A synopsis of key messages related to “How to Give Advice” and “The Consultant’s Role” from “master” consultant David Maister using lecture, videos, interactive discussion and exercises to achieve the following:
Author of many books, articles and videos on the topics of consulting, professionalism, strategy, advising clients and effective managementAdvises firms in a broad spectrum of services across the globe – consultants, lawyers, doctors, etc. Latest book: Strategy and the Fat Smoker, published in 2008A native of Great Britain, he holds degrees from the University of Birmingham, the London School of Economics and a doctorate from the Harvard Business SchoolFaculty member at Harvard Business School from 1979-1985Highly sought-after speaker
What are the some common emotions that a client might feel when they are getting ready to select and work with an external consultant?
What clients want is someone who understands their interests (industry, situation, company, etc.) and who will not put his/her own personal interests ahead of theirs (appearing to be smart, meeting the project budget, selling more work, etc.)Clients want someone who they can trust to do the right thing.Clients want someone who will care!
While the list is long, the key messages are simpleLet’s review them quickly and then open up a discussion about our own personal strengths as “trusted advisors”
– but few of us ever took classes in developing social, interpersonal, communication and emotional skills!!!
Select a group lead and using any facilitation technique you are comfortable with, reach consensus on the “Ten Commandments” of a TayganPoint version of a “Trusted Advisor”.Select 2-3 traits on your list and be prepared to provide real client examples of how you successfully demonstrated that trait. Estimated time: 20 minutes to complete/10 minutes to debrief
What’s the opposite of a consultant “professional”?No, it’s not “unprofessional” – People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care
Would it surprise you to learn that in most large, prestigious global consulting firms, consultants estimated 20-25% of their work fell into the top category; 60-70% fell into the second; and 5-20% fell into the last category?
If you really are interested in a client and can clearly demonstrate both your ability and willingness to help, you can earn their trust.Consultants who succeed in the long run are those who can sustain the magic and excitement they felt when they were first setting out in their careers. energy, enthusiasm and drive –these characteristics are so scarce today that they have turned out to be the dominant competitive advantage for both individual consultants and firms!
So if you want to spend the majority of your professional life working on exciting things with interesting people, it makes sense to make an effort to practice business development. Why?For one main reason – the better you are at identifying “good” work (work you like to do) and getting hired to do it, the better your chances of working on fun stuff with people you care about. Professionalism and marketing are not in conflict with each other at all! They are the same thing – both are defined by a dedication to helping people.
One could argue that the consultant’s task is to make the client think that the consultant cares, meaning that consultants must learn how to fake sincerity. Indeed many sales training courses are filled with such tips.You will get hired, rehired, obtain referrals and have lessened fee sensitivity to the extent that you care passionately both about your work and your client. Act like a true professional, aiming for true excellence, and the money will follow. Act like a prostitute, with an attitude of “I’ll just do it for the money”, and you’ll lose the premium that excellence wins.
Sincerity counts! Faking sincerity may work sometimes, but faking sincerity is a prostitute’s tactic, not a professional’s.Ultimately new business is won only when the client believes the consultant is interested, cares and is trying to help. You will get hired, rehired, obtain referrals and have lessened fee sensitivity to the extent that you care passionately both about your work and your client.
To earn a relationship, you must go first. The client must visibly perceive that you are willing to be the first to make an investment in the relationship in order to deserve it.To make someone believe something about you, you must demonstrate, not just assert.And you must convince them that you are dealing with them as a unique human being – not just another “pharma client” or another “IT person” or some similar group or class.What are some examples from your own client relationships that demonstrated that you truly valued them and the relationship?
Many professionals approach the task of giving advice as if it were an objective, rational exercise based on their technical expertise.Unfortunately, giving advice is almost never exclusively a logical process.It is not enough for a professional to be right; an advisor’s job is to be helpful!You must develop the skills to tell clients they are “wrong” in such a way that they will actually “thank” you for it.
While criticizing a client is by definition part of the normal consulting process, all suggestions for improvement imply that not everything is being done well at this moment– and it is usually the person who hired you who is responsible for this current state!No matter how technical one’s field or discipline, the act of giving advice is crucially dependent on a deep understanding of the personalities involvedAlthough advising clients sometimes feels like explaining things to a child, the secret is to do just the opposite: Act as if you were trying to advise your mother or father!
It’s not about us!In the midst of a conversation, how often do you find yourself thinking?
But this doesn’t necessarily create an environment focused on active listening and building trust
A good teacher needs two key skills:A really deep and solid understanding of the client’s current problem/state that you can only get to by asking a lot of questions and really listening.An expert sense of what “success” might look like for this client based on your intellect and experience.Your goal is to influence the client so that eventually they arrive at the idea themselves – you have just played the role of educated guide, leading them on a journey of self-discovery. This is the nature of Socratic teaching.
The advisor’s role as a guide becomes more difficult when dealing with committees, teams or any situation involving more than one decision-maker. (Unless you are Joy!)
It is tempting (probably true) to think that conflicting agenda’s, priorities and “turf wars” are the clients’ fault – not yours. However, unless you can learn to deal with these issues, your advice will not likely be acted upon, and thus, you will not be seen as a helpful, valuable advisor.
As a group, let’s develop a “Force Field Analysis” with respect to what factors/traits/skills/cultural forces enable us – and those that constrain us - in our quest to become “trusted advisors”. What is a Force Field Analysis? An approach to weighing pros & cons, looking at all factors that will operate to advance or inhibit a desired change To do a Force Field Analysis:List all forces for changeFor (What Circumstances/Conditions Enable Us to Be Trusted Advisors)Against (What Circumstances/Conditions Make us Ineffective as Consultants)Draw a diagram (following slide) showing forces and strengths Then individually, determine actions to take to: Reduce strength of opposing forces (Improvement Opportunities) Strengthen forces in support (Best Practices)
Workshop for Consultants/AffiliatesFrom Consultant to Trusted Advisor May 25, 2011
Understand what forces drive you towards being a trusted advisor and those that hold you back
4 | June 15, 2011
David Maister Widely acknowledged as one of the leading authorities on managing professional services firms 5 | June 15, 2011
From Consultant to Trusted Advisor Introduction: Why do Clients Buy? Traits of a Trusted Advisor Professionalism Rules of Relationships How to Give Advice How to Use Language to Get What You Want Dealing with Client Politics Closing Exercise 6 | June 15, 2011
Why Do Clients Buy? 7 | June 15, 2011 Insecure Impatient Concerned Worried Suspicious Skeptical
Why Do Clients Buy? 8 | June 15, 2011 Understand industry, situation, company Trust to do the right thing Care Clients want someone who will care!
Very few consultants are viewed by their clients as “great” purely as a result of their intellectual or technical abilities.
The opposite of “professional” is “technician”
Professionalism is an attitude, a demeanor, not a set of competencies.
A real professional is a technician who cares! 16 | June 15, 2011
Professionalism Thinking about your recent work … “God I love this work! This is why I do what I do” “It’s OK; I can tolerate this; it’s what I do for a living” “I hate this part – I wish I could get rid of this junk” 17 | June 15, 2011
Professionalism Tolerable, Acceptable, BORING… Exciting, Interesting, FUN… The better you are at identifying “good” work (work you like to do) and getting hired to do it, the better your chances of working on fun stuff with people you care about! 20 | June 15, 2011
Share an example demonstrating how you truly valued a client and the relationship? 24 | June 15, 2011
Rules of Relationships Our most common downfalls… We listen for the things that we recognize and have met before, so that we can draw upon past experiences to use the words, approaches and tools that we already know well. “Sometimes I feel like I’m explaining things to a child. My client can’t seem to grasp even the basic logic of what I’m saying. I feel like saying shut up; just accept what I’m telling you! I’m the expert here!” 25 | June 15, 2011
How to Use Language to Get What You Want To get what you want from someone, focus on giving them what they want. 29 | June 15, 2011
How to Use Language to Get What You Want Successful consultants are typically driven, rational and meritocratic with a high need to achieve. It is natural for such people to be focused on their own individual performance and to constantly look for confirmation that they are right. http://davidmaister.com/video.videocast/420/ 30 | June 15, 2011
How to Use Language to Get What You Want Using some examples from your recent client experiences, develop a list of Hard and then associated “Soft” phrases that can be used by colleagues to ensure more open-ended, effective communication. 31 | June 15, 2011
How to Use Language to Get What You Want Consulting requires that we become effective teachers A good teacher needs two key skills:
A really deep and solid understanding of the client’s current problem/state
An expert sense of what “success” might look like for this client based on your intellect and experience
Socratic Teaching Takes Patience! 32 | June 15, 2011
How to Use Language to Get What You Want Helpful questions that will advance your skills in Socratic teaching:
Why do you think we have this problem?
What options do we have for doing things differently?
What advantages do you foresee in using the different options?
How do you think the key stakeholders will react if we do that?
How do you suggest we deal with the potentially adverse consequences of such an action?
Many other companies have encountered difficulty with that approach. What can we do to prevent such things from occurring here?
What benefits might result if we tried the following approach?
Can you think of other questions to add to this list? 33 | June 15, 2011
The advisor’s role becomes more difficult when dealing with more than one decision-maker.
Seek to build consensus – rarely is there ever just one client!
Learn and practice the skills and tools that will help bring different players with different agendas “on board”.
You cannot simply schedule a meeting and hope to facilitate all of the different points of view in “real time”
….So, what might you do???? 34 | June 15, 2011
Dealing with Client Politics It’s tempting to think that conflicting agenda’s, priorities and “turf wars” are the clients’ issues– not yours. However, unless you can learn to deal with these issues, your advice will not likely be acted upon. 35 | June 15, 2011
Break Out – Closing Exercise Create a Force Field Analysis including:
factors/traits/skills/cultural forces that enable
factors/traits/skills/cultural forces that constrain
Then individually, determine actions to:
Reduce strength of opposing forces (Improvement Opportunities)
Force Field Analysis Exercise Working in two groups, divide your flip chart paper in half and label the titles (underlined in red) as follows: Current Practices to Support Client Work Restraining Forces Driving Forces Desire to be Successful Apathy Competition Work rules Earnings incentives Lack necessary skills Etc. Etc. Brainstorm as a group what issues/factors/practices belong on which side. Try to align them so that one side is the “offset” of the other. 37 | June 15, 2011
Feedback 38 | June 15, 2011 Open dialogue: What’s worked What should we do differently next time? Volunteers/Suggestions for next session