After a few weeks on an engagement, I get to know the staff pretty well and have earned their trust. When interviewing them, I want to leverage that trust and not come across as cold and factual. What is the right balance?
One of our primary values as a consultant is our independence and objectivity. Earning the trust of your client is also a measure of consultant effectiveness. You seem to be asking how to trade off one for the other. This is not necessary. You can maintain your objectivity without giving up the trust of the client.
Your ease with, and trust granted by, a client is useful to get into deeper conversations. It is not an offer to provide your opinions or take sides. Imagine the loss of trust if you were the client and word got back to you that a consultant said in an interview that "person X is a jerk"? It might be true, it might be the prevailing opinion, but it is not your place to say so.Tip:
Be very careful to not let your comfort with a client organization slowly morph into inappropriate friendship and bonding. When someone says to you, "I shouldn't be telling you this but . . .", it is likely a breach of another's trust and should be a warning to you to be wary of trusting that person with your own secrets. Do not let yourself slide into a conversation that takes sides or gives opinions for which you may be giving up your credibility or lose the client's trust. Keep your objectivity and opinions to yourself and keep your objectivity, and the client's trust, at the top of your agenda.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA