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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#200: Do You Know Your Consulting Terms?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 18, 2009
Updated: Sunday, December 20, 2009
Since when did consulting terms depend on any definition one wants to put on them? I hear colleagues using terms inappropriately but they seem OK with that.

"Terms of art" in professions are expected to have uniform and specific meaning, shared and understood by all. Especially in the legal profession, variations in the meaning of a given term lead to confusion, miscommunication and professional malpractice. In the consulting profession, clarity of communication with clients and among colleagues is similarly important.

The challenge of consistent terminology in consulting is that many of its practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds. Some come from business, others from academia or technical disciplines, still others from business administration. Each of these environments may have a different perspective on what, exactly, the nuances of how an objective differs from a goal. Consider how confusing it is to have consultants use loose terminology. Bad enough is careless use of terms that may be in common use but not in your vocabulary. Probably worse is inconsistent use, when you use a term differently with different people or vary its meaning over time.

Tip: Make a list of twenty terms that form the basis of your practice (e.g., strategy, process, audit, engagement, talent management, security) and write a definition for each or how you would explain them to a client or your colleagues. You might be surprised at how hard it is when you have to write these down. When you are comfortable with your definitions, go and defend them to your professional colleagues. Again, you will be surprised at how you may have to defend your interpretation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting colleagues  knowledge assets  learning  teaming 

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#199: Confidentiality

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 17, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 17, 2009
I just learned that one of my client's key employees is planning on leaving to go work for a key competitor in a few months. I like and respect this person and feel that he is a real asset to my client's firm. What do I do?

A close read and some common sense of the IMC Code of Ethics provides us with some guidance. Where key performers indicate that they are unhappy and are considering leaving your client, help your client to recognize and better utilize their potential. For instance, if you can see that an employee could be of greater value in another assignment, suggest reassignment.

Who do you work for? Where is your obligation? Did you receive this information second-hand? Was there any confidentiality involved in the receipt of the information? Here are two strong guidelines you should always apply to situations like this:

1. Remember that your primary obligation is to your client's organization.
2. Do not receive information in confidence unless you can first ascertain that it will not prevent you from serving the best interests of your client.

Tip: If one of your client's employees approaches you and says "I would like to discuss something with you confidentially..." Stop them before going any further and simply say "I'm very sorry, but I cannot receive any information from you in confidence that would be potentially detrimental to my client (in this case, your firm is my client)."

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  confidentiality  consultant role  ethics  intellectual property  knowledge assets 

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#198: The Need to Refresh Your Consulting Skills

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Keeping up with new practices in consulting is a spotty task. I read lots of books and articles but am not convinced I am keeping up across the board. Any ideas how to do this in a more comprehensive manner?

Congratulations on even asking the question. As we get more experienced as consultants, we tend to consider ourselves thought leaders (at least in our own minds) about our areas of consulting specialty. This is inevitably a self limiting strategy since, as business and management evolve, so do management consulting skills, behaviors and techniques. Even if you are up to date in your area, far too much information and techniques are being generated and discussed for anyone to keep up with in the absence of a plan (or a good network).

For example, recent deep thinking about how the whole approach to business transformation is outdated is required reading for consultants and are found in the 2009 Shift Index. Increasingly, companies involved in risk management are digging deeper into how management needs to address issues like climate change, issues about which consultants need to be better advised (e.g., access to thinking on risk by companies like Marsh, Mercer and Kroll

Tip: Keeping current in subject matter is only half of the issue. We also often overlook keeping our consulting skills up to date. A refresher course from a reputable source is always a good idea, as is staying deeply involved in a network of professional consultants who can refresh your knowledge about emerging consulting topics and practices. Consider Essentials of Management Consulting, a six-week online course to cover core consulting competencies of client service and tools, functions, communication, and change management techniques. Don't feel you are too busy or too knowledgeable to refresh your consulting skills.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  learning  practice management  professional development  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#197: Seating Arrangements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Where people sit in meetings is important. Can you provide some guidelines?

Although the seating arrangement for an event is often given minimal advanced thought, determining where participants will sit and how seating is arranged can significantly impact the overall success of your meeting.

First, it is important to determine exactly what you are trying to achieve at the meeting (are your lecturing on a topic or presenting information, or is it a meeting set- up for group brainstorming, problem-solving or critical decision-making?). Determining this purpose up front will help you to decide the optimum set-up of the room and seating.

It is also important to determine who will be attending (who are you talking (and listening) to? Are there different departments, organizational levels, etc. going to be present?).

There are some excellent resources available to you to help determine the optimum arrangement. Smart Technologies Inc. sponsors a helpful website: http:/www.effectivemeetings.com containing lots of good tips. On this site, you can find suggestions for optimum seating for a number of different meeting types. In addition, there are many books available on the subject, including Successful Meetings: How to Plan, Prepare, and Execute Top-Notch Business Meetings by Henkel and Great Meetings! Great Results by Kelsey and Plumb.

Tip: Give meeting room set-up and seating arrangement plenty of advance thought. Arrive early so you have plenty of time to arrange and organize. Make sure to carefully consider purpose, duration, functionality, and comfort for the attendees.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meeting preparation 

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#196: Do You Talk Too Much?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 14, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I just sat through a kickoff meeting with a consulting colleague and was uncomfortable with how much he talked in the session, probably about 80% of the time. This was certainly a place for us to demonstrate our expertise but how much is too much?

This is something against which consultants need to constantly guard. Because you are being asked to be the "expert" and provide advice to the client, one might assume that the bulk of conversation would flow from consultant to client. However, this would only be true if the consultant team already knew everything possible about the client's organization. This is rarely the case, especially in the beginning of the engagement. At this point (especially at this point), a consultant risks shutting off the desire or willingness of a client to open up with information and opinions if he or she does all the talking.

Take the "talker test." If your answer to any of these four questions is yes then you may need to consciously work on moderating your domination of client conversations. First, do you feel you have to explain your point in complete detail because each element is important for the client to understand every nuance? Second, do your explanations or comments usually last more than 45-60 seconds? Third, does at least one of the people listening to you talk show signs of distraction or not listening? Finally, do others seem to have a hard time breaking in to the conversation (assuming you even notice this)? These are all indicators that you are monopolizing the conversation.

Tip: If it is OK with your client, record an intake or project update session and count how much time you take versus your client or staff. If you are talking for more than 30 seconds at a time or more than 25% overall, then you need to look for ways of listening more and talking less.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consulting colleagues  presentations  professionalism 

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