Episode #23

What Kind of Change Consultant Are You?

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

With major change so widespread in organi­zations, the need for internal and external consulting support has grown exponentially—as have the number and kinds of change consultants to service it. We change consultants come in many shapes and sizes. Which are you… and are you playing the best and highest value role you can?

This episode describes a range of change consultant types, styles and expertise. Listen in and consider your role as it is today and as it might be if you take on expanded ways of adding value to your clients. This episode, while aimed at change consultants, is equally as valuable to leaders who need to understand how best to hire and use their consultants.


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Welcome to Ask Dr. Change. I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson. I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up level your leadership and consulting to transformational changes all through conscious change leadership.

Welcome. Today’s episode is an important one. About what kind of change consultant are you? How can you rethink your role and the way in which you deliver your services?

This is not about the content. The subject matter of what you consult to. It’s about how you go about doing your consulting in a changed circumstance. So who is included in the change consulting bucket today?

There’s project management, change management, organization, development and design, agile quality, Lean Six Sigma. You can probably add a few labels to the list. Almost all of these influence the process of change, how change takes place. That’s important.

There are also content consultants, experts in a certain arena of perhaps structure or business technology or business systems. I.t. Or industry verticals. Health care. Insurance.

Finance. Manufacturing. Defense. On and on and on. My intent today is to have you step back and reflect as you listen as I describe a variety of dynamics that affect the value and power of our consulting.

I want you to reflect on the services you provide. Your current way of delivering your level of influence with your leaders, the quality of your relationships, the outcomes you achieve. The purpose of your consulting. The questions you’ll be thinking about today are could you, do you want to change your way of working if you’re not fully satisfied with it? How could you raise your level of satisfaction? Does your style work for you? Does it work for your clients?

All of this is at play today. My intent is for you to actually step back and consider the softer side, not the hard content side, but the softer side of how you go about delivering your services. In all of these roles, there are two perspectives or levels of focus, strategic and tactical.

In the strategic realm, those of us who consult at a strategic level where focused on the big picture, we’re focused on what’s best for the whole, whether it’s the whole organization, the whole portfolio, the whole initiative, the whole department. We’re always looking for how to leverage what’s happening, the work that’s being done, the resources being applied to it. We are frequently involved in high level process design. At a strategic level, what are the major things that have to take place over a period of time?

How do we influence that again, at a macro level, not a tactical detailed level. Strategic consultants often set up conditions for success, for a major transformation or a major initiative. We observe.

We monitor. We give feedback. Perhaps we identify high needs for course correction. Strategic consultants may also be teachers, may be coaches.

We’re always strategic advisors to senior leaders. So strategic consultants are typically positioned with the leaders because of the level of influence we have over both the process and the outcome. So that’s many ways of describing strategic in our perspective about consulting. Now, tactical. These are the folks that are involved with the detail action planning, the tactical project plans.

Perhaps the tactical consultants are also involved in data analytics, checklists, tools. Tactical consultants are the doers, the pairs of hands, producing deliverables for a change effort, and frequently managing the plan as it is rolling out. Not at a strategic level, but at a tactical level, at an action level. So both strategic and tactical are needed.

One’s not better than the other. They have different levels of influence. They’re different perspectives. So, I would have you think about how are you positioning yourself as you’re both selling your services and branding your services and how you are known or what you’re being asked for by your clients?

Strategic level influence or tactical support.

Now, I want to also describe different style differences for consultants. There’s control and there’s facilitate. If your orientation, your consulting style is more in the control bucket, these are the folks that are very actively planning, managing, often telling the client what’s needed. Giving answers. Setting mandates. There are the experts because they have depth of knowledge of the content or the process, and so they come across as the expert.

They’re checking for quality. They’re evaluating. They’re consistently looking for what’s in line, what’s out of line, and how do they recreate what needs to happen so that they are back in control. Frequently, leaders like that controlling orientation because they want to know that their change efforts are in control.

Now a different orientation is to be a facilitative consultant. These are the folks that support leaders and team members to accomplish their work. They don’t do the work. They’re not the doers.

They support them. They facilitate. They organize conversations. They organize meetings. They set up conditions for success.

They design and move the process along. And so, they’re supporting the right work to get done. They may coach. They may enlighten or teach.

They certainly guide. They can lay out options. They ask questions that educate, that add insight to what’s needed to go on. They are support people but influential support people because they’re orchestrating what is happening, what needs to happen so that the clients or the team members can fulfill their responsibilities.

These are facilitative consultants. Again, what is your style and is it working for you? It might be a combination of the two. It’s just important to be conscious about how you deliver your services.

Now, I want to also give us a contrast of the quality of your relationships with your clients or the leaders that you serve. This is an interesting one. What I want to share here is true for both internal consultants and external consultants. And what I’m going to talk about has as much to do with your clients mindset, what they’re hiring you for, and how they want to be in relationship with you as much influence as how you hold yourself and sell yourself.

So, the two contrasts here, are you a vendor or a partner? Vendors deliver on preconceived sets of services pre agreed-on outcomes, numbers. They commit to shared agreement on budget, deadlines, metrics. They are serving their leaders who are out there. They’re separate from them.

They’re in service to them. These are oriented to being of service against what has previously been agreed to. Does this quality of relationship feel good to you? If this is you?

If you’re a vendor, if you hold yourself as a vendor. Is it easy? Is there pressure? Is there urgency?

Does it narrow your focus on what’s needed because you’ve committed to a certain outcome or a certain set of goals? And that’s all that you’re focusing on? These are interesting dynamics to consider from a vendor mindset.

Now, as a partner, this is a very different paradigm. Partners work in partnership, work together with their clients to estimate budget timeline lines, resources. They renegotiate as information emerges because you can’t really be locked in, especially if your changes are transformational. You can’t really be locked in because nothing is predetermined. It’s emergent and needs to be recognized and orchestrated as it shows up.

So, a partnership relationship is far more conducive to leading transformational change. Partners share greater candor, truth telling, especially if they recognize issues that need course correction, concerns, insights, mistakes. Each side of the partnership you and your client agree to learn from what’s going on. Recognize, tell the truth of what’s going well, what may not be going well, what issues are happening?

What challenges are we having? These are things that we work on together. So, you don’t have to be the one with all the answers in a partnership. What you do is identify what work is needed.

Look at the information that’s showing up in any set of circumstances and set up a mutual conversation to figure it out with your client as you go. Now, how does this feel? Being a partner, certainly there has to be more trust in the relationship, more freedom to say what’s really happening, what you’re truly observing and your orientation to what you focus on is much broader than as a vendor who’s obligated to a set of agreements. So as a partner, you have a much broader perspective on anything that might show up, that might be of value to the transformation.

We’re more inquiring, more committed to doing what’s best, more committed to altering, renegotiating the resources or the deadlines as needed. Now, I’ve had a variety of experiences in organizations where one of the themes is schedule is king. Well, as a consultant, that’s a vendor orientation. We have to do what we agreed to to get the deadline.

In a partnership, especially if it’s transformational. We may say there’s no way in the world we can get to X, Y, Z by this date. So, let’s figure out what the work that’s required, absolutely essential, how quickly we can get it done. How do we remove barriers to it so that we can proceed as best possible to get the highest level outcome?

So, vendor orientation has its limitations. It’s not bad. I don’t want to judge it. It has its place.

But it also, especially in the complexities of transformational change, has its limitations. Where partnership, where so much as emergent and transformational change is far more conducive to producing the best outcomes. my intent today is to give you an opportunity to step back and reflect as you listened to these contrasts. Considering your current role, you’re conditioned role, your orientation of the services you provide, the level of influence you’ve had, the quality of relationships and how you have set them up, the outcomes you’ve achieved and your purpose.

So, consider the differences in advantage edges of strategic versus tactical controlling versus facilitative and vendor versus partner. There’s choice in all of this. There’s choice in your way of working in raising your level of satisfaction, both for yourself and for the client to deliver results from change based upon what kind of change you’re dealing with. Does your style work for you?

Does your style work for the client? Can you move towards being more strategic? I’m biased as a strategic advisor. I think there’s far more influence and yet again, as doers and tacticians at times and changes, it’s a valuable role and absolutely essential.

But perhaps we can have more leverage, more influence by seeing strategically, even if we are doers, tactical consultants. Can you be more facilitative, less dogmatic, less? I need to have the answer right now. I frequently say I found one step ahead of the client and then I feel okay.

One step’s okay because we can figure out where to go to the next step together as a partner. So again, my bias is more partnership, and it really does require creating relationships with your clients because they may think they are hiring you to do something given their history or their pattern or their expectations, and you would be positioning yourself, branding yourself, demonstrating your value through your way of consulting. Now, I always suggest a pro tip, and my pro tip for you today, given our topic is to imagine how to alter your current role and the value you provide. How could you describe yourself differently?

How could you actually rebrand yourself in a different way by calling yourself a strategic advisor and then positioning yourself that way to the degree that you can? It may be a process to demonstrate this value, this power over time so that you build into it. How can you build more trusting relationships? One of the things I have always found is that I see things that my teammates or my clients, the leaders that I’m serving don’t see.

And so how can I position what I want to share with them to build trust? Because I see something they don’t see. My purpose is to help them see what they don’t see. And so how can I do that in a way that builds my credibility and supports them to be successful always in the context of your client being successful.

So how can you build trusting, more candid relationships to do that? How can you demonstrate more strategic capability, seeing high leverage, big picture information and guidance so that the leaders themselves are seeing a broader perspective, rather than are we going to meet the deadline? You know, there are many, many, many dynamics at play. How can you reference them, position them, educate your leaders about them so the leaders themselves see a higher leverage, more strategic perspective.

And how can you work in a way that shapes the change process? This is incredibly important. And so, so frequently we’re asked into a role. The process is set.

We’ve got our project management model or our change management model, and this is what we’re doing with the project plans in place. How can you actually alter the process to reshape the journey so that there’s a higher likelihood of success and achieving sustained business benefits? All of this may, in fact, require a change inside of you and a change in the way in which you position yourself and your brand and the way in which you deliver your services. So, in terms of our personal reflection today, I’ve actually asked you to reflect throughout all of what I’ve talked about.

So this is kind of summarizing it for you. What kind of change consultant are you? Consider all the options that I’ve described today, the differences in various styles and relationships and approaches. Assume anything that is attractive to you today is possible.

Don’t get in your own way. Assume it’s possible. Assume you can raise your level of satisfaction with your clients, with the work that you’re doing. What would you prefer?

What turns you on? What excites you in anything that we’ve talked about today and what steps can you take to move yourself in that direction? Again, it may be baby steps. It may be a little bit here, a little bit there.

How can you learn, develop yourself in the skills required to be more strategic, to be more facilitator of to be more of a partner. Pursue those steps because of the value and the satisfaction that comes out of operating that way. Again, honoring my bias is really profound. I hope you’ve gained some value today.

And thanks for spending some time with me. Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program. If you’d like to learn more about leading transformation social change, go to beingfirst.com/LTC. 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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