Client staff sometimes characterize a consultant's recommendations and suggestions to suit their own purposes. What should I be on guard for to make sure my recommendations aren't distorted after I make them?
Be aware of several very subtle yet powerful techniques that change people's perspectives in a way you didn't intend:
- Calling something a "notion" or "suggestion" or "idea" diminishes the strength of your recommendation. If you are sure of your recommendations, be sure to use that word in presenting it.
- Personalizing ownership of your recommendation (e.g., "Joe's idea") can sometimes prompt divisiveness, even if it is the consultant's idea. Let a concept (or recommendation) stand on its merits and not carry the baggage (good or bad) of its source.
- Describing the idea as "new" or "bold" or "aggressive" can put a spin on your suggestion that might not be accurate, and may be off-putting to those who have heard (or tried) it before.
- Aligning the recommendation with some functionality (e.g., "the marketing-based proposal" or "IT-focused approach" can erroneously suggest that the idea "belongs" inaccurately to some group or heading.
- People changing the intended focus when describing your recommendation. For example, your proposal for improving return on marketing investment by decreasing the number of pages in an advertising flyer to focus on key sale items might be incorrectly characterized in the meeting as "cutting advertising costs" instead of "maximizing advertising effectiveness". This might elicit defensiveness in the some participants.
There are more subtle changes that can slip in if you are not watching. Try to catch these mischaracterizations early. Confront them directly, forthrightly and with sensitivity. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA