As a consultant in the education space, it is especially valuable to think about how we add value for clients. I had the opportunity to work on a number of projects over the course of the last year, all very different but related to data system implementation at school districts. What I offer below are three of the top practices that I have found effective in working with clients.
- Be Neutral. In providing solutions to clients, there may be one course of action that clearly stands out as superior and the temptation may be to push that course of action. However even when this is the case, the process of considering all possibilities in an objective manner allows clients to not only select the best option given their circumstances, but allows you to fill the important role of trusted third party. So, present all courses of options in an objective and neutral way.
- Simplify Complexities. The content of our work is, by its nature, very complex. One of the main reasons our consulting skills are sought after is because we have expertise in systems that others do not understand. It is tempting to fall into the trap of assuming that complex topics are not complex because they are so familiar. Taking a moment to stand back and understand the problem as the client sees it, so that productive communication channels can be opened, is critical in moving projects toward success.
- Lean in to listen. Last year Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, encouraged women to take greater leadership roles. As consultants, we want to lean in for a different reason — to listen very actively during conversations. Not only is this a key part of gathering requirements, but it is important in gaining trust, fully understanding the client environment, and effectively addressing deep-seated issues.