Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Great advice for beginning consultants

This year, I've had the privilege to undertake a part-time coaching engagement (~8 hrs a week) outside of my normal job responsibilities. It's with an IT hardware solutions firm that my employer has been partners with for a number of years; they actually host all of our production servers. They have a small software team they've been trying to get going for the past 18 months or so, but have really struggled with it for a variety of reasons. Having visited my shop a few times, they really liked our approach to software development and wanted to emulate it with their team.

I was really excited for the opportunity, but also a little nervous, having never done something like this before. I wasn't really sure how or where to start. After thinking it over, I decided the best first step was to talk to someone who had done something like this many times.

So I emailed my coach, explained the situation, and told him I'd greatly appreciate and value any insights he might have for "a newbie heading out on their first 'mission'". His reply was golden:

Great to hear about your part-time coaching engagement. And thank you so much for inviting my thoughts.

Even though they say they want to “emulate” [your process], [I] highly suggest you really take the time to appreciate their nuances (not to say that you wouldn't already) so that you can help them really discover their true identity. We’re all human, and I have found that far too many coaches are too eager too quickly to prescribe a solution versus really deeply appreciating the nuances of the current situation before moving towards offering suggestions and then co-creating a solution with clients.

Additionally, [I] suggest adopting mindset/behavior incrementally so as to not negatively impact their existing operations. However, if they are in extreme pain, it may be worthwhile to consider more drastic/aggressive adoption of mindset/behaviors.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime (even if you just want to talk through what you are experienc[ing] & thinking and would like to explore together). Good luck. *

I've gone back to it many times throughout my engagement, and I'm sure I'll take it with me to future opportunities as well. Frankly, it's incredibly good advice for anyone beginning a new job of any kind, not just a consulting project. I just couldn't let it continue to sit in my inbox; it needed to be shared.

I hope you'll give it some thought when your next opportunity starts.


* I need to give credit where credit is due. Si has been my coach and friend for a number of years now. I sincerely hope you have the opportunity to work with him at some point; great teacher, great speaker, great thinker, great writer, and all-around awesome guy.