Category Archives: Communication

Airing the Consulting Firm’s Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry
The Consulting Firm’s Dirty Laundry

I was once at a client where I had developed an excellent relationship with one of their employees. We got to the point where we began going to lunch on a regular basis and would occasionally stop for a drink after work. It’s usually a good development when your client relationship gets to that.

The client’s dirty laundry

Our relationship began to evolve from talking just about business and the project we had in common, to talking about our families and hobbies.  Eventually, we got to the point one night over drinks where he began talking about office politics and, even worse, office gossip.
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Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

consulting skill
Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

The young batter planted his back foot in the dirt of the batter’s box and assumed his stance.  He took a hard swing at the 2-1 pitch, rocketing it between third base and the shortstop.  The shortstop dove hard to his right and knocked the ball down.  Quickly, he picked it up and threw a hard rope to first base.  We all heard the base runner’s foot hit the base a split second before the ball hit the glove to beat out the play.

Then, to everyone’s shock, the umpire bellowed a confident “Out”.
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Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate

Consulting Skill
Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate

 

One of the most critical consulting skills is communication.  A good consultant needs to know when to communicate, when not to, and the most effective way to do it when it is necessary.

The communication consulting skill

Knowing how to communicate includes knowing the right format – do I email this guy, call him, or schedule a face-to-face?  Once you figure out the best approach, you need to plan out the correct words that make your communication diplomatic, but direct enough for the situation.
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Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?

Transparent Status Report?
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?

I once managed a project for a multi-site organization to implement software at each location.

I held a weekly status conference-call with the company’s executives which included the branch manager from each location.  In these calls, I would give an overall status of the project and each branch manager would report the status for their respective branch.

When the turn came up for one branch manager to report status, he always reported the project as green; there were never any issues or risks.
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Put the Phone Down and Listen

Put the Phone Down
Time to Put the Phone Down

I’ve had to sit through my share of meetings to which I never should have been invited; and many meetings where I was only necessary for a minute or two, to provide an update.

It’s one of the most infuriating things I endure as a consultant.  Sitting in a 1-hour – or longer – meeting is not only a waste of my time, but a waste of the client’s money to pay for me to sit there.
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Stand up: The 15 Minute Meeting

15 Minute Meeting
The 15 Minute Meeting

Every company and client that I’ve worked for has had what I considered a penchant for meetings.  I’ve seen meetings to prepare for a meeting.  I’ve also seen meeting leaders who take all of the time allotted for the meeting.  If a one-hour meeting finishes in 45 minutes, they figure out some way of extending the meeting to its allotted time.

Necessary evil

Part of the problem with meetings is that they do serve a purpose.    A meeting addiction is more like an addiction to food rather than to a drug.  We can’t eliminate meetings completely.  We just abuse their use by taking them a little too far.
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My Big Proofreading Screw up

proofreading
My Big Proofreading Screw up

Once when I was on a consulting gig, we were deep in the requirements gathering stage.  We had full, cross-functional team meetings twice a week and additional meetings with selected team members throughout the week.

As the project manager and business analyst for the project, I was in every requirements meeting with every end-user.

This involved a lot of documentation.  We documented meeting minutes, requirements documents and functional design documents.  Countless emails were involved with the team members so that everyone was in the loop regarding meetings and discussions in which they were not involved.

My proofreading debacle

I remember once there was an issue with a business rule that contradicted one that had already been established and I needed to get clarification from the team.

What I intended to write was this:

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Five Rules of Meetings

Rules of Meetings
Five Rules of Meetings

I’ve always considered meetings to be a necessary evil.  There are times when the best thing to do is bring together the appropriate people to make a decision or just update a group of people on status.  Far too often, a meeting is used as a way to defer or avoid making a decision and a lot of time gets wasted.

On top of that, even when the meeting is necessary, it’s poorly run and made inefficient by the facilitator, the attendees or both.

So here are my five rules of meetings.  I have a lot more than five, but if everyone just followed these guidelines, the world would be a better place for it.

5 rules of meetings

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5 Steps to Better Client Communication

Better Client Communication
How to achieve better client communication

Communication is an important facet of developing relationships with your clients.  What some consultants don’t understand is that little things they do – or don’t do – can affect their credibility and their professional reputation negatively.  Here are five subtle things you can do that make a big difference in establishing your image as a professional as well as earning the client’s trust.

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