It’s not enough to be right – a consultant must be helpful.
Effective communications with clients are the key to succeeding with any project. It’s not enough to be correct or technically amazing; you must be helpful in the eyes of your stakeholders.
I talked to a client a month ago about analytics and strategy. During this process, they were interested in receiving a competency assessment of an employee. I went ahead and talked to the person, reviewed his work, and realized that he was very competent with only minor quirks in his work. Despite the positive assessment, they insisted on firing him. As it turns out, the reasons behind this decision went beyond his competence. What I found was that because the employee insisted on taking a point of view – and being intransigent about his perspective – he discounted opinions from superiors and colleagues. So he’s now gone.
As consultants, we would like to believe that a client is best served when they are given the one and only best technical option, or perhaps two competing technical options. Of course, we also hold that this can be achieved only by listening to and working with a client’s specific situation. We often think that longer term strategy will outweigh tactical short term wins.
While it is always the job of the consultant to advise the client with quantitative and qualitative information that can influence or help determine the best course, ultimately the consultant must act in the client’s best interest even if the chosen option is not one that the consultant would pick. We present the risks associated with options and provide our preferred path, but we must let the client choose.
That’s the way we operate at Chateaux; we strive to provide consultative advice that’s helpful to the client, not just a technical solution in which the merits of that solution may be offset by less quantitative issues and objectives.
Ultimately, successful consultants must have the ability to identify and articulate what are often highly technical solutions – but in their zeal to get it “right” they must not forget that being right is not always the same as being helpful.