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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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#591: How To Have More Time Than The Next Person

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 20, 2011
Updated: Monday, June 20, 2011
Although I could certainly better manage my time, it seems some people get a whole lot more done than I do. I can accept that I waste time but is there some secret I am missing?

There are two issues here: how much time is consumed and what gets done. Is the lack of time real or is it just your perception? We all have the same 24 hours a day but some of us "never have enough time" and others seem to have a lot of well measured time to get things done. In many respects, how we view our time as a resource is the key to spending it well. We see others getting things done that we wished we could do, but you may be doing things they wished they had enough time for.

One key is to identify the best use of your time. As a consultant, this should be familiar: draw a 2X2 matrix of "important" vs. "urgent" and fill the cells with your activities for the past week. This will seem too simplistic until you actually do it (not so easy to recall everything you spent time on, is it?). Then note how much time each of these took. How much time did you spend on urgent but not important tasks? What tasks could you have delegated?

A word about technology. Having a smart phone buzzing, checking multiple email accounts, does not make you more productive. Each of these events consumes time and your ability to attend to your tasks at hand. The distractions alone can consume an extra 15-30% of your time just to return to fully attending to your tasks. On your matrix above, how much time did tasks take during which you were constantly distracted? Could they have taken less time if you could have focused on them exclusively?

Tip: Again, it seems pretty simple but identify tasks for which you need to concentrate (especially urgent and important) and then block out and honor that time. Set your email to check the server every 30 or 60 minute instead of more frequently. Turn off the phone for blocks of time. Each month, set a goal to reduce your wasted time by ten minutes per day. Even with this modest goal, you will have saved a week of time. Then see how much you are getting done that feels worthwhile.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  practice management  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#590: Help Your Clients, and Yourself, Break Out of Silos

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 17, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 17, 2011
My partners have a running argument/discussion about whether our consulting firm is better off developing and refining our service lines or returning to the classic style of consulting where relationship-based personal service defined the profession. Some of us feel we provide better service when we can deliver evidence-based processes to our clients; others feel we should be letting the client lead on the approach. Is there an answer to this debate?

I suspect many professions evolve and generate this kind of debate over whether to move forward or return to former models. Your consulting firm is not the only one in which this discussion is taking place. Consulting has become competitive in its promotion of proprietary, research-based approaches, each firm asserting that it has unique knowledge, data or processes to improve a client's condition. This is fine, as long as the client gets to be a part of the design. Some clients have said that they feel like buying consulting services these days is like buying a house, except that they only get to pick existing houses rather than working with an architect to design their own. I suspect this "design" environment is what you mean when you talk about letting the client lead the approach.

Becoming enamored with our own approach, perspective and accomplishments is an occupational hazard as we become proficient in our professions. This is not limited to consulting. We would all benefit from stepping out of our silos and looking at the world from other perspectives. We shouldn't be relying on the same sources of information, advice or support. This should apply to we consultants as well as our clients. We should regularly check out other partners, different ways of approaching our work, and regularly confirm that we are not stuck doing things the same way when the market is calling for something new. Likewise, our clients should be looking at new ways of improving their business if the only consulting support is to take what the consulting firm offers from its own portfolio of appraoches.

Tip: Look at a short video by John Jay, Executive Creative Director and Partner of the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency, in which he talks about how we get siloed and how this applies to both consultants and our clients. It is worth a few views and some discussion how you will take his advice and help your client do the same.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  guidance  learning  trends  your consulting practice 

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#589: Use Inspirational Videos to Make Your Point

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 16, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2011
I've pushed PowerPoint and other technologies as far as I dare. Are there any tricks I can use to make my presentations more effective?

Let's move past the use of the word "trick" to make your work product better - hopefully the value of your content speaks for itself. However, I understand what you are getting at: what practices or approaches can you use to more fully engage your audience.

First, consider whether your presentation is to inform, enlighten, inspire or convince. This will determine how you can have the greatest impact but, in most cases for consultants, an appeal to emotion is useful. Ask what, at the end of the presentation, you want your audience to "think and feel." Balance your presentation with both facts and emotion. Many of our briefings tends to be left brain/factual and contain relatively little emotion. Without this, your audience may be informed but not necessarily convinced.

Second, use the concept of detachment before movement. Don't try to push people into new thoughts or emotions without loosening their hold on their current thoughts or emotions. Find ways to open them up to new ideas, question their logic or facts, and introduce "evidence" to make them willing to consider changing their mind. Set aside some time at the beginning of the presentation (or before, in another venue) to assure your audience is prepared with an open mind to new ideas or is inspired to act on the need your presentation addresses.

Tip: One great way to do this is through short (2-5 minute) videos, many of which are available online. To get people to "think outside the box," show them how Theo Jansen creates new forms of life. To wake people up to how fast the world is changing, show them Did You Know?. To give people some perspective when going through tough times, show them I Love Living Life. I am Happy. Finally, to disrupt closely held beliefs about motivation, show them The surprising truth about what motivates us .

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  motivation  speaking 

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#588: Make Sure Your Clients Know Your Values

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
We have pretty good relationships with our clients, many of whom we have been with for years. As consulting moves steadily away from a relationship business (although many people claim it still is one) to a problem solving one, how do we assure that clients can see beyond just the next engagement?

This is an increasing concern of consultants. Consulting relationships that used to last as long as decades are increasingly being affected by a client attitude of best value for the immediate engagement. Part of this is the increasing speed of business and an emphasis on making every dollar count, which means getting the best consultants for each job, not using who you know. This is amplified by the increasing rate of turnover among client managers and consultants. All of this weakens the personal relationship between client and consultant. A concerted effort is needed, as it never was in the past, to offset these many factors that weaken your ties to a client.

Probably the most important first step is to make sure that the client is clear (assuming you are) about your corporate and personal values. It might surprise you to ask your client "What do you think I (my firm) stand(s) for? What are our basic principles by which we operate?" and get a blank state. Historically, we have rarely made this explicit with our clients. We just assume that because they hired us, and continue to hire us, that they must agree with our values.

Tip: In the future we will all have to sharpen our pencils to show exactly what value we bring to a client for each engagement, but we can tip the scale in our favor if we make sure that the client understands the intangibles we bring to the relationship. It has to be more specific and authentic than "we have integrity" or "we put our client first." Your values can be a powerful discussion with your client about how you make decisions under uncertainty (or duress) and what you would give up if you had to make a choice. Your client likely has had to think about this for his or her business and a discussion about your values will likely resonate.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  ethics  goodwill  reputation  values 

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#587: Build in Coordination Time When Teaming

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I am often called on to team with other professionals to conduct a training program or facilitate some sessions. What amazes me is how well we come together, even though we may not have previously known each other or worked with the client before. Is this usual?

I wish I could say that a quickly assembled team of consultants or facilitators results in a smooth, productive experience. Certainly working with people with whom you have previously worked eases this process, but this is not always possible on short notice. We usually don't bring new people into a team unless necessary, but when we need to do so, there are a few caveats.

First, be clear what qualities you are looking for in a team member (e.g., technical skills, political acumen, relationships, industry or client experience, and data). Recognize that if you depart from such standards, you may be asking for trouble in delivering for your client. Second, look closely at the personality. You will need to quickly come together and agree on process approach and deployment, so flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity should be high on your list. Third, if you don't know them personally, get at least one reference, to increase the odds that the person will fit the team. Finally, check in with your client about the proposed team members. If you plan to put these new individual in a client-facing setting, the client should have some input into the selection.

Tip: Make sure to build in time to get the team in sync. Even seasoned professionals benefit by going over terminology, personalities, engagement rules established by the client, performance expectations of the convener of the team, preferences of team members (after all, each of them will have firmly set ways of conducting their business), the process steps and timing for the project at hand, and the protocols for making decisions during the engagement. Professionalism involves attention to details to make sure.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  consulting process  facilitation  teaming 

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