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Business continuity for Consultancy: Proving value beyond hard skills


Let me share some thoughts and lessons from my experiences about providing value beyond technical expertise and knowledge sharing. Over time, being involved in several implementations to make more efficient processes, recover productivity, and increase marginality, I recognised that changing the way of working for the company required an intense activity with people to avoid resistance and allow them to get on with the new ways of doing things. This is Change Management. However, I discovered that only focusing on genuine and authentic human connections matters far more than being a point of reference for personal capacities and abilities, processes knowledge and problem-solving skills to facilitate transitions. In my view, an effective consultant should take time to listen closely and draw out a client’s wisdom through open-ended questions, which also stimulate critical thinking.[1] (Schein). Asking with humility and genuine curiosity builds rapport quickly. People want to feel heard and respected for their knowledge. However, it happened from time to time that I missed new clients’ frustrations early on before proposing solutions. Reasons? I knew I found the problems, and I was excited to be able to solve them. I acquired the clients but missed the higher mark because I neglected to first walk in their shoes. I then learned to leave aside my “solutions ego-based”, meet people where they are, and approach problems with authentic empathy. Of course, this does not avoid the commitment of consistently delivering high-quality work, with excellence over time, while sustaining engagement and collaboration and not just one initial deliverable [2](Block). Speaking about the early stages of consulting, I learned that gaining success using low-hanging fruits (typical recommendations for Change consultants) may help to motivate the recipient of the change, but it can reveal a risk to trust between clients’ stakeholders and consultants because people can’t be fooled for long-time. You earn genuine trust through dependable performance over time, proving your capabilities across multiple scenarios. One brilliant analysis won’t cut it. Showing you can be relied on repeatedly inspires confidence. I make a point to regularly check in between formal meetings through informal coffee chats or quick phone calls. These invaluable touchpoints provide opportunities for candid feedback on what’s working well versus needing adjustment. Nurturing the relationship and open communication allows me to catch potential issues early before they escalate into major problems. Taking the time upfront to deeply understand motivations and tailor my process has proven to be game-changing, but only at the beginning. Why? . Every client organisation has its own distinct internal culture, rhythms, and norms. [3]. Thoughtfully adapting my approach to align with how each unique client operates, I have been able to demonstrate my commitment to their context and priorities for results and matching requirements (hard aspects) with expectations, even personal ( soft aspects). For example, I am working with a B2B company undergoing a quite disruptive Automation with RPA. I thoroughly researched their structure evolution, communication channels, and decision-making dynamics. In addition to gaining information for the projects, this demonstrated respect and interest, setting the stage for a trusting partnership amidst their difficult transition. Navigating the strong personalities of influential executives requires a tactical approach and emotional intelligence. While bold leaders need to drive challenging visions, they may lack self-awareness of resource limitations. I have learned to align ambitions with reality through candid yet tactful dialogue. Based on a similar scenario from my experience, I provided perspectives based on simple methods on more gradual but achievable timelines. We collaborated to define milestones, balancing urgency with pragmatism. Another thing I have learned about decision-making people is how the ego can be a rap for the consultant but, at the same time, a great opportunity. While ego demands delicate but firm managing, passionate executives push for excellence, which can be harnessed through transparency. I balance realistic expectations upfront with encouraging stretch goals once proper foundations are in place. Influential stakeholders need forthright counsel, even when complex messages are hard to hear.I objectively outline the optimal path forward, not just tell people what they want to hear. I learned this lesson after vague objectives caused disconnects between executive visions and team priorities. I invest significant time upfront, meticulously mapping goals, key results, budgets, and contingencies before kicking off new engagements. I believe and apply a strict connection between the bottom line and the company’s and executives’ business goals: I introduce and use the OKRs – Objectives Key Results.[4] Of course, situations evolve, so expectations need continuous realignment. We pause regularly to objectively assess what works well versus requiring adjustment and course correction to keep complex projects on track. Adapting plans based on transparent, data-driven progress reviews maintains trust and engagement. When demonstrating value delivered, metrics are clearly getting executive attention. However, human impact stories provide more profound meaning, even raising red flags. I found it compelling to balance quantitative data with qualitative ones: testimonials from employee recipients of change. Personal narratives reveal value missed by numbers alone, striking an emotional chord that indirectly favours relationships, and ask executives for reality checks. Enabling lasting knowledge transfer sustains positive outcomes beyond the duration of my engagement. I focus intently on embedding skills within the client’s organisation through training, coaching, documentation, and even mentoring when we are close to the project closure. Empowering capable internal experts for the long term may be the most rewarding achievement rather than just temporary wins tied to my direct involvement. This may not match the last research results about value perception from the clients, but it is one intangible element that, if not pursued, can bring unexpected consequences. Just as people see doctors, even if they are absent symptoms for preventative check-ups, I conduct regular health assessments to catch early warning signs. This vigilant prevention mindset keeps projects thriving over the long haul. And often involves the decision-makers in these brief health checks before discussing the hard elements. Hitting key deliverables and targets builds momentum and reinforces 1. that we are on the right path and 2. Hard goals are not disconnected from people (OKRs) and remind stakeholders of the accumulating value. The periods of COVID-19 and now automation and, very soon, AI created and will enhance people’s emotionality about the workplace and jobs, making any transformation more challenging. The uncertainty about a possible unsafe future due to technology disruptions requires a different mindset from consultants and, yes, soft skills. But skills need to find room in a muted mindset. From research on trust in the virtual environment, the approach described above must consider emotional connection and show benevolence.[5] The bottom line is that I have learned that human connections enable consulting success primarily. Without genuine trust and understanding, even the most brilliant expertise and skills (only) get you nowhere. From research, trust emerged through rational assessment of ability/integrity and emotional bonds/rapport (cognitive vs. emotional trust). Behavioural trust makes consultant actions perceived as benevolent and competent.[6] Thoughtfully customising my approach to each client’s unique needs while nurturing our relationship bears real value. Our work thrives most when empowering people and organisations to flourish sustainably; that is how I want to deliver authentic, lasting value.

 

[1] Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster- Schein; [2] High-Impact Consulting: How Clients and Consultants Can Work Together to Achieve Extraordinary Results - Robert H. Schaffer [3] Advanced Consulting Earning trust at the highest level - Bill Pasmore [4] 𝐎𝐊𝐑𝐬𝐯𝐬𝐊𝐏𝐢𝐬𝐈𝐧𝐑𝐏𝐀𝐈𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 [5] “What are the implications of virtualisation for building trust during the management consultancy lifecycle? “ Luca Collina -Management Consulting Journal-vol.7 June 2021-pag.18 [6] ibid

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