If you really want to make money and a difference as a consultant or coach, you can't get there by being nice.
Nice on the surface appears more ethical and in alignment with one's integrity. A "nice" consultant or coach delivers what a client asks for. Doesn't get too aggressive with their marketing. And certainly doesn't push a client to pay them what they are worth.
But in reality - nice isn't nice. Being nice keeps feathers from being ruffled and maintains a surface experience of pleasantness while hiding or minimizing the real issues that are begging for transformation and the real reason why consultants and coaches exist.
Our profession isn't a new one. It's an old one. The office of an executive advisor was created thousands of years ago, at the same time the office of the king was established. In ancient stories, myths and spiritual traditions, the King always had a Prophet, Mentor, Magician, Guide or Jester that spoke truth to power. And helped the King stay true to his obligation to make decisions that benefitted the realm.
Related Video: Why God Wants You to Become a Consultant
And this is why being "nice" doesn't cut it. It not only keeps you playing small, in the endless chase for small paying gig after small paying gig. But it also prohibits you from stepping into your power and owning the significance of the role that you are meant to play.
It is YOU that can help ignite more than short-term profitability in our stressed out corporate workplaces. It is YOU who knows what's on the hearts and minds of customers and employees and give them a voice at the table where they are not often heard.
Approach your work from a place of being "nice" and you'll wind up in a transactional relationship with an organization, most likely hired as a subcontractor by either a more successful consultant or coach or a department head within the organization.
Or you can focus on being good.
Being a good consultant or coach includes the following attributes:
You have to have something of value that your clients do not have. If you want to advise people in the same area of expertise as yours, you need to have more experience than they do. If you offer a skillset that is complementary, you need to make sure that you invest time and money becoming excellent at that skillset.
You have a solution to a problem your ideal clients have. And it is not their job to find you. It's your job to find them (or make it super-easy for them to find you.) Playing small in your marketing may feel like it reflects your values around not being full of yourself, but let's be real here. It is all about yourself. Playing small is about giving in your fears that what you have isn't valuable and that you're an imposter.
If you had the cure to cancer, you'd be bold to let everyone know about it. If you saw a movie that you loved, you'd let everyone know about how good it is. What's different in this case is that what you are on the hook to market is your own expertise, perspective, strengths and experience. And it for sure is more vulnerable. But consider this. These gifts were given to you for a reason and that reason is more than your enjoyment. It is that impact you want to make on the world that you and I both know you see. It's trusting that what you have is enough and getting out there and finding the people that you see in your mind's eye that need it.
When a client calls you and asks for your help, it's way more vulnerable for them than it is for you. It's their leadership and organizational "dirty laundry" that they are exposing to you. It's their fears and challenges that they can't solve on their own that ultimately gets them to call you. So your first shift has to be in how you think about that initial discovery call. You are not on the hook to sell your services and establish your credibility. It is to build trust and make that person feel okay that they don't have all the answers and how much it reflects strength that they asked for help from someone like you.
Approaching your work with reverence means that you understand the hope you create in employees when you ask them to fill out a survey or participate in a focus group or interview. It means that when you do strategy work, organization design or leadership coaching, you are affecting potential career paths and work environments and so you can't be focused on how you appear to the client but rather making sure that you help your client be thoughtful and intentional about their choices.
As consultants or coaches, we are constantly in the position of having to raise difficult issues to the person who hires us because so many organizational and leadership challenges are caused by the person at the top. They hire people like us to fix everyone else when the real problem is them. And we know it not because we want to be judgmental because of the data we have gathered from our assessments.
And it's these moments of truth that reveal if we are going to be nice consultants and coaches or good ones. Being good in this moment is speaking truth to power not because we want to be jerks but because we love our clients. We speak truth to power because this is what is in their best interest.
You cannot love someone and enable them to do something that isn't in their best interest. There are a few truly horrible leaders out there but the majority of them want to do right by their employees. I have rarely worked with an executive who wakes up in the morning and thinks to him or herself, "I really hope today is the day that I make a living hell for everyone around me."
But they are golden handcuffed. Their income is tied to short-term profits and they often have to choose between doing right by the organization and doing right by their loved ones who have are accustomed to a certain bonus size. Their success has been built upon a certain approach to leadership that is no longer working for them.
A good consultant or coach is more than someone who wants to be pleasant or liked. They are not peacekeepers. They are peacemakers and the type of peace that they create is at multiple levels. They help their clients experience the type of peace on the inside where their thoughts, walk and talk all align. And from that place of calm clarity they can make decisions that benefits their entire realm - customers, employees, shareholders, their leadership team, their loves ones and themselves.
Want to change the world through your consulting and coaching - including your own? The only way you'll accomplish it is to stop being nice and start being good.
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