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What Legacy Should the Consultant Leave Behind?

A legacy of coach, mentor, manager? What do you think?

Having talked to a lot of clients who use consultants, ultimately they are looking to get a job done more quickly than if they used their own staff to do it. There are a mix of reasons for that; often they have the skill missing in the team or they may not have the time in the team. When they add resource in the form of a consultant I think that the employer should reasonably expect that they leave a legacy behind, something that the company can make use of again and again. The legacy will include enhancing the skills of the team you are supporting which means that some training intervention needs to take place – how do you deliver that?

Ask the question of any 10 random consultants and they will tell you that they have delivered coaching to the employer’s staff. If you take this question a step further and ask some of those people to describe how they do this, you quickly unveil the only clue you need that will tell you that they are not talking about the coaching that is featured in the management books and articles. The clue will be, “I use my experience to tell them ways to do things differently.”

The trained coach will not give you any advice, offer no anecdotal stories, share none of how much bigger and better their experience is than yours. The trained coach does not need to have the answers – they need to have the questions. Their specialist subject is listening and asking contextualised, meaningful questions that enable the coachee to think for themselves.

Coaching is a skill; it takes a lot of hours and self-discipline to become expert in holding a conversation where no advice is given, no judgement is made. It also takes many hours of practice in using coaching for the coach to believe that asking questions will propel people forwards. Using a coaching process enables the coachee to gain clarity of thought, increased awareness and with it the ability and readiness to take responsibility for achieving the goals that they set for themselves.

If you think about it, by asking questions you can quickly identify where the coachee has gaps in their knowledge and you can do something about addressing the gaps. If you tell them what you know you don’t learn anything about them; it becomes all about you. To enhance your reputation as the sort of consultant who takes the time and trouble to add value to the process, then find out more about coaching people. Not only will it change the way that you are perceived but it takes away an enormous headache for you – you don’t need to have all of the answers, just all of the questions.

Penny Whitelock FinstLM

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