Philosophy of Consulting

“Consulting is an art form. It involves intricate coordination, steps and motions. A mis-step or hesitation can cause a very different outcome from what a consultant may have anticipated. Consultants must be calculating, well timed and alert. They must be observant and constantly on the “look out” for clues to the problem they are addressing.” ~Karen J. Hicks
Before I began my study of consulting in this program, I always considered consulting to be a job. I thought that consultants were people, who upon attaining knowledge and education in the field of business decided to enter into a field of earning money by telling business organizations what to do and how to it. I did not equate authenticity, dialogue and listening skills with the ability to perform a successful consulting project. To me, I thought as long as you had sufficient business training, you would be able to find success in the field of consulting.
Since completing two projects, I have since changed my perspective. While I still feel that knowledge, education and, of course intelligence and “savvyness” play important roles in consulting; I now know that there are even more important attributes that contribute to creating a successful consultant.
Honesty and authenticity are the most important components of consulting. Clients need to be told the truth. The livelihood of their business or organization relies heavily on the consultant’s ability to “keep it real”. In order to feel comfortable enough to share true thoughts and ideas with someone (the client) you must be comfortable with yourself and aware of who you are as an individual. It is to say that “honesty begins at home”. When we are able to be authentic with ourselves and accepting of the truths about ourselves, we become more enabled to offer the truth. Insecurities and self doubt have very little space in the field of consulting.
Consultants must also be objective and as free of personal biases as possible. Pre judgments about the culture of an organization and its people only hurt the consulting process. It is so much easier for a consultant to offer their client useful help when they are free of biases and judgments.
For me, while consulting requires knowledge and insight, it also requires a lot of basic humanistic qualities like maturity, openness and compassion.

Ethics

Ethics is a major component to consulting.  I believe that the successful consultant has to know what he/she believes and stands for.  I believe that in order to offer someone superior service in consulting, one must be aware of his or her ethics.  I think that consulting is a profession that someone can easily fall into for it’s profitability and thus perform solely for profit. However, if a person has a strong sense of being; promise a profit probably won’t interfere with that.  While we must also understand that consulting is a job, we must also understand that it is a job to be done with care.  Much like a physician or a teacher…and all of these jobs require a strong ethical being.

Engagement

June and Sarah’s presentation on engagment was the best.  Oh how much more in tune I would be with my supervisors if I were,even once, given the opportunity to decide where and how I would sit during a meeting.  I would REALLY be more in tune if I heard them say something positive about me and my work.  Don’t get me wrong, I am told “thank you” and “good job” from time to time…but what if things were said with the authenticity that we presented to one another in class.  I’d probably go to work ready to “overdo” my job, vs. hoping and praying that I do enough and do it right.  Perhaps I am thinking over my head at this point.  I think many organizations have just succumb to avoiding change.  Many of our organizations are simply trying to force things to work…simpy trying to get the most out of employees by doing the same things over and over instead of trying a different strategy….

Timing

As I mature and learn more about consulting, I learn more about “timing”.  I have discovered that there are times to say something and there are times when to say nothing.  I have found myself in several situations where I have thought that authenticity should prevail and I have spoken my mind immediatley.  From some of these “authentic” moments, I have found myself in uncomfortable situations.  I have sometimes had to deal with the embarrassment of not having known all the facts or appearing too argumentative.  I have found that in some situations I have even been perceived as overly sensitive (for immediatley speaking my mind…without all the facts) and treated that way….(somewhat patronizing).  I have since learned timing….and how to say things to get a “more valuable response”.  I have also learned to express my thoughts in a way that will also be meaningful to the receiver.  It’s all about becoming a better communicator.

Giving My Two Cents

Consulting requires that you ask questions of your client.  Sometimes, for me, this can be very challenging.  I do not want to appear unknowing or feel like I’m asking a “stupid” question.  Sometimes, although I am listening to a client, I need clarification for things I do not understand.  Before asking them to clarify, I somewhat shudder at the response I expect from them.  Will they role their eyes at me for not understanding them and needing them to repeat something to me?  Will they give me a “duh” look?  Or will I still not understand and need to ask them for more clarification?  I also worry about entering territory where someone obviously knows more about a concept than I.  For instance…human resources.  While this is an area that I have become more interested in; I still know very little about it.  I don’t want to ask “unnecessary” questions or questions that appear irrelevant to my client.  As I type this, it sounds a little trivial…but it is one of my concerns.

Communication Error

I like to talk, but lately I am discovering that will all the talking I am doing; I am not always communicating to the best of my ability.  I’m noticing that in work and personal relationships, I am having to go behind myself and reitterate things to people in order to clarify what I’ve previously discussed with them.  I used to attribute this to people being stupid or purposely manipulating my words for their own benefit.  However, this is occuring more than I am able to tolerate.  I do not like having the “when I said_____,what I meant was______ conversations all the time.  Maybe I need to be more direct, but I guarnatee someone will mistake my directness for nastiness.  (It’s happened before)  Then what will happen is the person will refuse to communicate with the “nasty lady”.

Too busy to be genuine….

In class, we discussed taking the time to gain authenticity in relationships.  We discussed how relying on technology (email, texts, facebooking…etc) to guide communication can often cause more harm than good in our relationships.  While this can cause severe problems in consultant/client relationships (believe me…I know) it can also cause difficulties in our everyday relationships as well.  I can remember a previous job I had where the boss wanted the employees to correct some things we had done wrong.  In an effort to communicate her request to all of us, she sent out a massive email to all the employees…in all CAPS.  Was she simply trying to emphasize the importance of the assignment or was she YELLING at us through an email???? Of course, nearly every employee interpreted it as yelling.  We  felt belittled and demeaned….scolded…as if we were young children breaking a rule. 

I recently left a job.  Upon my resignation, I began to receive emails from my supervisors sent from “I-phones”.  While there was no face-to-face words of sincerity expressed to me, the “i-phone” messages made me feel like such an afterthought…as if recognizing my leaving was such a nuissance.  My point is…while technology makes it easier for us to communicate, it usually isn’t the best way.  It leaves too much to interpretation on the part of the receiver.  I’d much rather build concrete, genuine, face-to-face relationships rather than technological ones.

Those Difficult Conversations

My Groups and Teams class has come to an end…and my capstone class will end tomorrow.  Throughout these group experiences, my teammates and I have worked together, griped together, laughed together, etc…We have had to rely on one another to get things done.  However, I don’t feel my experience in my groups at VCU will relate to other experiences in groups.  At my job when we are working in ;no one really has anything at stake.  There really isn’t anything for anyone to lose if the job doesn’t get done,  Everyone will get paid the same amount of money on the 1st and 16th of every month.  It’s a state job, so no one is expecting a raise because they know they won’t get one.  They know that at the end of the assignment, there is no instructor asking for a review of their work by their teammates.  I have even seen situations where a co-worker did not like what was taking place in a group assignment and very loudly verbally announced that they refused to do anything else.  I wish I’d received a chance to deal with those sort of “uncontrollable” group dynamics that can surface.   What do you say to a team member that speaks or acts like that.  Currently, I just tune the person out and if they come to their senses “great” but if they don’t “oh well” the work will get done with or without them.  I just wish I had more “know-how” to approach that conversation.

The paradox that is my home

After the presentation on paradoxes in class; I thought it would be interesting to take some of these concepts home to discuss with the man in my life. I don’t know if it was the late hour of the evening or the fact that I may have interrupted his “winding down” time, but after this discussion I felt like I needed to call in to work the next day. Let’s just say, the chicken or the egg question ended up being a religious/political debate that only ended because the phone rang.

Do it Your Way

I work in a very small, very tight group/team at my job.  While there are so few of us that work so tightly together; the personality differences are so great.  All too often, I find myself supressing things that I think are important to say in order to not hurt a person that I noticed may have a very thin skin.  However, this tends to cause negative outcomes…of course.  I find myself noticing problems or things that may have been done wrong, but all too often I choose not to say anything and justifying by thinking to myself “they’ll see it was a bad idea when things go wrong”.   This can’t be the right thing to do.  Of course, these problems that I see possibly arising do not affect me personally or directly, but even still; I have some insight that could possibly deter a situation from becoming bad.  Am I not operating or working to my full capcity because I choose to let a team member find his or her own way in a situation?  Should I be more forthcoming with my ideas and risk “hurting a team member’s feelings” on a concern that does not really involve me?  I would be very open to anyone’s opinion…no matter what….but then again…that’s my personality.