There are times when I leave a meeting with my client and we are just not on the same page. Sure, we agree on what activities have taken place and what remains to be done, but it seems like I don't know what is going on inside their heads
You are perceptive to recognize that this is an important issue. If you are going to be ahead of your client, or at least not behind, you need to understand their mindset, their concerns, and their emotions. It is easier, of course, to just consider your relationship with a client as transactional: they ask you to provide a service and you provide it based on your experience and skills. But that's not the basis of a trusted advisor relationship.
Decisions are highly influenced by emotion. Do you know to what extent your client or his or her staff are bound by emotion, even for "technical" decisions? What factors exist that could affect those emotions? How do they feel about you, trust your professional judgment, or consider you trustworthy as a person? How does the way they use or are aware of the emotional component of operating and decision making affect how you could, or should, present them with information or a request for a decision?
Tip: Before any encounter with your client, ask yourself "What do I want them to think and feel as a result of this upcoming discussion or event?" Am I trying to get them to change the way they think or feel about a certain issue, person or event? Do I want them to think or feel differently about me? Is where their head is right now conducive to my short or longer term objectives and is this the right time to inform them of a specific fact or recommend a specific course of action? Have I correctly understood where they are now and will my approach leave them in the desired thinking and feeling frame of mind?
P.S. Although some consultants may approach every conversation like this intuitively, get into the habit of asking yourself these questions before each conversation, meeting, or presentation. This technique applies equally to encounters with a group of people, such as when you are presenting your findings to a management team. Don’t get stuck just presenting “just the facts” and forget that you are trying to influence your audience, something