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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#681: Tackle Your Weaknesses One at a Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
There are some things about my skill set and consulting approach that cause me trouble in analysis, client service delivery and practice management. What's the best way to address these weaknesses?

Every one of us has some weaknesses that we should consider opportunities for improvement. Given how busy we are marketing and delivering client services, however, we rarely take the time to address them. Eventually, some of these small problems can grow to seriously hinder or effectiveness and value as consultants. This is Covey's principle of stopping to sharpen the saw.

So what are you doing about those weaknesses today? First, identify what your biggest challenges are (and, yes, we all have them). Are they writing, statistics, presentation skills, finance, creativity, interviewing, public speaking, a technical specialty, or what?

Next, get started improving those skills or attitudes. Go to your favorite online book retailer or search online for articles relating to strategies, products or processes to address your specific weakness. How many books or articles came up? Probably a lot. Read the book reviews and buy one or two or download a few articles. Commit to tackle one of your weaknesses over a week (or two or three, depending on how big a problem it is). Place the books or articles strategically around your office and home, and read them whenever you are so moved. Just don't let them escape to a pile somehwere that you can intentionally avoid or miss seeing.

Tip: The point is to make a commitment to vigorously tackle this weakenss and not avoid it because it is hard and seemingly a low priority compared to billable work. Set some kind of measure so you can know when you are done. You do not have to eliminate a weakness entirely, just improve it to a satisfactory point. Before long you will have to start looking for another weakness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  learning  performance improvement  professional development  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#680: Capture the Essence of Your Consulting Session

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011
I do a lot of facilitation and think I have worked out a good process to summarize the activities and outcomes of the sessions. I am always looking for an edge to improve the long term effectiveness of my facilitation. Any ideas?

We are all familiar with how quickly the memory and effect of these sessions can dissipate. People are brought together, who often may not know each other or know them well, and are expected to sustain a connection with each other and the outcomes of their work. By its very nature, this is a hard expectation to meet.

Our typical work product is a briefing to the client and some kind of written report. You probably know best what kinds of improvement within the facilitation process itself will work best for your clients, but here is an idea to strengthen the connection of participants to each other and to the outcomes. Take pictures of the event, including the setting (especially if it is an offsite event), the work room, facilitation teams, and even non work moments (meals, social time). Use a high resolution camera, not your camera phone. Make sure every participant is represented and that you can identify each of them. These can form the basis of a visual record of the event that significantly exceeds the impact or longevity

Tip: Create a picture book of the event, maybe even with commentary or quotes from the participants. There are many online services Blurb, Picaboo, Shutterfly and others) to which you can submit your photos and they will print up a book that you can provide to your clients (or all participants, if appropriate). With the price of print on demand decreasing in the past few years, this is becoming easier and cheaper. For less than $40, you can deliver an incredible memento for your clients (including a photo of you that will help them remember you even more). This will be an effective reminder of their work and something they likely haven't received from any other facilitator.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  creativity  facilitation  goodwill  recordkeeping 

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#679: Make Sure Your Client Asks You the Right Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2011
How should a consultant handle a client who, after telling us the nature of the challenges the company faces, asks us to provide services to solve a different set of problems.

Consensus between client and consultant is critical to a successful outcome, and recognition of that success. Presumably the client has brought you in to give an independent and objective view of the challenges and opportunities the client organization faces. If the client has already decided on the symptoms, underlying problems and solutions, then your role as diagnostician is eliminated along with your role as designer of appropriate solutions. If this is the case, the first question is whether you are the right consultant. Consultants provide diagnostic and assessment expertise; if the client just wants you to implement their own solution, they are better off with a contractor.

The second question is whether you and the client have really focused on the right problem. The client or staff may be wedded to a problem definition that may be correct but that leads to a specific solution that is wrong. Most consultants know that the issues clients most often present first do not necessarily represent the full picture. Sometimes dividing (or offering to) an engagement into several parts - diagnosis, design and implementation - can break this thinking and get the client to give you more latitude to help define the issues to be addressed.

Finally, recognize that you both benefit from an orderly discussion from what you are trying to solve through which or where the solution needs to be applied, to how it will be achieved to who (with what resources) is to be accountable for results. Read a short article on a process of how to avoid misdirected projects.

Tip: It is important to have in hand a process to identify ill-defined projects and deal with them before your get too deeply engaged. Know how you can direct the project scoping conversation to either (1) open up a serious debate on fact-based and independent diagnosis or (2) your disengaging from the project respectfully. Don't agree to a project's scope, sequence and content until you and the client agree that you are asking the right question.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  diagnosis  engagement management 

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#678: Keep an Eye on the Future

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Regardless of consulting focus, technological advances influence both how our industries change and how we run our consulting practices. Since I am not a technology person, how can I stay on top of these advances with a modest amount of effort?

Evolving technology is more than just electronic gadgets. It involves materials, communication, manufacturing processes, transportation, energy, medicine and healthcare, analytics, etc. Advances in any one or combinations of these areas will dramatically affect strategy, operations and culture of your clients. Think about how social networking technologies have changed how professionals communicate in just a few years and how cell phones and GPS have spawned entire new industries.

In less than an hour a month, you can keep up with these developing technologies. Several periodicals summarize how technology will change our business and personal lives. Here are three examples - but you may look around and find your own:
  • Industry Week describes, for a business readership, current events and trends in areas as diverse as energy, technology policy, and innovating companies.
  • Popular Science describes, for a lay readership, near-term, consumer-oriented products and processes.
  • Technology Review describes, for a more technical readership, specific technologies and how they could transform industries, including a range of special reports for individual technology groups.
Tip: There are many more sources but these provide a quick overview with just enough technical details and links to more if you are interested. Set up links to these periodicals in your favorites folder and a tickler to check them regularly, at least monthly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  product development  professional development  technology  trends 

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#677: Is Consulting All You Do?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
My consulting career is going pretty well, with a full book of business and a growing staff. It does occupy a lot of time and there are times when I feel like I am giving up on other experiences. Does a successful consulting practice preclude other activities?

Consulting can be time consuming, but doesn't have to overwhelm other aspects of your professional life. In its traditional form, consulting involves building relationships, developing professional skills and technology, and applying them through time spent solving problems. As a professional who brings together experience, skills and perspective, it doesn't have to all be time intensive one-on-one consultation with a client.

There is a range of opportunities to use your expertise in other ways:
  1. Writing - Take on a column, blog, book, white paper, etc. to bring new perspective to your practice, build your visibility and create some lasting value from your expertise.
  2. Speaking - At any level, speak to trade associations, business or consulting conferences, or to community groups about topics related to your area of expertise.
  3. Research - Conduct some data collection, surveys, analysis or other approach to generating new information about your area of expertise or interest.
  4. Volunteering - Give back to your community by offering your management and consulting skills to local nonprofit organizations.
  5. Productizing - Turn your expertise into tangible products such as book or DVD "how to" guides.
  6. Starting Another Business - There is no reason why you can't extend your work into non-consulting businesses related to your area of expertise, as long as you manage conflicts of interest.
  7. Partnering With Other People - Find individuals with whom you have not worked before and who you respect to develop new partnerships with, getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps a new way of practicing your consulting.
Any of these approaches is a way to freshen your consulting business and develop some new perspectives outside of the traditional day to day advice business.

Tip: Perhaps overlooked by many consultants are hobbies. Consider ways to pursue your passion in areas totally outside of consulting. For example, if you are a process consultant, you might enjoy furniture making, where details, procedures and materials combine just as in process reengineering but to produce a tangible object. If you thrive on platform speaking, maybe you could lend your passion to teach acting or storytelling. There are lots of examples but each hobby or other pursuit allows you to use or utilize your skills and interests in something other than consulting.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  community service  mentor  pro bono  publishing  teaching  teaching/training  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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