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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#672: Be Careful About Naming Names

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
After I do interviews, my notes are full of names of individuals referred to by interviewees, such as "Mary really is the problem because . . .". Since they were specifically named, should I include those names in my report to the client, but not externally?

There are two answers: "of course not" and "probably not." First of all, it is likely that your interviews were confidential, and this means internally as well as externally. To associate the content of an interview with the name of the interviewee is a breach of trust, unless you explicitly get agreement from the interviewee what you would like to pass along and to whom. An understanding with your client sponsor as to the scope and disposition of interview data is always a good idea.

The other situation is where you are reporting the results of your interviews or analysis and you would like to report names of individuals to whom you would attribute certain characteristics. These are not quotes from an interviewee or a staff member with whom you have spoken; they are your own subjective impressions and recommendations. In this case, it is usually better to attribute your observations (and you should qualify them as such) to "the Vice President of Finance" and not the name. The reason for this is because you are best evaluating the structure or processes of an organization, not the individual. Only when the behavior or actions of the person, unrelated to their position, is an issue should you consider naming names. If possible, make your recommendations about the position ("shipping profitability is greater when the VP of production is held accountable for closeouts.").

Tip: Unless your task is about improving a specific person and not organization structure and processes, leave the names out. Your recommendations should apply to whoever fills the position. Your credibility as an impartial and ethical advisor hinges on how you handle what others may expect to be confidential conversations.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  confidentiality  ethics  reputation  trust 

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#648: What Do Others Say About You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011
When I hear some consultants talk about their colleagues in an unfavorable light, and the comments seem to be inconsistent with my experience with the people they are talking about, I have two reactions. One is that I wonder what they are saying about me when I am not around. The other is I wonder how much I can trust them to be honest with clients and colleagues if I were to team with them. Should I be worried?

You are right to be worried about comments like that. Disparaging one's colleagues in public is unprofessional and, in fact a violation of the IMC USA Code of Ethics. Paragraph 14 states: I will not advertise my services in a deceptive manner nor misrepresent or denigrate individual consulting practitioners, consulting firms, or the consulting profession. Of course, if you have solid evidence to think unfavorably about another consultant, then you can certainly make your own decisions about teaming based on that knowledge.

If a consultant has something to say about another consultant, they can say it to the person's face. You are not the only one who notices these things. Clients occasionally say that one of the most important factors in judging the professionalism of their consultants is how well they get along with other consultants. For these clients, your bad mouthing another consultant will just damage your own reputation with the client.

Tip: Make it a point to get to know other consultants personally, more than just by reputation. Until you do, and begin to appreciate their perspective, experience and skills, refrain from commenting judgmentally about their character and consulting acumen or expertise.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  consulting colleagues  ethics  reputation  trust 

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#581: Consultant "Bedside Manner" May Be More Important Than You Think

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 6, 2011
Updated: Monday, June 6, 2011
I don't think consultants do their clients a service by becoming chummy with them. I even know many clients consider this an attempt by consultants to "go native" and settle in for a long stay, but I just think it is unprofessional. Shouldn't we just go in and get the job done?

As with many consulting challenges, the answer is: it depends. We consider "bedside manner" important in some professions, like medical treatment or social work, and not in others, like auto repair and mining. The difference is the role of the provider in helping the purchaser or consumer better understand, accept or transact the service or product. Some people don't want or need any help. I might want a skilled surgeon to remove my gall bladder and I am paying for a procedure and could care less about making friends. Alternatively, for a life-threatening condition, I might consider procedural and emotional factors equally and may even want to include my family in this need for emotional service, making bedside manner a critical decision point in selecting a provider.

It is about the emotional component of the engagement. A divorce lawyer needs skills but possibly the more important service is emotional care through the change process. A consultant's bedside manner can be just as important. Consider that clients only hired you because the organizational change process was long, complicated and difficult. You know how hard (if not impossible) it is to effectively change an organization without adequate emotional and cultural preparation.

Tip: The emotional mechanisms needed to communicate, understand and accept change may differ significantly for each of your clients, even within the same industry. If you are not spending significant time understanding these factors, then you are not doing your job as a professional or change agent. Even if you are providing a commoditized service (e.g., diagnostic survey or workshop), consider the emotional care required for effectiveness before you dismiss your service as "just technical."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  consultant role  customer understanding  goodwill  professionalism  trust  values 

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#577: Are You A "Karaoke Consultant?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
There are times when a conflict arises with a prospect about the methodology we propose to use. Some clients are uncomfortable using an approach we have developed and successfully used and prefer we use approaches that are more widely recognized in the management literature or popular books.

The work of a professional management consultant extends to more than just dispensing common sense advice. Although it is possible to create some value by applying principles and practices developed by others, this relegates you somewhat to the role of a contractor or, at most, a journeyman. Traditionally, a journeyman was one who had completed a period of apprenticeship but had not developed the skill, independence and creativity of a master craftsman.

This is a two-part problem. First, it sounds like the prospect is more enamored with the "trusted" books and literature than with the approaches and processes that have successfully applied with your clients. You will have to make a more compelling case for how your approach would work and why it should be preferred over the popular one. Second, more subtle though not less important, is that you have not made a convincing case that the prospect should trust your judgment to select the most appropriate approach, whether yours or someone else's.

This discussion is one you first have within your team and with yourself. Are you satisfied carrying out someone else's processes and ideas or are you a master craftsman who creates new value? Are you comfortable using a process that may be the latest fad but that you know doesn't always work as proposed? Don't you have an ethical responsibility to stick to your guns and tell the client that it is not in their best interest to use a technique that, despite the number of book written about it, is really nothing new or is a departure from good "first principles" business practices?

Tip: There is a difference between a cover band and the real deal, between a karaoke singer and the original artist. The former are usually enjoyable enough (and sometimes dreadful) but they are not the value creators and rarely in a position to innovate and lead a profession. Those creators, the "master artisans," are where we all aspire to be as management consultants. Are you going to be an innovative and creative consultant, or a "karaoke consultant"?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting process  innovation  trust  your consulting practice 

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#537: How Much Knowledge Should a Consultant Take From an Engagement?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Consulting is a great profession, in large part because, beyond the value we provide our clients, each engagement leaves me and my firm with tremendous learning and new expertise. Are there any ethical issues with using this knowledge?

A great question, mostly because it is a complicated one. First, what do you mean by "knowledge"? Most consulting engagements are "work for hire," meaning that any work products you create are the property of the client who paid for them. It may be that you can work out a nonexclusive rights agreement for use of your work with the client, but don't assume that because you created it (even if based on other work you already have done) that it belongs to you and you can do with it as you please. Especially if you are talking about a tangible product or a discrete methodology, work this out explicitly with your client.

Second, skills that you acquire and the experience you gain during an engagement do belong to you. This gradual accumulation of skills and perspective are a significant part of the value you bring to a client. After all, the breadth of what you have learned from all your past clients is what your current client is paying you to apply to their issues.

Finally, if it isn't spelled out in your consulting agreement, be aware that any proprietary data, technologies, market information, employee lists or other client confidential property that your client provides you does not belong to you and you may not use or disclose it outside the engagement. Sometimes you have used such client property for months (or years) and can forget that it really is not yours. Consultants can get into trouble if they are not paying attention to what is theirs and what is the client's.

Tip: It is worth a discussion, certainly after the conclusion of your work but preferably before you start, about rights in data, methodologies and work products. You really don't want to learn of conflicts in rights through either a letter from your client's attorney or from a rumor that your firm purloins client property.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  ethics  intellectual property  knowledge assets  trust  your consulting practice 

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