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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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