The Crucial Contract
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my years as a consultant is that a project’s outcome, success, or failure is highly connected to the contract set up with the client. Everything comes back to the contracting phase. Were you crystal clear on the scope? Did you agree to openly share feedback with your client? Did you ask for what you need to be successful? Do you feel like this is the right client to be working with?
One of the things we teach in Flawless Consulting is how to effectively contract with your client. The outcome of this preliminary phase is to generate an agreement about what the work is, how the work will be executed, and what underlying client relationship is needed. When this is done well, the end result feels really good. As a consultant, you feel seen, validated and set up for success.
What separates a good contracting conversation from a Flawless contracting conversation?
Whereas a good contracting conversation hits all the bullets on your agenda, a Flawless contracting conversation is characterized by depth and authenticity. It connects the players a personal level. It confirms the initial organizational issue. It allows both parties to vulnerably ask for what they want. It creates a level playing field where the consultant and the client can lean into each other for support. Sounds pretty legitimate, right?
Many times I have walked away from a contracting conversation and have felt good. It was easy. I hit everything on my agenda and the client was amiable. After reflecting, I start to think that maybe it was too easy. Did I really dig deep with the client to better understand her level of commitment? Did I address any noticeable resistance? Perhaps I contracted for giving the client feedback, but did I inquire into how that feedback should be delivered? An effective contracting conversation is thorough, relational, professional and at times edgy. Lean into the edge but maintain professional credibility.
I challenge you to go there and to model the type of relationship you want to have from the very beginning. Don’t sell yourself short during this seemingly easy, but critical step of the process. Be the bold consultant that you know you are. Get on your client’s level. This allows you to be a true strategic partner in the effort and it sets you up for success. Remember, contracting is crucial!
Arielle joined Designed Learning as a Consultant in 2019. She is a passionate change agent with deep expertise in the field of Organization Development. Arielle has modeled her near 10 years of consulting on the principles of Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting and believes the concepts are at the core of her ability to make an impact.
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