What should I do if my client's staff attacks my recommendation(s)?
Try to avoid getting defensive. After all, your client's staff might actually be right in questioning your recommendations. They also might have "other" motivations, may be operating under very different assumptions than you are, or even feel defensive themselves. Perhaps you were not clear enough in presenting your recommendations to the team. If any of the above are true, getting defensive will probably not help.
So what do you do? First, try to gain an understanding on where you and the staff differ. Clarify your assumptions, rationale, conclusions, and specific recommendations and be prepared to modify them if required. Let them know that you want to better understand their thinking by asking a few questions.
Here are three potential examples:
- "Folks, I was assuming the following parameters are present (describe them). Are my assumptions in sync with yours?"
- "Perhaps I was not clear in what I was recommending. May I ask you a few questions to help me understand your concerns with my recommendations a little better?"
- "I am sensing that I might have 'stepped on some toes' here. That was absolutely not my intention. Help me to better understand your thinking and concerns, and let me see if I can clarify where I was coming from."
Listen carefully to how they respond and be open to changing your approach where appropriate. While dealing with the individuals or group, be sure you respect their thinking and acknowledge the validity of their approach. Move on to clarify your approach and explain why it has merit. Tip:
The next time you present your recommendations to the client's staff, try labeling them "Preliminary Recommendations for Discussion Purposes". This might set a much better tone for the presentation, showing clearly that you are looking for staff input. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA