The first step to becoming a better consultant is admitting that you are one

Hello, my name is Jon and I’m a consultant. While the admission itself makes me feel a little better, it doesn’t erase the guilt and shame I carry relative to my behaviors that have come to negatively define our field of work. Like so many of my colleagues on any given day, I use a 2×2 matrix to explain something that really needs no formal explanation or analysis. I use phrases like “it depends” or “I’d like to answer that question with a question of my own.” And, while I’ve not yet become important enough to bill by the hour, I definitely bill by the day.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAN8AAAAJDY1OTgwN2VjLWM4YTQtNDEwNy1iYWExLWY5OTRjODI2MjI1NQAll too often, we get stuck in the trap of compartmentalizing our work – selling ourselves, the subsequent “engagement,” and some manner of follow up – and we save the largest impact we make when we are contracted during the “engagement.” Really? Is this our business model and do our clients actually pay for it? Now that I write it down, I feel more like a cab driver than a business consultant.

However, thanks to counseling, a modicum of maturation, and some great work with fantastic clients, I’ve been changing my ways. I’ve come to realize that I need to deliver value in every conversation and interaction – not just when they contract for my services formally.  As consultants we exist because there is an inherent belief (or maybe hope) that we can bring unique insights and perspectives to the organizations we partner with. If that’s the case, then we’d better step up our game and deliver those results from the very first minute we are granted the opportunity to work with our clients.

Here are four ways I’ve been intentionally changing the ways I work with my clients to try and add more value:

  • When I first interact with clients, it is my job to get as smart as possible about the work they want me to perform. In the past, I would work hard to get them to contract with me before delivering anything “real.” Now I invest time and sometimes even actual dollars up front to earn the right to ask for their business. I’m in the field of human performance so this could be interviews with people actually doing the work, a day in the field with sales associates, or even time in the office going through reams of internal client data to deliver some introductory insights or conclusions. The key here is thinking about those things that add value early but secure you the opportunity to deliver long-term value (and reward).
  • I do not nickel-and-dime my clients. There, I’ve said it, go ahead and judge me. Our intellectual property is the bread and butter of our livelihood. However, let’s not be so self-important that we, as individuals, are entitled to offer tiers of service based upon the magnitude of our revelations and advice. While I may sometimes give too much to a few of my clients, I have to believe that those who will value the way I work will be the lifeblood of my future business and karma will take care of the rest.
  • Results matter and I guarantee them within reason. If I’m not confident I can deliver business outcomes then why would I position myself as the right solution in the first place? Often times I’ll either put some of my own remuneration at risk or create a mechanism by which the scope can creep a bit until we achieve what we set out to accomplish.
  • I do not dance with the devil. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed but I have taken a firm stance to not work with clients who want to pay me money to abuse me. There is a whole body of psychological research out there addressing the fact that we all believe “this time it will be different,” but let me tell you, it never is. We will never achieve breakthrough results, never satisfy both sides, never celebrate, never have any fun, and always be bitter at the end of the engagement. You’re better off eating some ramen and financing the dog’s vet bills while the right kind of business develops elsewhere. This might seem misaligned with the other three elements listed above but, trust me, you can’t deliver value if the client won’t let you.

With the combination of clinical treatment and self-awareness we can collectively change the stigma that so unfairly burdens our profession. As Lao Tzu was purported to say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” What step will you take tomorrow to create a better experience for your clients?

Source: The first step to becoming a better consultant is admitting that you are one. | Jon Hodge | LinkedIn

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Jonathan Hodge

President & C.E.O. at Advantage Performance Group
Jon focuses his primary energies on the development of new breakthrough learning systems, executive level consulting for strategic client partners and supporting the cast of team members that are the heart and soul of Advantage Performance Group.
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