Attitudes for Consulting Success

1. In any times, but especially these, stop whining and find out how to get things done. Believe it or not, there is no one hiding around the corner conspiring against you. The solution is generally within your grasp. I love it when people write me and open with, “Your download doesn’t work,” or, “You’ve neglected to send what you promised,” when they actually failed to follow the download instructions or my email wound up in their overly zealous spam filter. My favorite: “You didn’t send the download within 48 hours, please do so immediately.” The problem was that the teleconference is still four weeks away, but she wanted the download within 48 hours of registering! I was supposed to shift time for her!

2. Remember that you influence change by appealing to the other person’s self-interest. If your starting point is that YOU have a great technique, or YOU need a favor, or YOU expect their support, then YOU have a big problem. What’s in it for them? If you find that out and begin with it, you’ll get their attention: “How would you like to decrease the costs of acquisition?” Recently, a consultant who had never written a book and has a “great” idea on his “specialty of the future” asked if I’d co-author a book with him on a subject I have zero passion for. Of course, he wanted my brand and my name on the book. He was irritated when I asked what was in it for me. That should have been his first thought before writing.

3. Outstanding problem solvers always ask this question: “Has this process (or procedure or initiative, etc.) ever been done to this standard anywhere, at any time?” If so, then that’s telling evidence that you can achieve it. If not, the standard may be incorrect. (“Day-one deviations are problems that began from inception and the performance has never hit the expectation.) Keeping that in mind, there are thousands of consultants doing very, very well in this economy in your areas of expertise. Consequently, it can be done. If you’re not doing well, why aren’t you doing better? It’s not an issue with the environment, the issue is with you.

4. Everyone laughs about the bromide of doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. Yet many people quoting it are in the midst of the act. If you are not investing time, energy, focus, and money on developing yourself to master changing and complex times, how do you expect to ever do better? Doctors constantly take advantage of learning best practices in medicine and in their specialty. (Apparently, they’ve now learned to wash their hands.) What are you doing to master the best practices in marketing and delivery in this profession? Hint: If you have not substantially decreased your labor intensity in areas of your expertise over the past few years, you’re working in isolation and inefficiently.

What’s your attitude for consulting success? Are you following the same advice you’re providing for your coaching and consulting clients? Or are you advising them to do as you say and not as you do?

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Attitudes for Consulting Success

  1. Alan,
    Great point, here in TN there are 5000 companies listing them selves as consultants and I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t complain (whine) about the economy being whats holding them back. One of which refuses to change his marketing approach because he’s doing it like all the marketing journals say to do it! Of course those are mostly written by professors that don’t make a dime off of their own marketing! And he wonders why cold calling just doesn’t seem to be working. I know the only reason I don’t have the amount of business I want is because I haven’t learned what I need to learn. I’m learning as fast I as I can but I still know that I have seen the enemy and the enemy is ME! Thanks again Alan, great post. On another note, I’m sorry but I kind of enjoy twitter…

  2. Who knows, I may enjoy Twitter, too! I have an open mind.

    Professors can barely teach, let alone make money in a practical world. The only thing worse is to go to them for pragmatic business advice. I have thriving consulting communities because most consultants don’t have a clue and refuse to learn (or listen to other consultants who don’t have a clue). People who gather around me are self-selected early adapters and innovators.

  3. Thank you for all your great advice, Alan, but…I’m going to have to disagree with #3.

    While there may be times when you’re holding yourself (and your client) to an impossible standard, and you need to reevaluate what’s physically possible, you can’t always look outside for the solution.

    If you wait for someone else to solve the problem and prove that it’s possible, you might be waiting a long time.

    FedEx didn’t become #1 in over-night deliveries by looking to see who else had already done it.

    Maybe I read the comment wrong, but with my clients the solutions are all unique, and it’s nearly impossible to use what other people do as a yard stick for what’s possible.

    Thank you again for your blog – it keeps me thinking!

  4. I think we’re actually in agreement, so let me clarify.

    In point #3 I said “outstanding problem solvers.” But you’re talking about innovation, which is a completely different process (my first book was “The Innovation Formula”). Fedex, the Walkman, and airport shuttles all came from an innovative approach, which is far different from problem solving. It raises the bar instead of trying to restore the bar.

    Your solutions aren’t unique (they never are). You innovations are unique.

  5. I guess that makes sense.

    I’m just having a hard time getting my brain to agree that you can’t have an “innovative solution”. It’s probably a semantics issue on my part. (Maybe I should mention that I’m a mechanical engineer, and my clients are power plant operators… but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me that’s irrelevant.)

    Looks like I have another book to add to my “to-read” pile…

    Thanks again!

  6. It may be semantic, but the starting points for problem solving and innovation are quite different, as are the processes. With the Walkman, just as an example, there was no “problem,” in that people weren’t concerned that they didn’t have headphones and a music device to walk around with. No one knew they needed one until Akio Morita showed them otherwise.

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