Practicing Compassion in Consulting

Written by lewsauder

May 29, 2020

We are experiencing a phenomenon that none of us has experienced in our lifetimes. It is not just a once in a lifetime thing. It is a once in three lifetimes thing. When I was a young kid in the 1970s, we talked about an energy crisis. We had to save energy by turning down our thermostats and driving less.

I have only heard and read about the sacrifices we made domestically during World War II. Citizens were required to ration everything from food, to rubber to fuel for the war effort.

Today, we are being asked to limit our interactions. We are social distancing. In many states, restaurants have been closed. Special rules have been implemented to create distance to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some people are worried. Others are just taking precautions. Some have become frustrated political activists for one cause or another. Everyone seems torn between taking health risks of the virus seriously enough, being concerned about the impending economic devastation, and the possible overstep of government authority. On top of all of this, we’re trying to distinguish between useful information and misinformation.

Despite the closures and layoffs, many of us have continued doing business as usual, or as close to usual as possible. We are working from home, holding virtual meetings online, and doing our work. We are doing it with the background music of barking dogs and crying children but trying to move forward.

As we do this, we must keep in mind the underlying concerns a global pandemic creates. Everyone is dealing with it in a different way. Even those that are making the best of it will have bad days. As consultants, we need to ensure that we are including compassion in consulting.

Compassion for your fellow consultants

Consulting is not for everyone. It is hard work and can involve high pressure environments. Usually it is the strong that survive. Even those that are considered strong may be dealing with pressure that can be overwhelming at times.

Be sure to chat with your fellow consultants. Without prying into personal business, ask them how they are doing and how they are handling the situation. They may have a loved one that is at risk, or that has lost their job. They may live alone and are dealing with isolation anxiety.

Try to be a comfort to them. Ask if there is anything you can do for them. In most cases, the most – and best – you can do for them is to listen to them and let them know that you care.

You may want to lighten the mood by joking around, but you may want to be careful not to make a joke of the situation. That could add to their stress.

If you feel your coworker is dealing with concerns about isolation, you may want to bring others in. Schedule a virtual happy hour or social gathering with some other coworkers. It may be helpful for the whole group.

Compassion for your client

Like your coworkers, the individuals at your client may be dealing with any number of concerns in this environment. For many, working from home is an entirely new situation. They may not have an environment at home that allows them to be as productive as they were at work. They may have young children or other distractions that impede their productivity.

Because of their makeshift home office space, they may feel awkward talking to outside consultants. Empathy from you will go a long way. If you see their child or pet in the background, take some time to ask for an introduction. You may introduce you kids or pets to them as well. I’ve spoken to consultants who have had virtual dog meet-ups during their calls. They know the names of their clients’ dogs, cats and kids. Make sure the client is comfortable with this. Forcing something like this could make them more anxious.

Each time you talk to them, do a check-in. How is your day going? How are you and your family holding up? If they have mentioned issues in previous calls, ask how things are progressing.

Consulting is more than a business transaction. A big part of being successful as a consultant is how you develop relationships. Developing relationships is not just about taking them to lunch or drinks. It is also about caring about the client and helping them to deal with a difficult time.

Compassion for yourself

You may feel like you are strong. And you may feel like you are being strong for everyone else: your coworkers, your clients, your family. But even for the strongest of people, bad days will happen. You may read a news article that makes you realize that this is going to last months rather than weeks. You may have a sleepless night worrying about a loved one that is at risk. Whatever it may be, even the most positive people have challenging days of uncertainty and fear.

If and when this happens, allow yourself the time to deal with it. Take some time to yourself and relax for a while. It may be helpful to investigate relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness.

Amid what feels chaotic for many of us, we all have a need for business as usual. We need to balance a sense of normalcy with the reality that we are dealing with something that makes us all feel a little helpless at times. Helping each other and helping ourselves will go a long way in making sure all of us get through this as healthy and safe as possible.

How are you showing compassion in consulting in your work?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com 

Image courtesy of Franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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