Performance Consulting as an Influencing tool
Someone on my last workshop said: “Well, we have covered consulting skills but what about influencing?” The answer is that Performance Consulting is an influencing process.
Let’s think about how we influence:
“To be understood, first seek to understand”
In the contracting phase, we deliberately do not challenge the client and concentrate on building rapport. The more information we can find out about how the client sees the world and how they like to work the better we can influence them. When we check the time available and the expectations we are starting to control the conversation. If their expectations and unrealistic this is your opportunity to be assertive; “I cannot do that for you but If I can ask you some questions to better understand your requirements…”
In the contracting phase we are also reading the client and flexing our behavior to match their style. We tend to do this naturally but if you want more reading try Myers Briggs for self-awareness and psychological profiling and NLP for rapport building especially how we match and mirror.
Open up the problem – not accepting their view of the solution
A key tool in opening up the problem is drawing the system diagram with the client. We use this to overcome the first assumption that “they” have a problem which will be solved by one easy solution. By drawing the diagram alongside the client we start to see their view of the world whilst at the same time proving how well we can actively listen by repeating what they say and writing it on the diagram. In this way, we gain valuable information and trust to allow us to influence the client.
Gap analysis as an influencing formula
The contrast technique of comparing where we are now with where we want to be is the classic influencing, change and sales formula:
For change to happen we need:
- Dissatisfaction with the present + a vision of the future
- And some easy first steps
This is exactly what gap analysis gives us. The way to increase your influence is to build the picture of the desired state in your clients’ mind whilst also creating a vision that they cannot afford to stay where they are. The more you visualise and build metrics around these two states the more likely it is that your client will move.
Finally you last influencing tactic is to let the client come up with their idea of solutions and build on them so they thought it was all their idea. Thinking about Motivation and obstacles in the Environment will usually identify things that the client’s needs to do in partnership with you.
The action plan
The final, final bit of influencing is to agree an action plan with dates and names. I suggest that you control this. I usually send the action plan back immediately after the meeting as an e-mail. It is your contract for the next phase. If all the actions are yours then you have probably not been very influential. Also, use the evaluation meeting to attach yourself to the client’s success measures so that you are perceived as a long-term partner not just a supplier of one-off solutions.
That’s all folks
The Performance Consulting Process is an influencing process but it is your skill that determines how influential you are.