Traditionally, consulting has been seen as a directive type of interaction. The consultant identifies a problem, creates a plan to correct the problem, and then the client enacts the solution under the consultant’s guidance.
What happens next?
Well, many times the client does not follow through. The solution fails and the consultant is blamed. Or the solution succeeds, but the client does not like solution.
Should the consultant get all the blame? No! However, the consultant should get a significant amount. Why? Because he did not setup the client up to succeed. He did not create a support system or find a mutual point of interaction. He dictated a solution. The client had no buy-in.
Consider this alternative scenario.
This consultant calls herself a coach. She also goes into the client’s environment and identifies problems that need solutions. However, there is a difference.
She does not take a directive action. Instead, she identifies the issues and works with the client, guides the client to discovering the solution themselves. She knows her clients already possess most of the knowledge they need to solve the issue. They just do not know it.
Then she guides them to implementing that solution. Since the client had a large part of creating the solution, they feel invested in it and complete the task.
Both of these consultants can successful, but one uses the client’s strengths and the other discounts them. Both work, most of the time.
I have found that acting as a directive consultant often leads to either a confrontation or dependency. Neither should be a consultant’s goal.
In many aspects of my clinical career, I have found that compassion, respect and empathy greatly affect how those I am trying to help perceive me. This affects my ability to help my clients.
So which one is correct?
The answer is both, and neither.
In my experience, neither the directive take-charge individual nor the collaborative let us solve our problems together works every time. Some clients respond to one track and others to the other track. The trick is to identify which style fits your client’s needs best. Then work to their needs.
Notice, I said the client’s need. As a consultant, I know that I have to develop the ability to access my client’s needs then meet or better yet exceed those needs.
To accomplish this, I normally take a more combined approach. It seems to work better for me. I often start out as that directive consultant, and then as problems are identified, I move to a more collaborative solution process. This gives me the best of both worlds and makes my client take ownership of the solution.
Clients often need someone to take charge early in the process, and after the relationship matures, they respond better to the more collaborative method. Which is good because I do not want to be their long-term employee. I want to help them solve their problems then get out of their way.
Ask yourself, which type of personality would you like to work with?
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