Effective Consulting Step #4: Tools / “Hands”

…now for the fourth & final step in the series on “the path to successful consulting & coaching – tools! (if you’re just jumping in here, start with the first post for context).

…tools! tools!…finally!…a consultant’s dream! Time to open your the toolbox, dazzle with frameworks, approaches, how much you know, how valuable you are, right?? WRONG!!

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Nothing could be worse! After painstakingly building a relationship of trust and engaging the heart & mind, don’t blow it up here. By this point your client should be eager and energized to move forward. If you lambast them with your arsenal of tools they’ll be deflated, disillusioned and wonder why they hired you in the first place (“I knew this was going to get heavy”).

What does it look like? For a moment visualize with me a professional golfer getting ready for a shot…she eyes the next hole, paces quietly, surveys the green from different perspectives, walks quietly to her golf bag, chooses ONE club (out of many!)…then lines up the shot.

Translate the analogy to consulting…A good consultant listens intently, builds trust, takes inventory of the situation, reaches into his quiver of tools and chooses the one necessary to take the next step.

How do you do that? Here are some pointers:

  1. Make it logical. A good sign that you’ve actually done steps 1-3 well is that the tools seem “natural.” Sure, there may have to be explanation on proper usage, but it doesn’t feel like a “requirement” or “checking the box”…it’s actually an enabler that helps take a step forward. If it doesn’t feel that way, you’ve either missed a step in the journey, or it’s the wrong tool.
  2. Speak the client’s language. Nothing is more frustrating than being “talked down to” or feeling like we’ve made a “mountain out of a mole hill.” Wrap your “tool talk” in your clients words to make it theirs…they don’t need to know the technical lingo. Example…you can say “it’s time to do a stakeholder-force-fields-analysis” (techno-heavy), or you could simply say “why don’t we think about how others see the pros & cons of this project” (plain English).
  3. Make tools invisible. Your client doesn’t need to know the technical nuts-n-bolts of your methodology…just enough to contribute and engage with it effectively. In fact, it’s your job to manage the complexity behind the scenes and keep it as invisible as possible…like the backstage of a theater. Making it look simple and organic on the front-stage is the key value you bring.

This final step of the series is the real acid test of your skill as a consultant/coach, since you’ll quickly know how well you’ve done on the previous steps (or not). However, don’t panic or think it’s abnormal when you need to circle back – you’ll have to (often)!…or feel like you have to get it right the first time – you won’t!

Think of an airliner on a long flight – when it inevitably hits turbulence, the pilot goes up or down in altitude until he finds smoother air. By the same token…you’re the pilot!…you’ll have to iterate and go back and forth between steps to get it right. That’s the joy and the art of coaching and consulting!

Picture: www.fastlubeplus.com

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  1. Ahhh, tools! I often think it’s best to ‘hide’ the tool under the next page in your notebook. The person you’re sitting across from doesn’t need to know they’re using a tool at all! Just ask them questions based on the structure and you’ll both get what you need.