This article is part 3 of our 5-part series on life-changing lessons for "people consultants." To see part 1, go here.
21. Not Everything is a Nail. There’s an old saying attributed to Abraham Maslow: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” There are many examples of this concept playing out in business and one of the most common that we see applies to personality assessments. Consider the DISC assessment, for example. Because of its immense popularity, some consultants, coaches and trainers can have a tendency to see people dynamics through the lens of this single tool. Sometimes, this means DISC is used to explain things about people beyond the scope of what it is actually designed to measure, while ignoring other important elements of human personality. (Read more: 5 Mistakes Consultants Make With the DISC Profile.)
22. Know Your Models. Every business function (e.g., Marketing, Sales, Manufacturing, I.T., HR, Management) has basic models, frameworks and concepts that are widely accepted and will save you hours of work from having to re-invent the wheel — the trick is knowing the right tool for the job. See our post: 40 Must-Know Models for HR OD L&D.
23. You Don’t Need to Know Everything. Consultants are sometimes lured into the ego trap of thinking that they need to be the expert on everything and must be seen as the smartest person in the room. Nobody really expects one individual to be the all-seeing, all-knowing Oracle of Delphi. The role of the consultant is to facilitate thinking; not to do it for others. People will know when you create a false pretense or try to talk around a question. Be comfortable with being direct and saying, “I don’t know… but I will find out.”
24. Do You Want to be Right or Do You Want to be Effective? Sometimes you need to put your ego aside and, instead of trying to be correct or winning an argument, just focus on achieving the best outcome for the client. Don’t become too attached to your ideas, theories, advice or recommendations. There is a saying often used in journalism and advertising, “Kill Your Darlings,” meaning that you need to get comfortable with letting go of your best ideas if the client wants to go in a different direction (even if you strongly believe it is the wrong direction). As touched on earlier, a consultant is brought in to facilitate decision-making with the client, not to make the decision for them.
25. Don’t Badmouth Ex-Companies / Colleagues / Clients or Competitors. There are a number of reasons why this could be a bad idea — including the Chinese whispers effect of having your original comment taken out of context and changed — but ultimately it just comes down to professionalism. Most clients expect to work with someone who will keep things in confidence. Disclosures of past dealings not only run the risk that you will be seen as someone who might have been part of the problem; they leave the impression that you cannot be trusted to keep a secret. If you say reckless things about people behind their backs, others will assume you talk the same way about them.
26. As a Facilitator, Never Get Drawn Into an Argument. In the training room, when a participant openly disagrees with something you say, don’t try to fight them. The only thing worse than trying to fight someone is dismissing his viewpoint all together and moving on. Hear him out, listen, paraphrase, and make sure you understand what they’re saying. Acknowledge the viewpoint and highlight the differences between it and yours. Don’t make it personal. Don’t say, “I think you might be confused.” Make it about the idea, not the person. Remain calm and emotionally detached. Being emotional and raising your voice, even slightly, will signal to the other person to do the same, which can lead to escalation. If the clock is a concern and you sense the discussion will get the group off track, recognise the fact quickly and ask to spend time after the session or during a lunch break to talk about it in more detail.
27. Stories Are More Powerful Than Statistics. In the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” the authors point out that “in the average 1-minute speech, the typical student uses 2.5 statistics. Only 1 student in 10 tells a story. Those are the speaking statistics. The ‘remembering’ statistics, on the other hand, are almost a mirror image: When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63% remember the stories. Only 5% remember any individual statistic.”
28. Beware the Silent Opposition. There are times when you will be seen as the enemy. In training, employees are often sent against their will as “prisoners” or “hostages.” In coaching, employees are often assigned a coach to work on a behavioural or performance issues — things they might not agree with. In consulting, employees often attribute the presence of consultants with layoffs, performance evaluations, or significant changes to processes, which will not necessarily make their lives easier. Most of the time, resistance is not explicit. People will rarely make attempts to openly sabotage your efforts. The real danger lies in when they choose not to be active participants in helping you succeed. This is part of life as a consultant. While it certainly isn’t possible to win the commitment of everyone you meet, much can be achieved by doing small things to build trust, rather than brushing aside those who don’t appear to want to help.
29. Everyone You Meet Can Help or Hinder Your Efforts. Every person you meet in an organisation, even those not directly working on your project, can either support or undermine your efforts. Always treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect, from the janitor to the receptionist to staff working in other departments. You never know who they know, what they might say, and what impact it will have on your success.
30. Implement a ROI Accountability / Review Process. The only way to know if you made an impact in your work is to know what happened before and after you came into the picture. For example, with sales training, measure job performance before the training and then after. If job performance is not measured before and after the training, it is impossible to understand what ROI has been delivered. (See: Kirkpatrick’s 4-Level Model of Training Evaluation.)