them are sacred. For example, I tried consolidating engineering reports into a single format. One report that took 4 hours weekly to complete went to 5 people who filed it away without reading it! I asked to eliminate it and was told, “We can’t, that’s SVP X’s report.” Seemed strange since he had retired nearly a year ago!

So, what do traditions have to do with Flawless Consulting? In Flawless Consulting Skills workshops, we confront “organizational traditions”—the choices people make about the roles they assume and the conversations they have.

Some traditions may hinder growth—individual and corporate. The workshop helps people see the alternatives to their “traditional roles.”

Ask yourself a few questions like these to confront your own traditions:

  • What is the original purpose of our tradition?

  • What makes it important us?

  • How does this tradition strengthen us and add value to our lives and work?

  • What appeals to us or concerns us about this tradition?

Now if you find yourself still thinking, “This is silly. We would never have pizza at Thanksgiving,” it may be time to ask yourself, “Why not? Maybe you could make the pizza with turkey and cranberries! Remember it’s not about the food… it’s about sharing the food with others, giving thanks, and experiencing fellowship.

So, this year at your Thanksgiving dinner, add something new, something unusual, give thanks to God, and bless your family. That day I’ll send you my greetings from our home, where we’ll be eating a seafood pizza as part of our celebration. Who knows? Maybe you’ll add that to your traditional Thanksgiving!

I’d love to hear about your traditions. Drop me a note. Let me know how you celebrate.

Charles L Fields was a highly acclaimed Senior Consultant at Designed Learning and a lover of life. He traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship, watched the sunrise on Croagh Patrick, and set on Victoria Peak, weathered a perfect storm in the Pacific, bartered for a darbuka in the Grand Bazaar, prayed at Lord Nelson’s Sarcophagus, ate lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world. His prolific and thought-provoking writing contributed to the design and re-design of many DL products, including Flawless Consulting, Empowerment, and Stewardship. Charlie shared his passion for this body of work in over 25 countries. His impact is a blessing.

Consulting Complexities: Final Thoughts on What to Do

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.

Show How Everybody Counts

The whole system is your client. All parts of it need to be supported to learn and to be fully informed. Ensure that the client manager making the decision to hire you is as vulnerable to the effects of the change effort as those at other levels of the organization. If a project begins as a way to control or change others, it will be very difficult to leave this intention behind, regardless of how inclusive and participative the process. Real change has to be chosen; it is a voluntary act. If we are in the business of joining with the top to change others, we have become an agent of top management—and a part of the problem. We have become a stealth operation that will eventually undermine trust and make it harder the next time around.
Ask whether you would be willing for all members of the client organization to be witnesses to the selling and planning conversations you have with the client—a fresh-air test to the promises we make and the plans we develop. Meeting this test would change many conversations. Plus, it would be harder to blame people not in the room and harder to plan for the transformation of others.

Leave It All Behind

Commit yourself to the concept of building capacity. Clients have the capacity to learn and create for themselves the future they thought they needed a consultant to provide. Your job is fundamentally to be an educator, not a problem solver.

You may have to solve problems in the short run, but over time you need to develop ways for people to learn about your expertise. Be a support system for your clients’ self-sufficiency.

And Finally, Forgive

In thinking about these conflicts and paradoxes, forgiveness is required. No one can fully live according to his or her beliefs. That is why we are called humans. In fact that is why, in the first consulting act, God suggested to the serpent that he chat with Eve. By eating the apple, she and Adam lost their paradise and gained their humanity and all the freedom and flaws that go with it.

What we can do with our freedom is tell the truth, at least to ourselves, about the choices we make. If we take business because we need the money, so be it. If we over-promise because that is the only way things will move forward, if we seek too much approval from the top, if we are swept along with a fad and find ourselves mimicking the language of others—all of these are forgivable.

What is hard to forgive is self-delusion and positioning ourselves as a cut above our clients and others who do our work. This is pride and hubris, and it seems to come with our working papers. It is our own awareness and courage to see who we are that enables us to offer the service and care that is the best of the profession.