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Trainer’s Diary: What Do You Really Want My Consultancy For?


Byron Kalies
What do you do when the person funding an investigation designed to oust a business predicament turns out to be the problem? Byron Kalies explains the options.

Dave Hall, who I’ve mentioned before in this column, asked me a profound question when we worked together once: “What do you do when the person who’s paying you for investigating the problem turns out to be the problem?”

It’s a tricky question. Having never been in precisely this position I had to work through some examples where I had experienced similar problems.

One early consultancy which went a great deal worse than I could have imagined had the customer taking control of the event after hearing some feedback she wasn’t too thrilled about.

Another occasion provoked a particularly negative reaction from a client when the agreed ‘hopes and fears’ session from the staff started getting a little too honest for his liking.

On both occasions I learnt valuable lessons about contracting carefully at the beginning. Now for every (I really mean every) consultancy there is a contract. This isn’t a 14 page ‘to me’ outlining money, numbered bank accounts, my rider (a pop music term) and standards of behaviour. It is a simple contract checking what I’ve been asked to do, what the client will do, who’s responsible for what and what I’m expecting to achieve. Reactions to this include: “Do we really need this for a small, half day event?” to, “Is that all you’ve got for a three month set of programmes?“

In truth it varies very little. It does, however, spell out precisely what I’m expected to do and not do. It will also prevent the client taking matters into their own hands and changing the agenda because they’re not too keen on it.

I guess the whole premise behind this is to have a solid set of values. These were instilled into me when I began training. They were: “Everything we did must be based on the needs of the business,” and “The wisdom is within.”

Two almost trite phrases that have underpinned how our training was carried out. We tried incredibly hard not to carry out training that’s not based on the needs of the organisation. This means we didn’t run training events because they’re fun, popular or will allow the client to get a tick in the box and a pat on the back from their boss – unless it’s achieving something.

We also tried to get the people attending events to work out what they would need for themselves. This doesn’t sound too novel except that we tried to use this for all aspects of the process. That is we encouraged clients to co-present work with us so that they ran future events themselves.

This isn’t as suicidal as it seems. The more clients got involved the more they wanted to learn and get involved. They seemed to want even more help as time went on.

When I used these values it wasn’t that difficult as the majority of the training was internal. This ingrained approach, however, works extremely well with external training as well.

It has saved me sleep at night as I’m not continuously trying to generate more income from existing clients which, let’s face it, they suspect you’re doing anyway. It has saved a great deal of potential grief and hopefully helped me answer Dave Hall’s question by saying it wouldn’t make any difference. I’d take the cheque and move on. Well, I hope I would anyway.


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