As a professional advisor to executives, I maintain a businesslike demeanor in my dress, habits and services. This is what I am being paid for, so I conduct myself accordingly. However, I sometimes get the sense that my clients are not on the same wavelength. What gives?
First of all, lighten up. Yes, your clients are paying for your insights, experience, and skills. What they are not paying for is your being stiff, distant, and "businesslike." Being professional does not mean being humorless and dull.
Consultants seem to think that clients are buying competence. So this is what they sell. Just look at their literature - long lists of services, features, clients, and the things they will "do" for a client.
This is misdirected. Clients assume competence as given, but are really looking for confidence - confidence that they are entrusting their organization to someone who has perspective, understands them and their emotional needs, and has good, old fashioned common sense. Try to consult based on a template and both you and the client will lose.
Lighten up by getting inside the client's head. What hobbies does he or she enjoy? What do they find funny? What aspects of the business do they feel good about? What aspects of the current challenge they face do they find emotionally most vexing? How can you put them at ease and feel that you really see them as people and not as an "engagement?" You can still deliver your technical skills and perspective, but don't forget that you are seeking to satisfy their emotional needs, not just their intellectual ones.Tip: Take a moment to enjoy laughing at yourself
.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA