Effective Consulting Step #2: Focus on the Fundamentals

In the post before last I made the case for the four sequential steps required to engage in effective consulting (as well as the risk of getting it backwards!). Since then I covered step 1 – establishing a personal connection – “the heart.” In this post we’ll cover step 2 – focus on the fundamentals/mindset – “the head.”

Assuming you’ve done a good job of gaining trust and establishing a common view of “where we are” (step 1), you’re ideally positioned to propose “where to go.” Keep in mind that you’re not yet diving into “how to get there” (a common trap that short circuits the outcome) – but rather gaining consensus on the direction and destination.

Instead of getting tangled up in the mechanics of taking the next turn in the road, it allows people to fully engage in forward movement towards a destination (don’t worry, we’ll come to the need for taking the next turn in the road, but clarifying the destination comes first).

Image result for compass

So how do you do that in practice? Let me propose the following principles:

  1. Clarify the mindset. Are we thinking short term or long term?…Tactical or strategic?… …Hands-on or take distance? Experimental/iterative or deliberate? Whatever you choose, define & communicate it very explicitly.
  2. Illustrate it. It’s easy for # 1 to sound really theoretical, so make it come to life. Do an icebreaker, tell a story, ask a question…For example, if you want people to take a big picture view of major threats facing the organization, you could ask: “what could put us out of business in the next 2-3 years if we don’t do anything about it?” That’ll get people to think at the right level.
  3. Let others enrich it. Be sure to have participants contribute to making the destination and mindset their own. Have them test some of their ideas to see if they fit. Let them tell a story that brings it to life for them. Write one of their quotes on the board that expresses it in their words. In a recent strategy session with an executive team the COO said: “I want us to focus on what we can do as leaders that our employees can’t do.” His powerful challenge became one of the driving forces for the entire workshop.
  4. Reinforce it. Don’t walk away from the bedrock you’ve just laid together. When you get stuck in detail, let the destination & mindset lift you back out. Make it visual so you can point to it and hold each other accountable. For example, if we agreed to have an experimental mindset but we’re falling into a perfectionist trap, say: “since we agreed to be quick an dirty, what would it take to get this idea in front of a customer in the next 30 days?”

In summary “the fundamentals” (i.e. mindset & destination) are like a compass that point you in the right direction. Actively use it, unite around it, let it be the rallying cry that continually drives the team forward.

Picture: www.wikipedia.com

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  1. Really like the question “what could put us out of business in the next 2-3 years if we don’t do anything about it?” It’s painful to think of but really puts people in the mindset of action! I think that the pain deters some people from thinking at this level but it’s so powerful!