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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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#986: Help Clients Understand Resistance To Change

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 13, 2009
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009
I believe that both the change consultant and client staff are responsible for messaging about the nature of change and expected resistance to change. What is the best way to advise a client to help his or her own people through change?

A lot has been written about the change process, and the nature of change you specifically introduce will determine how you advise your client. Because the client will probably have more contact and influence with staff than you do, your helping them understand how people see change and how to prepare for it is a good idea.

At its simplest level, there are three aspects of resistance to change that should be addressed. These are rational, emotional and personal. The first is understanding what the change is, how it will be managed and what the effects will be - very left brain. The second is how we react to news of change, how we feel about it during the change, and how it will affect the culture of the organization when complete - very right brain. The third is grounded in trust in organizational leadership and, even if I don't understand the change and don't like it, I may still acept it if I trust the leadership. Change expert Rick Maurer describes these types of resistance to change as "I don't get it," "I don't like it," and "I don't like you."

Tip: Leaders need to attend to all three. Often, when staff resist change for emotional reasons, managers redouble their efforts to explain the rational basis of change. Or, leaders may say, "trust me" and not address either rational or emotional aspects. Part of your charge is to help clients understand each of these types of change resistance and coach them on messaging and behaviors that address all three. Talk through some of the key aspects of resistance with staff and, if needed, prepare talking points for your client to help them stay on message and more effectively deal with resistance.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  change  communication  guidance 

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#985: Knowing When to Stop Talking

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 12, 2009
In a client meeting, when is it appropriate to actively lead a client and when is it better to back off and let them take more responsibility? Sometimes I feel like I am moving too quickly through the session.

One of the most important skills a consultant learns is when to talk and when to listen. I have seen colleagues keep talking, at times overriding others in the room, when their contribution is neither wanted nor needed. Our job is to help the client reach a solution, not to run past them on the way. If we want to help them get there as fast as possible with robust understanding, we need to be sensitive to their level of participation and progress and the impact of our dominating the conversation.

As consultants, we often have though through an issue to a greater extent than a client. We need to be sensitive to providing guidance in a way that the client is prepared to hear what we have to say, can think through and contribute to the solution, and the conversation is synchronous. This is no time to prove how clever we are. Even if you know the “answer” to an issue, there is value in letting the client work through the issue (with your guidance).

Tip: . Before each working session, talk to your client sponsor to fully assess where attendees are in terms of their background knowledge, their facility with the tools and concepts you will use, and the respective roles you and client staff will play. Talk about how much you will lead and how much the client wants staff to participate and contribute. Your client will appreciate your effort to make staff owners of the process and let you contribute and lead from the middle. This leaves a more sustainable result than your lecturing from beginning to end.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role 

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#984: Fail Fast and Cheap

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 11, 2009
What should I be concerned about when developing new services in response to evolving client needs? I don't know where to start.

Business changes fast and consultants need to change with it or, better yet, stay one step ahead of it. This means working hard to develop new products and services in response to evolving client needs. Green technologies are quickly becoming the foundation of business investment. Cash and credit management are new essentials for most businesses. Talent management is increasingly critical for organizations whose executives are retiring. How will your practice respond to these trends?

Are there risks to developing new services that may not be effective? Is it wrong to roll out new services without testing and confirmation of their effectiveness? Should you do a lot of research and development before using your ideas on clients? The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. However, this doesn’t mean the alternative of using outdated methods or techniques is not also counterproductive.

Tip: The rule for developing new products, in business as well as in consulting, is to “fail fast and cheap.” Identify emerging challenges facing your clients, lay out some ideas about how you might better serve your members, do some research on how these services might work, run it by some of your current clients for their reaction and, for those ideas that have merit, test them in practice. If your research or testing (done carefully and usually at no incremental cost to clients) has merit, then continue to develop them. If not, take good notes and move on quickly to try other ideas.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  intellectual property  learning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#983: Are You Clear With Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 10, 2009
There are times when I realize, after the fact, that some of my client’s staff were not on board with the improvement plan we discussed in a workshop. What are some ways to improve communication?

Communication is among the most important of every consultant’s skills. Many consultants express themselves very clearly in writing and orally, but not all follow up to assure that their ideas and/or instructions are fully understood. Communication is a two way street and it is not enough to be articulate if you use words, concepts or a speaking or writing style unfamiliar to the recipient. Also, each new client environment presents a new communication culture for you to learn. Finally, consultants come with some baggage, as perceived by many client staff. You may be seen as an unwelcome intruder, despite the enthusiasm of your client sponsor. Staff may be reluctant to hear what you have to say.

It is worth some study of communication styles and techniques to be sure your message gets across. Attending to your own body language, thinking before speaking, effective listening, balance between sending and receiving information, and concepts such as the Johari Window all can help you improve your ability to understand and be understood. Take a little time to learn some new ways to know when your messages are not getting through, or vice versa.

Tip: One mistake many people make is to ask people to whom they are talking, “Do you understand what I am saying?” This puts a psychological burden on the person who, if they did not fully understand, is more likely to say they did understand. The alternative is to admit that they are responsible for the lack of communication. Instead, say, “Did I make myself clear?” This relives the listener of full responsibility for understanding. You may be surprised by how many times people will respond that they did not understand!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding 

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#982: Knowledge of Statistics is Critical for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 9, 2009
How important is knowing statistics for a consultant, especially if their specialty is not in process management or technical consulting?

Statistics is often misunderstood as the province of "technical" consultants. On the contrary, every consultant should have a solid working knowledge of basic descriptive and inferential statistics. Regardless of your specialty or discipline, your ability to interpret client data, make inferences about information you collect and evaluate, and to clearly communicate you recommendations all benefits from statistics.

Most consulting firm interview cases involve an analytical problem that may not require statistics but do require a feeling for numbers. We should always have a sense of magnitude, direction and units of any number that describe our client's situation or operations. Even if you are in HR, training, or other "people" discipline, numbers are still an important way to understand performance appraisal trends, interpret survey results, or predict the probability your recommendations will have the desired effects.

Tip: If you haven't been actively using statistics or are uncomfortable with numbers, now is the time to spruce up your numeracy skills. Two classic books on the importance of everyone to have solid math and statistical skills are How to Lie With Statistics and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. For a slightly more directed look at statistics, look online for "basic business statistics"

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  professional development  statistics 

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