I am a consultant and not a magician
Andrea’s posts about Humble Consulting and a workshop at the Berlin Change Days with the title “Stepping in or holding back” made me reflect about my role as a consultant.
I have also asked friends, colleagues and costumers (both consultants and managers) what their views are. The replies were much the same: Companies and organizations expect consultants to be experts, know things better, have a lot of experience, come up with new ideas, use modern tools, fix problems, have solutions,… And that is also the reason why consultants get paid so well.
Are consultants magicians?
Companies see consultants as magicians who just need to wave their wands a few times and all of a sudden all problems are fixed, new ideas have emerged and solutions are found.
That is why I have started using this picture where I am dressed up as magician. My teenage son considers it embarrassing and I agree that it is not the usual “professional” profile picture a consultant would use. Yesterday a customer asked me if that is me on Halloween. No, I don’t dress up on Halloween and in case you have started to worry, I won’t come to any meetings or workshop dressed up as a magician. Because I am not.
Should a consultant provide answers or ask questions?
Coming back to “Humble Consulting” and Andrea’s question: Should a consultant provide answers or ask questions? This is up to the consultant and of course the customer (you get what you pay for).
I start with asking a lot of questions. Although I love talking I focus on listening. I listen to what people tell me and observe what they don’t tell me (at least not in the beginning).
I have realized that people feel appreciated when they can talk and someone really listens to them. Only then I start working on answers and solutions together with the client.
The client is the expert!
Solution focused coaching and my experience both in coaching and consulting have taught me that the client is the expert. Of course I share my experience and knowledge with my clients and tell them how I have dealt with similar situations. I also provide the necessary processes and tools and help them put together plans and action lists which I regularly follow up on. I thrive to be a good example with regards to leadership, communication, facilitation, etc.
It makes me glad to see that some of my clients have weekly stand ups, others are walking instead of sitting in meetings, many have started using flip charts and post its, ……
But every person and organization is different and therefore only this person or organization can be the expert for their / her / his solution.
Stepping in or holding back?
Consultants and facilitators are hired when things are not going well to step in and make changes happen. Consultants and facilitators, but also mangers are thus paid to step in.
However “holding back” is not about being passive and doing nothing.
Holding back also means observing what is going on in order to get a better understanding.
It can express both appreciation and empowerment, giving people the message “you are doing well, you can do it … and if you need support I am here for you”. Believe me – holding back is not easy and can also take a lot of your energy.
In the end
it does not depend on asking questions or giving answers, stepping in or holding back.
It depends on acting in the most appropriate way to come up with long lasting solutions rather than quick tricks performed by the magician.