Episode #10

Clarifying Your Role and Style For Change Consultants and Coaches

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Today’s topic surfaces several important issues about how we as consultants and coaches can best support the people tasked with making change. It is critical to consciously shape our role and style so that we meet the needs of our clients in the best way possible. Too often, consultants and coaches have been trained in a specific approach that becomes “one size fits all.” In the context of major change, that doesn’t always work! It is our job to help our clients see what they don’t see, in ways that support them to be successful. 

Come hear about the various choices we have about our roles andour styles of executing themso that we can best meet the needs of our change clients, be they leaders, project managers or change project teams. Come learn a powerful technique for doing so. Expanding your ability to see what is needed, adjust your approach and provide invaluable guidance can produce a breakthrough for you! 

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Video of Episode


04:19 – 07:06

Welcome to Ask Dr. Change.

07:22 – 10:03

I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson.

10:15 – 17:07

I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting

17:13 – 19:06

to transformational changes

19:17 – 22:03

all through conscious change leadership.

23:23 – 55:09

Today’s episode is about clarifying your role and your style for change consultants and coaches. It comes from a really interesting question from Imanol Bernardo, who’s an Agile coach from Switzerland. Here is Imanol question. As a coach, I always try to bring people to their own ideas. I mean that I do not tell them what to do and rather make them think so that they take their own conclusions.

55:11 – 01:21:02

However, what I often see is that many people have very low knowledge, especially when it comes to organizational structures and culture. So how can I bring people closer to the change they need when these people do not know much about the topic and achieve this without biasing them with my own ideas? I talked with Imanol about the question.

01:21:04 – 01:45:05

I wanted to explore a little bit more about what was underneath it and what came out of that was a, I think, a fascinating topic for us to talk about today. That’s not as much about the content of how to achieve results from change, but how we go about influencing the people who actually are making the change, planning, designing and implementing it.

01:45:06 – 02:10:05

Because Imanol is in a coach position to be able to support those people to do the right thing for their projects. So it’s more about how we interface with people no matter what your role coach, consultant and I’ll go into a little bit more about each of those. Our whole purpose, a whole context is helping people see what they don’t already see.

02:10:07 – 02:24:20

That’s the key to being a successful influencer of leaders and project teams and project managers. Change managers who are supporting projects to be successful. Now, if you’re a coach,

02:24:20 – 02:42:16

there are many, many approaches to coaching. So a number of us, myself included, have gone through a coaching, training and learn a specific protocol, specific ways in which it’s quote unquote best to be the best kind of coach possible.

02:42:18 – 03:16:13

So that’s classic coaching, supporting leaders to address our people, to address their mindset, their emotional reactions, their relationships, their interactions with others, how they show up. All of that is classic executive or leadership coaching. What I want to say about coaching and clearly which is evident in Emmanuel’s question, one size does not fit all. So when you’re the people you are supporting don’t know how to think through, how to come up with their own solutions.

03:16:18 – 03:45:14

What’s the best way of influencing them? So I want to reference kind of as an analogy. Those of you that are familiar with situational leadership, Paul Hershey and Ken Blanchard supported the execution of and demonstration of situational leadership, which is all about tailor your work, your style, your influence to the level of maturity of the people that you’re working with.

03:45:16 – 04:19:10

This is exactly true of coaching and consulting, but we’re focusing first on coaching. So if your people don’t have enough content to reveal what they think is best around a change effort, then standard coaching without offering any content, it actually doesn’t support them to be successful. Let me shift then to consulting. If you consider yourself a consultant. There are four different styles of consult in relation to change that I want to address.

04:19:12 – 04:49:18

And so for you to be able to identify as a consultant, which of these categories do you fit in? The first is a content expert. I know about structure. I know about technology. I know about culture. I know about business process. I know about supply chain, whatever it is. We often invite in either inside the organization, expert subject matter experts or external consultants who come in to give the answer.

04:49:20 – 05:20:18

That is the content expert. That’s very different than what Immanuel is talking about in his question. The second type of consultant is a facilitator. Much more of what Aminul is talking about. That is about asking questions, guiding the conversation so people can discover the best way of moving forward or seeing what they don’t already see. The third style of consulting is what I call being a pair of hands so that you’re on the team.

05:20:18 – 05:46:03

You’re asked to develop a communication strategy, a training strategy, do a specific piece of planning work or research that’s being a pair of hands and you’re still a consultant, but it’s actually getting into the weeds of doing the project work. The last type of consultant I want to talk about is being a strategic advisor. This is how we identify ourselves.

05:46:05 – 06:18:21

So we’re adding and offering both options as well as how to think through these options to see what is best for the client. And we’re doing this in partnership with the client. We’re not giving the answer, but we’re offering options worth exploring that might fit what they need. People often ask me, How do you define yourself? I’m a strategic change advisor user, and I frequently call myself a strategic change coach.

06:18:23 – 06:50:02

Now, that’s interesting. I’m crossing both lines. So what I do in my strategic change coaching position is that I’m working with leaders or other consultants who are working on supporting their clients to be successful in a change project. And I am talking with them about where they are, what issues they’re up against, what they may need to be doing, laying out options and exploring with them what they think the best possible approach would be.

06:50:04 – 07:29:20

And so I am coaching and I’m consulting and I’m not giving them the answer. I’m facilitating them to come up with it. It’s more aligned to being a strategic advisor, especially for senior executives. Now, what’s important about whether or not you’re a coach or a consultant is that change typically calls for consulting. So we’re there to really support people to figure out not so much the answer that we have to give them, but asking questions to support them to figure out what they need to do differently.

07:29:21 – 07:35:08

So I want to offer a very important approach, a very important

07:35:08 – 08:08:16

strategy that we use that I want to share with you today to help you become more of a strategic advisor and more of a facilitator of change. Strategy Coach. We call this approach questions that educate. And what it is, is asking questions first, observing the reality of what’s going on in a project, asking questions, getting a briefing if necessary, and then understanding that reality being

08:08:16 – 08:23:13

able to work with the leaders, the sponsors, the project managers or the project teams in such a way that we’re posing questions that lead them to understand the dynamics that they’re dealing with that they might currently not

08:23:13 – 08:54:08

see at all. And so the questions themselves have a lot of information in them, and provide options that then need to be explored. And so one of the important aspects of questions that educate is to set the context so that there’s an openness for listening to the question itself. Now, I want to share a variety of topics that you may be asking questions that educate about.

08:54:10 – 09:22:04

So perhaps it’s about the people involved in the change, your stakeholders, how to engage them, community patience. Perhaps it’s about pacing, timing, speed, timetable. Maybe it’s about governance and decision making. Change leadership roles. Who’s in what role? What are they asked to do? Who has authority to make what decision? Or if decisions aren’t being made at all? How to deal with that?

09:22:06 – 09:38:14

Perhaps it’s about the contrast between solution design, getting the right design and being able to implement it in a way the organization can actually succeed. Maybe it’s about capacity, which is one of the most

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active issues that we have about what gets in the way of good change. So maybe people don’t have the time, maybe people aren’t showing up.

09:47:21 – 10:24:05

Maybe people don’t have the ability to deliver in their change role. Perhaps you can ask questions about the degree of commitment and alignment the leaders have or stakeholders have, or what’s happening around stakeholder resistance. So many large scale change efforts have many, many subprojects, and oftentimes they compete. So one of the topics you may be thinking about is how to integrate, how to support and align and coordinate the many different initiatives that are happening within a portfolio.

10:24:07 – 11:02:19

Maybe you’re asking questions about the role of sponsor, the role of change leader, the role of the project team. Perhaps it’s about the ability to course correct. You see something needs to be different and there’s no mechanism for how to make a shift in process or strategy or outcome. Maybe you’ll be asking about the use of external consultants, especially since we see often that external consultants come in with their answer, their proof, and aren’t necessarily in alignment with what the organization actually needs.

11:02:21 – 11:09:22

And maybe it’s about political challenges that are inhibiting the change effort going forward. I’ve given you raft of topics potentially

11:12:09 – 11:16:16

to ask questions about you can add to this list. I want to

11:16:16 – 11:28:08

read to you a couple of examples of the kinds of questions that educate. Again, I mentioned it’s important to set the context for leader to listen.

11:28:10 – 11:41:23

So frequently, leaders don’t like to be surprised. They don’t like to feel like they’re not on top of the situation. And so how you set up questions that educate is really important to

11:41:23 – 11:42:17


11:42:17 – 11:53:15

their openness and their willingness to engage. So couple questions to give you some examples. In the stakeholder engagement topic.

11:53:15 – 12:05:08

So this is me asking a leader, how would you respond if the solution the content consultants propose triggers negative reactions in the various stakeholders?

12:05:08 – 12:23:18

We need to adapt and sustain the changes for us to be successful. What’s embedded in there is information about we have a solution. It may trigger negative reactions. Perhaps it already is, and those reactions aren’t being dealt with. And so that question

12:23:18 – 12:34:01

gives enough information to raise the issue of how do we deal with stakeholder engagement and resistance in a way that we can still get the solution.

12:34:03 – 13:06:01

But we’re working with our stakeholders, not against them. Another example having to do with speed. So set up, as you know, that’s a set up. As you know, most people think schedule is king around here. How do we go about making sure we’re planning enough time for the right solution to be designed and adopted? How can we influence how the timetable is determined in the first place?

13:06:03 – 13:25:20

So that it’s realistic to what the change really requires? Again, there’s a lot of information in there. We’re describing true dynamics that the leader may be completely ignorant about, but it sets up the conversation that’s going to be needed in order to figure out how to proceed.

13:25:20 – 13:36:08

one more example about sub initiative integration. There are so many change efforts happening independently in our organization.

13:36:10 – 14:06:23

I fear they’re going to compete for time and attention, let alone resources in capacity. Are you seeing the same thing? Do you see it any differently? What do you think of us designing a way for the project leaders to get together and coordinate their work in advance of execution, maybe coordinate their sequence, their pace to do work in parallel to optimize time and money?

14:07:01 – 14:18:18

These are all possible benefits of them working together instead of against each other. Would you support greater project integration if we can figure out how to accomplish this

14:18:18 – 14:26:08

so and or and then asking, or do you have other ideas? So these are all examples of

14:26:08 – 14:42:03

asking questions about a topic area that provides enough information for the leader to see the real issue that’s going on and then be willing to explore it and come up with strategies to address it or minimize it.

14:42:05 – 15:01:22

What it requires of us of then, is to actively listen to what the change leaders are, how they’re responding to our questions. And then perhaps deepen with more questions so that they can understand more of the options they have. I always go prepared with options for

15:01:22 – 15:08:17

remedying the issues that are at hand. So this is a great one In Temenos question.

15:08:19 – 15:39:18

What he’s actually asking for is how to work with these people to give them enough information to know what to explore. And his concern about bias. If it’s done constructively, if it’s done with open ended, these are possibilities. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each. Then he’s becoming less of a pure coach and more of a change strategy consultant.

15:39:20 – 15:42:19

So then what’s really needed here is

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following questions that educate is then tailoring the work so and tailoring our interaction with our clients so that our conversation fits their reality. It’s not one size fits all. It has to be tailored. Our intent, again, is to expand their seeing of what’s needed to shed light on the dynamics that are realistically happening and hopefully enough in advance so that we can do something proactively about them.

16:17:16 – 16:56:17

And we’re always providing options to explore. That’s what’s essential here. So clarifying your role coach, consultant, what type of consultant, what style you’re using, Really important to understand so you can see how best to interact with, to show up with, and to provide the greatest amount of service to the people that you are serving. Now, I want to share with you my pro tip, which is a reinforcement of asking questions that educate.

16:56:19 – 17:30:13

It’s just an incredibly powerful way of partnering, interacting with all levels of leadership, especially your sponsors and project leaders. So I would ask you, what topics are you seeing in the change efforts that you are consulting to? So what topic would you be shaping a question about? Make a list then. How could you frame the context setter? You may already have thought about this or as you know, or what we’re seeing.

17:30:14 – 18:02:16

And so context setters to open the positive constructive space to entertain the content of the question, providing enough information so that they can see the drama, so to speak, that’s taking place in the projects work. I want to encourage you again in doing this exercise to practice staying in the inquiry. If we’re too quick to have the answer, we want to be the hero solving the problem.

18:02:18 – 18:30:18

Then we’re inhibiting the facility passion of the client’s ability to learn. If we’re in a position of supporting our clients to learn from their experience. We need to support the transfer of our knowledge to them. This is a really important part of questions that educate and an important part of the style of consulting that we choose. If we’re doing it for them, we want to be the hero.

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That’s one thing. If we’re doing it to support them, to succeed beyond us, then that’s another thing. And so

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my bias always is supporting the client to get smarter every interaction that we have so

18:47:01 – 18:58:07

know that we can provide guidance, we can provide clarity, we can provide options, and then we support the client to explore them fully.

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In terms of my personal reflection, I would ask you to think about this question of your role and your style. Are you a coach? Are you locked into a protocol that is fairly structured and rigid? Are you able to tailor to the client’s needs to go outside of your own boundaries? Are you a consultant? In which type? Are you an expert?

19:26:14 – 19:44:16

Are you a facilitator? Are you pairs of hands? Are you a strategic advisor? What style do you bring to your role? How clearer are you about this? What choices are you making? I want to underscore you have choice here.

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is often based upon your motivation to be helpful, to be seen as the expert, to be the hero.

19:51:18 – 20:21:01

These are all important questions to reflect on for yourself because it influences how you market yourself, your services, the impact that you have, your brand. So all of this is implications for self-reflection and being true to yourself and aligned with the work that you do, do that you want to do. Again, in Emmanuel’s question, he was struggling with how to be of service without bias.

20:21:01 – 20:48:10

Singh. So my encouragement to any of you dealing with the similar kind of thing. Be clear about your role and the options you have for shifting your role based upon the reality, based upon the maturity of the people that you are serving and supporting. I hope you’ll take that reflection to heart. Thanks for your time today. I hope it was valuable for you.

20:49:01 – 21:05:01

Many of the topics featured in this podcast come directly from the Change Leaders Roadmap methodology. Our world class project guidance system for achieving sustained benefits from any type of initiative you may be leading

21:05:01 – 21:07:05

people who have listened to the podcast.

21:07:10 – 21:12:13

Read the Change Leader’s Roadmap book or attended any of our trainings have

21:12:13 – 21:40:06

told us that they’re interested in becoming certified to use the wealth of information in the Change Leader’s roadmap. Online methodology. The roadmap itself is nine phases 19 activities 75 tasks, and every task has articles, guidance tools, application worksheets and a wealth of information to support the success of your projects

21:40:06 – 21:42:09

at that point in the process.

21:42:09 – 21:51:08

For those of you interested in certification, we’re happy to announce we’re going to be offering a changed Leaders Roadmap certification program.

21:51:08 – 22:10:01

Prerequisite to that program is leading transformational change our online runway into conscious change leadership. For those of you interested in learning more about the certification program, please go to beingfirst.com/classroom.

22:10:03 – 22:12:02

I hope you’ll look into it

22:14:21 – 22:27:11

Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gain some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to askdrchange.com.


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