The Art of Consulting
What Great Consultants Do Differently
“The Art of Consulting” brings out a more consultative point of view for everyone, even non-consultants. Why is this important to your organization? Because great consultants are strategic thinkers, savvy tacticians, and excellent coaches and mentors. They read the dynamics of power and influence within an organization and use that knowledge to benefit the client and help their client to learn to do the same. They are courageous in providing the client with what they need, not necessarily what they want, and model for their client how powerful being authentic can be. In short, they help build great companies.
A consultative point of view is taking a closer look at the current reality (the problem), comparing it to where you want to go (your goal), and preparing a plan to close the gap between the two (solving the problem).
In “The Art of Consulting,” participants bring an “unsolvable” problem with them. They will be working on something of direct value to their organization. If they solve this unsolvable problem, or at least some of it, they will be directly benefitting their team and the organization.
Participants are organized into family clusters and go through a series of extraordinary experiences during this year-long program. After each experience, participants take a fresh look at their problem to see how their view of the problem has changed. They seek input from their family clusters and from the group at large. With each new experience and assessment, participants expand their consciousness and that of the group’s. The end result: Participants increase their creative expression and their ability to see things in a different way. That’s how you solve problems.
But Common Boundaries doesn’t stop there. We ask participants to integrate what they have learned in the program into the workplace through coaching and other methodologies. We ask them to gather feedback and support their teams by encouraging them to use this process throughout the organization.
That’s the goal of “The Art of Consulting”—to increase the effectiveness of each individual in the organization, whether he or she has participated in the program or not.
Does Training Employees to Be Consultants Work?
Current research suggests that when one wants to learn something, the best way to do that is to teach it. However, the best consulting organizations know that consultants need both technical and non-technical training. Consultant training doesn’t always occur in the classroom but on the job in an action-learning environment. Herein lies the dilemma. How does a consultant learn to be a consultant? Is it more than just the nuts and bolts? How do you teach the ability to read power dynamics, a facilitative-style, innovative thinking, or the confidence to think on your feet when things aren’t working out?
Ed Bertof, of Becton, Dickinson & Co. (a medical technology consulting firm), found that a combination of having employees learn to teach certain modules of a training curriculum improved their understanding and knowledge of the subject. He also found that the employee-teachers gained more confidence and were able to integrate the more subtle “art” of the teaching into their everyday work.
It is believed that increasing emotional intelligence through the art part of consulting will help increase employee satisfaction and retention and improve productivity.
Recent articles in Wharton Leadership Digest and Project Management Institute Magazine (PMI) chronicled that leaders, project managers and consultants are more effective when they increase their emotional intelligence and apply it in the workplace. Andrea Useem explained that it is more than technical competencies that enable organizations to succeed. She stated that leaders and consultants can encourage their organizations to move to higher levels of functioning when they connect from the heart.
Peter Senge, a leading author in the area or organizational development and change, noted in his book Presence that Nike was pulled into a higher level of functioning by several key operations managers who brought their heart courageously into the workplace and allowed Nike to see that their global trade and labor practices were not in alignment with their guiding principles. These managers were able to do this because they were emotionally intelligent, were able to be objective even when things seemed to be going well at work and were able to move others to a state of presence to be able to see the current reality.