Value Consulting: “Work with Me, Don’t Tell Me What to Do”

Good leaders don’t hire consultants to tell them what to do.   And good consultants don’t tell people what to do.

The best consultants ask questions that help the leader see and prioritize issues, and incorporate the executive’s expertise and knowledge of their organization to develop solutions.  Leaders can include, but are certainly not limited to, CEOs, CFOs, Sales VPs, managers, and anyone leading a team from which revenue generation is demanded.

It’s a collaborative process, with the consultant and leader working as partners to address the company’s challenges.    To become a trusted advisor, consultants must demonstrate the value they can bring to solving a business need by raising concerns that will get to the heart of the matter.

I am always stunned and more than a bit perplexed by businessmen who, after 15 minutes of conversation ask, “So what do you think I should do to solve this problem?”    My response (after counting to 10 in my head) is to ask how they know this is the main problem?  Then I point out that while there are several possible solutions to the perceived challenge, as an astute executive he/she likely knows these obvious fixes already.

I proceed to ask 2-3 questions in addition to the one just posed to get them to think and demonstrate that not only do I refuse to take a cookie cutter approach (because it never works), but that I am interested in providing the right solution for specific needs.  My value comes in providing an outside perspective and asking tough questions to unearth the real issues holding a company back from its desired success.  Some sample questions that have worked to jumpstart the thinking process include:

  • What are the reasons you are focusing on this issue now?
  • What is the ideal outcome you would like to achieve?   How will you measure success?
  • How will these changes impact the bottom line?  Revenue?  Costs?

If, as a consultant, I tell you what to do, there’s no ownership, investment or collaboration.   The odds are that once I walk away, whatever advice I’ve shared, training I’ve done, sessions I’ve facilitated, will not be followed through.  And that’s where you are going to see the results that will grow your business.

If, however, I’ve worked with you and you’ve put your thought and brainpower into developing the solution(s), you feel a stronger connection and see the value.   You have engaged in a process of self-realization, recognizing what your company needs to succeed.   Follow through will be something you want to do—not just because someone told you.

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