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#31: When Making Your Client a Star Can Backfire

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, April 19, 2009
Like most consultants, I want to make a big impact quickly. It seems that if I can make my client sponsor a star, this will demonstrate the value of my services without focusing on myself. Make sense?

Assuming that the client is the organization, not just the client sponsor, focusing on the client sponsor has pros and cons. On the upside, the sponsor may be impressed by your skills and appreciate his or her being able to take credit for improvements (either for engaging you or the actual improvement). On the downside, the "quick win" you seek may be at odds with the best interests of the client organization.

Make sure that the quick win you seek is in the best interests of the organization, even if it seems to be in the sponsor's interest. A January 2009 article in Harvard Business Review, The Quick Wins Paradox, addresses this issue in terms of a new executive wanting to make a splash. The authors warn that quick wins done in isolation from the organization and without good change management processes risk backfiring. Consultants act in the best interest of both their sponsors and the client organization when they help the sponsor accomplish a collective quick win that is well planned, communicated and supports a broader vision.

Tip: Before you approach your client about the role of quick wins related to your engagement, make sure these activities can be managed and communicated to staff sufficiently to be successful. Your sponsor may even appreciate reading the article for benefit of other initiatives they may be planning without your help. As long as you are careful to put the interests of the client before your own, it certainly will help you plan to make your own impact.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  roles and responsibilities 

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