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Top Power Skills Every Organizational Consultant Needs

organizational consulting Dec 16, 2022
 

What are the top power skills that every organizational consultant ought to have? 

Today, I want to connect more specifically with those building an organizational consulting or coaching practice not just because of the money but because they want to make a difference. 

I'm sure you have personally lived through those 70-hour workweeks that took you from your hobbies and time with your family. And have experienced the crazy decisions in service of 90-day numbers that impacted your career opportunities.

And now that you have broken free of your golden handcuffs and escaped your 9-5, you want to make sure no one else experienced what you did. So, now you want to land work where you can influence change and play a role in creating organizations that are equally committed to people and profits. 

The big question is how do you establish your credibility, with the positioning to speak truth to power so they will listen?

Here's what many consultants and coaches try to do that won't work:

  • They try to get their foot in the door in any way, thinking once they are there, they can all of a sudden be seen as a strategic advisor like making a lunch and learn, saying yes to whatever comes along and taking subcontractor gigs.
  • They get super aspirational in their marketing, thinking that they will attract clients who want to create purpose-driven, people-centered organizations.
  • They get aggressive or shameless self-promot-y

But the real solution is to cultivate the personal power skills of an organizational consultant that are highly learnable. 

One thing I have learned over my almost 30-plus years of consulting – while there are executive unicorns who will share your idealistic visions of a balanced approach to leadership, like Mark Johnson (in episode 42) or former Disney COO Jim MacPhee (in episode 40), the majority won't. 

You have to meet them at their point of departure and use your power skills that I'll be sharing in this episode to influence them in a better way. 

Now, there's only so much I can share with you on a podcast about practically using these power skills and how everything else we have been chatting about in these organizational consulting series fit together. 

For this reason, I'm super excited to tell you about my hot-off-the-presses new free masterclass, "How to Make Money and a Difference as an Organizational Consultant." 

In this masterclass, I'll be sharing step-by-step the solution that empowers you to achieve your income AND impact goals as an organizational consultant. It's completely free, so definitely sign up now: www.betsyjordyn.com/consulting-masterclass

Now, onto the top 5 personal power skills of an organizational consultant…

Skill #1: Systems thinking

  • Systems thinking is your understanding of the organization and how all the pieces of the organization are connected to one another. 

It's going beyond what is documented on the org chart and approaching your consultant similarly to a doctor's approach to a patient. A good doctor knows human anatomy. A good org consultant knows organizational anatomy. 

The overall organizational system includes three primary systems:

  • The business strategy is all about WHAT the organization wants to accomplish
    • It provides mission and purpose, brand, vision, goals, desired customer experience, products, and service offerings
  • The organization strategy is about HOW the organization will achieve its business strategy
    • It includes organizational structure, processes, and how work gets linked across organizational and geographic boundaries
  • The people strategy is about the WHO 
    • It includes: HR practices such as training, staffing and communication, performance metrics and rewards, and performance management and coaching

All three create the culture and work environment.

Systems thinking helps you influence a senior team – it gives you the framework you need to solve problems at the level of cause. It shows them where their disconnects are and the implications, for example, if they decided to change their organizational strategy by reducing their headcount to both their people strategies and the achievement of their business strategy and culture. It explains in objective terms all the variables they need to consider when making critical business decisions. 

So many companies are in a mess after a layoff because they don't think about the survivors and the implication of their results. They don't see the impact of an employee's workload doubling without the related compensation or rewards. They don't see the impact on customer service as fewer employees are extra stressed. And they don't see the impact on culture and environment, especially if leaders are not thoughtful in their decisions and communication.

I have been a member of one of a massage membership companies for years. I joined because they were down the street from my house and I could pop in and get a massage or facial when I needed to. Since covid, things have changed, and there are fewer therapists. I could never get in. And on top of it – they raised their rates. So, I canceled my long-term membership.

Skill #2: Political Savvy

  • In episode 52 – I went over the secrets to consulting excellence and mentioned that accepting politics is one of the secrets. It's not enough to accept politics; you have to master your ability to navigate politics if you're going to be effective in influencing executives. 

For example, I did a customer assessment for one of my clients, which revealed some horrible feedback about the sales process. Initially, I was going to do my report to the entire team but realized that this would be a disaster, especially how the sales VP would receive this feedback. So my client and I decided we'd do one-on-ones with the senior team starting with the key informal leader on the team, as there always is one. We got him to understand and accept the feedback and had him join us in our meeting with the sales VP.

Political savvy is understanding the reasons for the meetings before the meetings and using those constructs to get your message across. It is knowing whose buy-in you'll need and how to get that buy-in.

When you get into a client system, you're not only assessing what is causing their performance gaps and where the disconnects are in the system. It's also understanding:

  • The real corporate culture and the real values that the company lives by. I typically am not a fan of values exercises with executives because what they come up with is often what they think makes them sound better but doesn't reflect their true values. 
  • The REAL organizational chart and who the real influencers are, and who seems to be the power on the throne (and your new best friend that you MUST connect with and win over)
  • The social system and what departments and leaders get along with each other, and who's in conflict

Politics – both bad and good will eat the best project plan for lunch every day. Politically savvy will help you land work and set up your consulting so that it sticks.

Skill #3: Proactive Advocacy

  • Proactive advocacy is seeing what is possible for your clients that they may not see yet for themselves and convincing them that this possibility is doable for them. 

I only realized how powerful my proactive advocacy skills were once I led a mastermind group's final session. I asked everyone questions about what gave them the courage to leave their jobs and start their businesses, and everyone said, "you." 

The way I handled intro calls with new clients had little to do with me sharing about my programs and everything about giving my clients the courage to do this, that they could make this shift.

In the context of organizational consulting, a lot of the proactive advocacy you can offer your clients is grounded in having a vision for what's next for their business growth and goal and showing them that vision.

I created an eCourse a few years ago, Consultant's Toolbox, which shows you step-by-step exactly what you need to do to land and deliver six-figure consulting contracts, establish your credibility with senior leaders and influence them to create positive change that I'm bringing back to the market. In this program, I teach a lesson on the stages of an organizational lifecycle, from start-up to growing to mature to revitalizing. Understanding these stages helps you paint a picture of what's next for an organization and why and how they need to mature their leadership and operating practices. You can find out how to get access to this program when you sign up for my new masterclass: www.betsyjordyn.com/consulting-masterclass

Working at a large Fortune 100 company like Disney helped me paint a vision for my clients who aspire to be like Disney in their space. 

Having a vision also includes listening deeply to your client's needs, not just wants. And what they want to achieve something for their companies directly tied to their career aspirations. So, you advocate for them in your proposal and through your work together and go back to them when fear rears its head.

When I was a consultant, I never lost sight of what a client said was their deeply held wants and needs, and when they hit roadblocks and obstacles, I brought them back to this point. 

Now in my brand and business mentoring – I never lose sight of what my clients say is their real intentions are for their business and what it's supposed to create for their careers and lives. So when they hit imposter syndrome and fear, I remind them of this and why what they want is possible. 

Proactive advocacy is about speaking the truth to your client about what they should do that is in their best interest. You're advocating for them with them and their highest potential.

Skill #4: Navigating the relational dynamics of a client/consultant relationship

  • To be an effective proactive advocate, you must become savvy in handling the emotional issues and triggers that accompany change.

One thing I know for sure is that when a client hires a consultant or coach, it's a very vulnerable thing.

They are exposing their flaws and challenges to you.

And at some point, you will find yourself with a resistant client.

Resistance isn't the same as having objections or different points of view.

It's when your client has a masked expression of loss of control, vulnerability, and self-esteem.

Here's how you know you're in the realm of resistance – 

You're presenting a report, working through a strategy, and pitching work but somehow, no matter what you do or say, you cannot get the client to focus on the content of the work at hand. They do things like:

  • Flee into health and tell you that all of a sudden, everything is fixed and fine
  • Act super-confused no matter how times you repeat yourself
  • Accuse you of being academic because they live in the real world
  • They ghost you and can never find time to follow up 
  • They keep asking you for details and more details
  • Or they comply a bit too quickly

If you are going to influence change, you must be conscious that this will happen either with your client or with someone important in the organization.

I remember one time I was presenting a report on another customer assessment to a client whose customers consistently said that the company won business on price but lost business because of the abysmal service that they received. The VP of Operations kept downplaying my findings' significance and pressing me for more and more examples. Meanwhile, he was sitting next to the VP of Sales during this exchange and received an email from a customer who threatened to dump the company over poor service and asked the VP of Sales to take care of it. At the same time, he was arguing with my report findings.

The bad news – dealing with resistance is VERY unsettling at times because it feels so gaslight-y and crazy-making.

The good news – dealing with resistance and relational dynamics is a learnable skill that begins with recognizing your resistance.

There's the resistance you might feel when taking action on your own consulting or coaching goals, hiring a professional to help you with your branding, website copy, or graphic design like my team. 

Or it might be when you start to blow off meetings with people who express interest in working with you or avoid networking and marketing. 

Notice in yourself when you feel a loss of control, vulnerability, or self-esteem. How do you express your resistance? How do you get back on track? 

Skill #5: Use a consulting approach that takes into consideration the organizational and political systems, positions you to be that proactive advocate and empowers you to mitigate or even avoid resistance.

I call this approach the Consulting Engagement Cycle, the foundation of my Consultant's Toolbox program and what I'll be teaching in my free masterclass, "How to Make Money and a Difference as an Organizational Consultant."

If you want to learn more about this approach sign up for the masterclass (it's totally free). Plus, as a bonus for signing and staying to the end, I am also including a quick consulting win that gives you a strategic way to break into a new client system so that you can shape thinking right from the start that you're a peer and partner to your clients. Head on over www.betsyjordyn.com/consulting-masterclass

You and I are both process people, so you may not know yet that there is a step-by-step way to achieving both your impact and income goals and that is using a process where you:

  • Step 1 – shift your focus from sales or contracting to Partnership Set Up. My approach to landing clients is all about using your relationship skills to pivot a client from whatever methodology they ask you for to a conversation about business goals. Then, you can position your consulting and coaching from the start against their most strategic opportunities and yourself as a partner.
  • Step 2 – always, always start your work with an assessment. This is where your systems thinking comes in. Evaluate business performance gaps against what you know and how the system operates when it's working so you can see the breakdowns. This way you solve problems at the level of cause, not effect. And you have the data and independent point of view to be a proactive advocate and align a senior team around a common change agenda. 
  • Step 3 – design a solution WITH your clients, not for your clients. Through my assessment, as mentioned, I'm scanning the political environment at the senior team level and the next level below. When projects move into the solution design phase, I bring together a project team of these influencers who have the content expertise to design the right solution and the internal credibility to sell the solution to the senior team and the rest of the organization.
  • Step 4 – when you help your team implement a solution, always keep the hardware and software aspects of change in front of their minds. Do beta tests and pilots. Ask people impacted by the change to give their input before a full rollout. People will buy into what they have a say in.
  • Step 5 – measure the results of working with you, which will demonstrate to your current and future clients that you're an investment that generates a return and not an expense to be managed. 

So your top five power skills that are highly learnable are:

  • Systems thinking
  • Political savvy
  • Proactive advocacy
  • Dealing with resistance
  • Consulting engagement cycle

Next steps:

    1. The key is developing these power skills is to let go of that "I should already know how to do this" myth, especially if you have a leadership and corporate background. The thing is – consulting is not the same as leading. It's a new job with new skills, and the beginner's mind will fast-track your progress. 
    2. Identify which of these skills you most want to learn right now.
    3. To help accelerate your consulting success and your mastery of these organizational consulting and influence skills – for sure sign up for my masterclass, How to Make Money and a Difference as an Organizational Consultant: www.betsyjordyn.com/consulting-masterclass. I'll go into more depth on the consulting engagement cycle in this program, the hidden barriers to connecting with executive buyers, and more. You'll also get an opportunity to get a big discount on the Consultant's Toolbox along with other extra bonuses. 

Stay tuned for next week, as I have a special treat for you. I'm bringing a few Disney colleagues onto the show, and we'll be chatting about our experiences with our OD consulting team and how they have taken the lessons in unique ways into their consulting practices.

About me: Betsy Jordyn is the founder and CEO of Betsy Jordyn International, a boutique branding firm that offers personalized mentoring and end-to-end creative design services to help high-achieving, purpose-driven entrepreneurs build profitable consulting and coaching businesses that they love. Betsy is the host of the weekly Enough Already podcast, blog, and YouTube channel, with over 300 episodes. Through her company and her content, she is on a mission to empower accomplished professionals to make the shift from success to significance and achieve their full potential in their careers and in their personal lives.

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Links:

Download my free guide on how to clarify and own your unique position in the crowded consulting and coaching market: https://www.betsyjordyn.com/opt-in

Learn more about my Brand Positioning and Messaging strategy services: https://www.betsyjordyn.com/services

Schedule a consult call to talk about what you need to do to get seen and paid as the expert you already are: https://betsyjordyn.as.me/schedule

Related Blog, Video, or Podcast Episode:

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The Pair of Hands Trap: What Keeps Consultants From Strategic Client Partnership
 
How To Explain What You Do with Clarity and Confidence
 
How to Conduct A Market Scan And Find Your Niche
 

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