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Oh no. A test. It’s a useful test though, because it’s a test that works out if a consultant or professional advisor you are working with is any good or not. Excellent! Unless of course you yourself are a consultant. Then you’re under this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) spotlight too. See how you do.
Consultants can talk to you about many things. They can impart knowledge, teaching you new approaches in relevant and embedded ways, so that you change and improve quickly. Or they can shine a light on things you already have but can’t see so clearly. That can be very enlightening and useful too.
And consultants can talk to you about the rules of the game that they and you are playing. Legislation about which they are very knowledgeable, for example. Consultants can also chat you through, and test with you, age old evergreen theories and notions that are tried and tested and have helped others like you over decades. They may also introduce you to contacts with whom they themselves have had successes in partnership. New people that can help by joining your team as well for a little while. A consultant’s contact that can relay how they themselves have already done what you want to do, explaining what worked well.
And then there is the consultant’s own personal past experience and learnings of course. Things that they themselves have experienced and had successes with, things that they can share and implement again.
I think that most good consultants will do most of the above, and if there is a broad mix of what’s mentioned here, then that’s probably the sign of a good consultant.
Dead People and Tomorrow.
There are two more things however that some consultants really major on. And that’s dead people, and tomorrow. Now, both of these things can in fact be useful, but not if that’s all the consultant ever talks about.
First, dead people. What I mean by this is people that the consultant quotes or sites, but also challenges or questions. People that can’t come back at the consultant and further explore the two sides. There’s no conversation because, well, one of the two is no longer with us. This leaves the consultant in a place where what they are recommending could be completely untested.
Second, tomorrow. If consultants talk too much about what might or might not happen tomorrow based on their recommendations, with no evidencing of how it has helped other people in the past, this can be a bad thing. Because there is no way of challenging these unproven, yet-to-have-happened things.
As mentioned, there is a place for challenging the theories and ideas of people that cannot challenge back, and there are also times that suggesting truly fresh approaches is relevant. But watch out for those that talk almost exclusively about these two things. Because there’s no wider context. And without that, we can end up with just one person’s opinion against another – with nowhere to go but an arbitrary choosing of ‘this way’ or ‘that way’.
So there we go. A tongue-in-cheek look at what makes a good consultant. Or indeed a bad one. Look out for the signs!
Good consultants talk about proven and undisputed knowledge that’s relevant to you, contextualising how that knowledge can lead directly to improvements. They help you to see the best of what you already are, they explain and add context to the legalities and rules of your world, they recall historical theories that still matter and work today, they introduce new team members from past successes and of course they have their own proven experiences and learnings that you too can benefit from. And yes, they may of course challenge the work of others (whether the ‘other’ can respond or not) and try to project or predict what may happen in the future too.
But what might bad consultants talk about? Dead people. And tomorrow. And that’s pretty much it!