The 3 Models of Consulting
Do you want to get the best out of your Consultant Coach Relationship? How do you want to work and be positioned or appreciated?
Let’s address, working as a consultant or coach – in the best way possible.
- A “consultant” is a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organisation, but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.
- A “manager” is someone who has direct responsibility over the action that is, or is going to happen.
- The moment you take direct responsibility, you are acting as a manager.
Your goal or end-product in any consulting activity is some kind of change.
Change is a process that involves three distinct phases and 7 – 9 emotional changes and adjustments in the team and stakeholders that are experiencing or managing the transitions of change. You might be wondering why I am highlighting the transitions of change, rather than just change, itself?
The truth is we can’t manage change however we can respond to and work out way through the transitions, the human responses to “what is happening?”, “What is going to happen?”, and “What has just happened?” responses, that change involves!
The Transition Phases of Change are …
- 1- Letting Go
- 2- Being in a Neutral Zone
- 3- The New Beginning
The first phase of change is letting go of what has existed previously. This might be financially, logistically, relationship-wise, culturally or emotionally from a personal perspective.
The second phase of change is being in transition. Being in a neutral zone having let go of previous models of thinking, previous relationships, cultural attachments or systems and hierarchies. It’s a weird place to be simply because the new beginning has yet to occur, and to some degree your locus of control has yet to establish itself.
The third phase of change is where you enter the new beginning, where adjustments and new thinking need to take place.
- This is often where are coaches and consultants are most useful, helpful and valuable.
- It is absolutely vital that there be a consistent language of change, so that people are on the same page with a common way of explaining and understanding what is happening
In responding to the idea of change that a problem or opportunity presents, there are three basic models of interaction that seem to apply between a customer or client, and a consultant or coach, especially when they are determining how they will work together.
The first of these is where the client sees the consultant or coach as a “Pair of Hands”.
- A situation like this arises when the client has diagnosed the problem and believes they have also a workable or correct solution – one that the consultant should implement and deliver upon – a “just do it”.
- The problem with this type of approach has to do with the clients level of expertise across multiple factors – for example, it assumes that they have:
- Excellent to superb diagnostic skills,
- Well designed and practical systems or methods available for implementation and follow through,
- Emotional intelligence,
- Experience with delegation and empowerment, and a …
- Basic understandings of both the transition phases of change and the stages of grief.
Coaches and consultants must be absolutely clear on both their role and the exact scope of the work in which they are engaged. To make sure this is done properly it is vital to set up, and document an “Accountability Cycle” with a very clear and distinct boundaries … right at the beginning. It is absolutely necessary to determine whether your role is to influence and guide, or whether you have responsibility for implementation and delivery. If you have responsibility for implementation and delivery you are no longer acting or performing work as a coach or consultant.
If you have been told to, or have excepted responsibility for implementation and delivery, then, you have moved into the arena of becoming a manager – this involves the authority for:
- Financial decision-making,
- Recruitment, selection and outplacement,
- internal delegation,
- liaison and negotiation with suppliers and customers, and
- Internal and stakeholder communication, in relation to these things, and the overall project.
(… if you are going to produce the end-results required),
If you don’t have these things within your control, or strongly within your influence, then, In this scenario you are definitely operating as a “Pair of Hands” – with maybe a little movement towards being considered a “subject matter expert” and/or “people persuader”.
Consulting at high levels of effectiveness and efficiency need to be absolutely clear on their conscious or some conscious motivation for stimulation to work in this way. Why? Because there are two primary negative motivations for consultants, of which you need to be aware.
- 1- The first of which is positioning yourself, either by default or design as a “mercenary” This is the extent to which the consultant is motivated by economic gain, recognition, rewards and notoriety, or because they our poor at marketing and selling their services, and as a consequence have a little business in the pipeline
- 2-The second of which is positioning yourself, again either by default or design, as a “missionary”.
- This is the extent to which the consultant or coach is motivated by the opportunity to affect change in others, especially noticeable when the coach or consultant has superficial or no “Business knowledge” (… in strategic thinking, planning, finance, operations, public relations, marketing, customer service, technology or corporate governance, recruitment and selection processes or EQ).
- Or it may be because they don’t want to upset the client or prospective customer, or they desperately need approval.
In many situations consultants, and often coaches, use a traditionally accepted “training process”, which confuses training activity with performance improvement by focusing on employees’ learning needs, rather than on their performance needs. Traditional programs focus on developing excellent learning experiences, while failing to ensure that the newly acquired skills are transferred to the job. Thus, to be effective, training professionals must become”performance consultants””, shifting their focus from training delivery to the performance of the department, team, company and its individual contributors. In order to do this good coaches consultants and business advisors must be clear about the three primary ideas that an employer or organisation has when engaging their services.
As mentioned before they may want you to operate as what is called a “pair of hands”.
- This is where they diagnose what they think the problem is, and are restricted by their own abilities and scope in diagnosis.
- The problem here is they may be looking at and trying to diagnose a symptom rather than a cause of the problem.
- The problem with being cast as a “Pair of Hands” is that, based on a possible incorrect diagnosis, they have also incorrectly assigned a “solution” – which may end up being something that costs unnecessary time and money, and may not solve the problem at all.
If this is the case, it is rare that they will take responsibility for their own inaccurate diagnosis or poor solution design. It will be your fault because you are the “pair of hands” supposedly implementing, and in the process of implementing providing a solution or result. In many cases, you may be operating in isolation or without collaborative resources. As mentioned above, if you are accepting responsibility, then you are not a “pair of hands”, but acting as a “manager”, a project manager in this situation.
Project managers always determine scope in advance, and scope wisely, based on a deep analysis of the situation combined with the authority to design, or co-designed the solution. Responsibility is shared, as is the resources to complete the project, and deliver the results on time, within scope and on budget!
A very similar situation takes place when you are nominated to be “The Expert”.
- There is no co-analysis – you are left to do the analysis and maybe restricted in accessing complete information or resources, not to mention restrictions in authority and budget.
- In most cases, the work is done almost entirely by you.
- And if the outcomes are not suitable, or if the expectations have moved in the time frame in which you were operating without collaborative dialogue, the project may move in the wrong direction with blowouts in time-frames and budgets.
Operating in this way carries substantial risk to your results into your reputation. It is a scenario in which the client, or the client agent is abdicating both responsibility and collaborative input.
- This situation occurs time in again in department of organisations with key managers who must spend their budget in order to have the same allocation of monies in the following year, or potentially lose it.
- In many cases, ironically they are prepared to have little or no effect as long as they are guaranteed the money into the following year, often in the belief the day will have the time, resources and available scenarios to repair or recoup the situation.
- But be prepared, they won’t ask you in again, because you’re the gut or gal who “buggered it up last time”, not them.
The third and best type of consulting or coaching arrangement is where you and the prospective client or client works through the project in the following way – Collaboratively and Transparently, and with regular updates on progress and readjusted expectations.
This is the decision to be completely collaborative, to willingly share all available information and necessary resources to get the job done in a spirit of results in good faith.
It requires excellent interpersonal communication, clarity of thinking and above all else trust. The process for this is as follows:
One of the reasons that we recommend this particular approach, is that we have learnt over time with the best work and results come from truly collaborative, transparent and trust-anchored projects, where together we:
- Co-Design (a process and outcome or solution)
- Co-Evaluate and Co-Adjust
And, by so doing we know exactly:
- 1- What the situation (problem or opportunity) is,
- 2- What the mission is,
- 3- Who is, and how are we, executing the plan (… what are the reasonably expected and adjusted time-frames),
- 4- Who has administrative and budget authority ,
- 5- And what is communications responsibility allocated to, or expected from, each of us