What Do Clients Need from Consultants? Options and a Recommendation

Consulting is an abstract term and open to interpretation. My interpretation is that, at its core, consulting is about listening, identifying options, identifying tradeoffs, and making a recommendation.

Five Steps to Being a More Valuable Consultant

A good consultant identifies a problem and helps resolve it. A great consultant listens to a problem and identifies options, but ultimately yields decision-making power.

Options weighted by cost and value.
Consulting is about trading off options vs. costs within a specific context. Lean Change Management.

Put simply, a great consultant:

  1. Listens – Great listening skills lead to a deep understanding of the problem.
  2. Processes – Pause. Think. Allow the problem to settle in. Resist the temptation to react immediately. Make time & space, replenish energy, and the next step will be a lot easier.
  3. Identifies options and tradeoffs – Almost every problem has multiple ways to solve it. Each solution comes with different tradeoffs. Cost is usually the most important. Avoid providing an option without at least attaching a cost.
  4. Recommends – Given a deep understanding, options, and costs, recommend what you believe is the most balanced solution.
  5. Waits, but follows up – Give the other person time and space to decide on a solution. But follow up within a reasonable timeframe to provide some accountability and ensure that things don’t become blocked.

Stereotypical stock image of a consultant.
Sadly, writing backward on a transparent wall is pretty far down the list of important consulting skills.

Other Thoughts on Consulting

My colleague Mike has written on this subject as well. His posts are sharp, articulate, and worth a look :