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#536: Every Consultant Benefits From Courage

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 4, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 4, 2011
Sometimes I worry (both for myself as well as other consultants) that it comes off as arrogance when a consultant assumes that their experience, expertise and hard work are the unqualified best approach for a client to take?

According to professional services consultant David Maister, in his article The Consultant's Role, the biggest hindrance to a consultant's success is a lack of courage to stand by the long-term goals, plans and strategic vision they have set for themselves. This applies equally for engagement-specific findings and recommendations.

The temptation to qualify your recommendations may seem to provide your client flexibility or an "out" in accepting your findings and recommendations, but this does your client no favor. You were retained to provide your best advice based on your expertise and diligence. Your job is to recommend; your client’s job is to decide. Unless you are not sufficiently experienced to take on the engagement (in which case you should have declined for ethical reasons) or you do not have access to sufficient information, you should have full confidence in your work. Call it arrogance if you wish, but even with qualifications, this is your best work and you need to stand behind it.

Tip: Maister's book, The Trusted Advisor is still a classic regarding the importance of trust and confidence in client relationships.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role 

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Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Thursday, April 7, 2011
There are exceptions. One Federal clinet told me he didn't want recommendations (only options). The reason is that if we provide recommendations in the manner of the GAO or the OIG, their top management would require them to formally respond to them.

Another exception is the consultant's tole. The consultnat's role is not always to recommend. Sometimes the client wants to formulate the action plans. One of my Fedweral clients said he saw our role as bringing back and organizazing all the facts- a skill the client recognized he was not that adept at and was time consuming.

Another institutional (non profit) client said he saw the real value of our consulting firm in our ability to gather, compile, organize and structure a set of decision options. He saw this as even more valuable and unique than facilitation of the clinet group charged with reviewing, analyzing and deciding among the options.

What do these exceptions mean? Well (1) they may not be exceptions at all, but very real roles a consultnat is sometimes asked to play. And (2), the consultnat needs to have the skills and flexibility to perform in a variety of roles, depending on the situation.

(Sorry for any typos.)
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