Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wisdom for Consulting

I have been asked by an industry colleague "what are some of the "must do's" as a Learning Relationship Manager or Learning Consultant. I thought it was worth publishing the wisdom that I have learned:

Right of client self-determination.

Borrowed from the professional ethics of social workers; however intense my desire to "help" might be, I need to stay clear on who "owns the store."

Diagnostic Questioning.

Lots of open-ended questions intended to help me "get it" from the client's perspective - in any performance issue the root causes could be many and seldom can be wholly attributed to lack of individual skill or competency. What's the performance system?

Relationship Building.

Trust is a necessary foundation for effectiveness. Some of the most interesting (and value-adding) work has come because I developed no-agenda relationships with line managers. When they need help, they turn to you first, and because they have a developed sense of who you are and what you can do, the work runs smoothly. Balance tending to relationships with, tending to tasks. Trust gets you better information and understanding; it also provides a stable platform for providing clients with feedback they need to hear but may be unwilling to (i.e., "you're baby's ugly").

Situational Analysis & Systems Thinking.

See #2; this is a variation of the same theme. "We need customer service training!" is really a symptom flag. Find out why they think training is needed, and you're on your way to understanding the problem. Apply rigorous analysis of the systemic factors surrounding performance and you're on your way to uncovering root causes.

Customised solutions (mass customisation).

Performance can wear an individual face, even when the performance system affects all individuals. Improving performance is often a matter of finding the right individual path to improvement. One size may/may not fit all. Beware!

Client involvement/engagement.

Again, be clear on who owns the store. Approaches/things will only succeed to the extent that the solution is owned/developed by the client.

Respect for client's business.

We serve all type of organizations and people, but I would shrivel and die if I had to do some of their jobs. For instance, some people would get excited over a new complex piece of federal legislation and thrive on the challenge of implementing into the organisation. We should honor their commitment, capability, and enthusiasm.

Respect for client's understanding.

Flip side of the above - they would shrivel and die if they had to do what I do. A great rule of thumb: "Start where the client is, not where I think s/he should be." But nurture the client's understanding carefully, as it's essential for.........

Client self-sufficiency as goal (moving up the value chain).

Leave the client smarter with every encounter. This is not advocating developing clients to the point where "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," but ensuring you pay attention to opportunities to reduce the client's dependency on "experts." The client owns the store, after all, including many of the key elements of the total performance system Engaging the client through each step along the way leaves residual understanding that the client can apply independently after you're gone.

Something for you to ponder........

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