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#629: Be Aware of Differing Client Attitudes Toward Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 11, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Why is it that almost every client has at least one manager or senior staff member who seems annoyed with or even hostile toward consultants? Should a consultant deal with such people directly or through the client sponsor?

First, recognize that attitudes toward consultants can vary significantly, Just because an executive retains a consultant does not mean that everyone, or anyone, else in the organization is happy to welcome or support you. Most do because they respect management's decision and they are likely to recognize the solutions a consultant is being retained to create are potentially productive for the organization.

Second, don't assume that it is in your, or the organization's, best interest to "deal" with suspicion or opposition of client staff by suppressing it. Consultants are brought in to address change, usually because something is not working or could work better. Change means stress, which means emotion, which means behavior that can be supportive or oppositional. Before you decide to shut off a potentially productive conduit for useful information and emotion, consider the damage that could be done by bottling it up.

Third, remember that it is not your organization. You are free to advise your client that your job may be difficult politically, or even logistically, due to active opposition or hostility. But unless you feel your person or property are in danger, it is not your call to decide whose behavior to manage. However, it is useful to advise your client of the facts, and your opinion about the impact certain behaviors will have on the organization's culture, performance and image.

Tip: Consultants brought in to manage an engagement can, if they are not careful, lose sight of whose organization they are dealing with. Embrace differing attitudes toward you and the likely change assumed to arrive with you. Our true value is our independence and objectivity. Stay focused on the engagement, not the people, brand, strategy or other areas that are the legitimate responsibility of management.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  consultant role  customer understanding  engagement management  goodwill  professionalism 

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