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20 Questions to Help You Uncover Your Client's TRUE Culture and Politics

To win business and deliver results - all consultants MUST cultivate their political savvy. While we may think that executives hire consultants for economic reasons - the reality is that more often that not, we're brought in for political reasons. 

Politics is not necessarily a bad thing. Politics gets its bad rap when leaders operate out of self-interest versus the best interest of others. Then ego issues such as who has more power, competition for resources and unhealthy conflicts raise their ugly heads. Good politics benefits the organization because it helps with providing checks and balances.

Here's 20 questions to help you uncover your client's true culture and politics (and I promise you - it's not what's posted on the organizational chart or the values hanging in the break room!)

DEFINING THE REAL CORPORATE CULTURE

  • What are the stated values? Are they what the company lives by?
  • Who are the organizations heroes? Why?
  • Who are the scapegoats? Why?
  • Who gets the...
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#7: How to Lead Change without Authority

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One of the biggest transitions consultants go through is figuring out how to help their clients with massive change projects without positional authority. They may see what needs to be done but they don't have the ability to simply direct others towards achieving those outcomes. 

Why You Need to Listen To This Week's Podcast

In this podcast from my series Consulting Matters: Mastering the Art and Science of the Business, I am going to show you the secrets of leading change without authority which is clearly understanding and owning your role. You see, a consultant is not a leader. A consultant is one who helps a leader by framing the problems that the leader is accountable for solving. Consultants frame the challenges and help provide a roadmap for resolution of challenges. Leaders oversee the implementation of solutions and ensure sustainability.

Where You Might Get Stuck

The first key of being an effective consultant is learning how to...

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#16: Framing and Empathy (the Little Known Way to Establishing Consulting Credibility)

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In this week's podcast I want to share with you the one skill, literally the one skill that will transform your consulting practice and your positioning as a strategic business partner within the organization. This one skill - this is the one thing that you need to master to overcome resistance, establish credibility and build buy-in.

This skill isn't project management or writing a business plan.  I call it "Framing and Empathy" which is another way of describing how to create a connection with your client and give him or her the gift of being heard.

Why You Need to Listen To This Week's Podcast

You don't establish credibility with listing your credentials or name-dropping past clients. Instead, you leverage framing and empathy to demonstrate to your client that you get them. You get their challenges and you get why resolving them matters. Armed with this ability you have the platform and position to influence a client to take action on...

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The #1 Thing Your Client Doesn't Get About Employee Engagement

One of the best things about mentoring other consultants is the opportunity it gives me to reflect on what I do as a consultant and why.

This week our group was exploring the topic of gaining and retaining leadership buy-in and it caused me to stop and really think why this matters so much and it all boils down to this - 

The one thing that we all really want from others in order to trust them is confidence that when they make decisions they take into account what's in our best interest.

When I train consultants on the importance of doing an assessment and taking the time to deeply listen to stakeholders (whether they are executives, managers, employees or customers) it's not just about a consulting approach that generates revenue for them. It's about being a a conduit to help those people in the organization be heard and have a voice on issues that effect them. 

What most leaders (and even consultants) don't get about creating employee engagement is that it's not...

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How To Position Yourself as a Peer (and Stay Out of the Dreaded "Pair-Of-Hands" Trap)

 

Forging a strong client relationship is not a matter of chance. It is the result of choice and whether or not the consultant has taken charge of the positioning process. Unlike other roles in an organization, consultants hold no formal position on the organization chart. It is up to the consultant to carve out the position. If consultants do not take charge of the positioning process, it will be done for them by their clients which may cause them to fall into one of two traps.

The first trap is what I would call the Surrogate Leadership Trap. Consulting is not the same as leading, which can be seen in the visual above.

Many consultants by virtue of their natural leadership abilities or past executive experience are invited to play a role that involves more than simply giving expert advice or recommendations but rather step into the role that the client is supposed to be playing. And if the consultant has been a leader in the past, this is a huge temptation.

Trying to lead...

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Why Your Client Doesn't Care How Smart You Are (And What They Really Want to Know)

The number one way that really smart consultants get in the way of their own success is struggling with the fear that that they don't have what it takes.

Despite years of education and experience they stay up at night wondering what is the best way to let their future clients know about how much they know and what they can bring to the table. They pursue certification after certification hoping that one of them will be the silver bullet that will make them irresistible in the marketplace.

But here's the thing - your clients don't care about how smart you are. And the more you worry about it and try to force yourself to shamelessly self-promote and showcase what you think is all that you know you can bring to the table - you have already sub-optimized your effectiveness. 

Again, your clients don't care how smart you are. They don't care about your certifications or even your degrees

Instead this is what they care about and what they really want to know about you:

1....

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Wise, Foolish or Evil: Who Are You Consulting To?

"But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away"  (Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald)

Not everyone you consult to is the same and therefore you cannot use the same strategies to support their resistance to change.

According to author, psychologist and business advisor, Henry Cloud there really are three kinds of people: wise, foolish and evil. While we all have these characteristics and behaviors at times, our consistent behavior choices make one of these categories more predominant. 

Understanding these categories is essential for our consulting success because if we going to stay effective, healthy and sane, we have to accept this reality. And not only that, we have to learn to customize our consulting in order to match the type of character our client's authentically possesses. 

The easiest way to discern what type of character your client possesses is to watch to what they do when they are presented with difficult feedback or...

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Systems Thinking for Consultants

I have two children. When they were small, they used to go to daycare. What this meant in practicality to me was: two kids + daycare = many fevers and visits to the doctor’s office. As the parent, I was able detect and even treat the fever. However, in order to get rid of the fever, I had to rely on my doctor to discern whether the fever was caused by a bacteria or a virus and, if so, what part of the body the bacteria or virus was infecting. Then the doctor, using her knowledge of how the body functions, was able to prescribe the solution to dealing with the root cause of the fever.

You may be thinking right now, “What does this have to do with consulting?” Well, the difference between a parent and a doctor is the doctor is better able to understand the human body as a system, as well as better able to discern root causes of illnesses and to prescribe long-term cures for those illnesses. Similarly, the difference between a good consultant and a great consultant is...

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Four Reason to Love Corporate Politics

The last role I held at Walt Disney World before I left to start my own consulting firm was as the senior manager for Operations Integration. My job was to ensure that the senior executives from the theme parks, resorts, lines of business and support organizations worked together effectively and were on the same page, and that large-scale initiatives were implemented effectively across organizational boundaries. When my team and I were brainstorming a logo for our department, we jokingly decided we would design the “O” in Operations Integration to resemble a large bull’s eye, because of the amount of corporate politics we had to manage and mitigate. It felt like a miracle when we got anything accomplished while balancing competing organizational priorities and the ego needs of high-level executives.

I, like most leaders and consultants, began to develop a deep frustration for corporate politics that slowed me down, because it was time-consuming and emotionally...

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Organization Development 101

A FAMILIAR CASE STUDY

Tim, a seasoned leader in his hospitality/entertainment company, finally made the leap from general manager to vice president of the flagship theme park of his company. As he assumed his duties, he realized there were several major challenges in front of him:

    • How can he keep his “product” fresh and new while maintaining the company’s heritage and traditions?
    • How can he re-engage his employees and make them feel special?
    • How can he break down the silos among the various departments so they can work together more effectively and creatively?

Like the great operator and manager that he is, Tim began a series of initiatives to help rectify the problems. He began a program called “Employee First Community,” which was conceived to make employees feel special by having a logo designed and placed on many internal communication tools and recognition gifts such as briefcases. In addition, he set up a series of meetings for the leaders of...

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