This month’s article follows on nicely from the last where we went through the 10 habits of top consultants, as this time I want to share with you the top 10 disastrous strategies to always avoid.
In this article we will consider the potential “own goal” areas of consultancy. These are not included on the grounds that they are theoretically possible – I have seen all of them occur (not all as a result of my efforts I would add!):
- Making promises and failing to deliver. This can happen for a variety of reasons- saying you can do something when you can’t; getting absorbed by something more interesting; double-booking yourself; or simply losing track of what you have promised and to whom. This is where it really pays to have a good sales pipeline system, and a good PA!
- Getting out of your depth. This is really building on the first point above. Do not take on something which takes you away from your core competence and area of subject matter expertise, or something where the size and sale is such that is too big for you to handle.
- Wasting the client’s time. This can be anything from engaging in small talk when the client wants to get down to business, through to calling unnecessary meetings which are not going to take the work forward.
- Creating change for its own sake. “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it” still holds good today. Clients will actually respect you more if you advise them that certain aspects of their operation remain fit for purpose.
- Confusing symptoms with disease and curing the wrong problem. Do keep an open mind when talking on a new challenge that the perceived problem is indeed the real problem. Sometimes it isn’t! I was once asked by the board of a small business to work with the second tier of management as they were holding back the company’s growth. When I worked with them I discovered the tricky reality that the business was in fact being held back by the board not the second tier!
- Trying to impose your own values. You have to respect a company’s culture, and you must remain sensitive to it at all times.
- Creating an inappropriate attachment to a client. This is as dangerous in consultancy as it is in any other business context.
- Failing to be candid. It takes courage sometimes to tell a client what they need to hear, as opposed to what they want to hear, but you owe it to yourself to be honest and to maintain your integrity.
- Have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Someone once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer you will treat every problem as a nail”. Beware applying the wrong solution to the wrong problem.
- Lose professional detachment and focus. Sometimes it helps to have veins of ice! However hard it may be at times you need to maintain an aura of calm and stay in control. If a situation becomes and looks set to remain untenable, then plan your exit in a dignified, sensitive and timely manner.
I am sure we have all slipped up somewhere in terms of this list, but the more we can guard against it the greater the likelihood that we can create value as opposed to destroying it, and enhance our reputation in the process.
Go through the list above and be 100% honest with yourself – am I doing any of these things? Does that sound like something I have done in the past and might do again? Unless you are completely honest with yourself, and a bit brutal too, you will never change any bad habits. Something that will cost you dearly in times to come…
My next consultancy article will feature some fresh, new tips on time management. It will also be my last expert article for consultancy, but you can always stay up to date with me in my monthly newsletter, which is full of exciting news as well as exclusive articles from my son, James.