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#90: What Metaphor Describes Your Consulting Practice?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 10, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2009
I've distinguished my consulting practice with a vary specific image based on a military model. I see myself as the adjutant and the client as the general. This works for me. Is this an approach other consultants use?

Adjutants occupy various roles in military hierarchies, such as chief administrative officer, director of operations, or chief planner, although the point is that you are serving as advisor and operational associate to your client. This is one role a management consultant can play but not the only one. How you relate to your client and any metaphor used to define that relationship depends on what works for both of you. A metaphor is a generally a simplified comparison between two dissimilar entities. Many businesses brand themselves in metaphorical terms.

As a consultant, you could use a metaphor that defines how your company operates, how you relate to your market or how you relate to your client. Examples include the military model, where you are “at war” with other companies and will “take no prisoners” (probably better for a litigation firm in an adversarial relationship or competitive manufacturer fighting hand to hand for market share than a management consulting firm). You might also consider casting your approach as raising a family, managing a sports team, studying an ecosystem, designing and tuning up a machine, serving as a teacher, or even cooking a meal. In each one, the metaphor serves to make a clear and familiar model to help communicate your consulting process and approach to others. It also can serve as a frame on which to organize your various services and practices.

Tip: Find a metaphor that fits your style and ability to explain, but don't force it. The worst thing you can do is to be inauthentic when it comes to casting yourself in one frame when you act by other principles. For example, saying you work like a sports team in your practice when you aren't a sports fan and have never coached or even played competitive sports will seem, and be, disingenuous. Finally, make sure your selected metaphor syncs with your client's self image and organizational brand. Imagine trying to sell your military model when advising a ministry.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client relations  communication  consultant role  marketing  reputation 

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