Insulting Consulting

Do you really want advice or do you just
want someone to make you feel good?

A few years ago I was asked to do some consulting for a local business. I was given carte blanche and was told that the employees were encouraged to answer honestly any questions I might ask. I was told they really needed help and wanted to grow. The owner was open to any suggestions I might have.

I spoke with the employees. Yes, they had plenty to share. I won’t go into details, but they expressed issues they actually had with the owner. I must add here that they were legitimate. They were also easily corrected. Thus, the solutions could make everyone much more comfortable in the workplace.

Suggestions related to marketing and product and lighting were also given.

I made an appointment to share the results. It was a pleasant enough conversation. The owner wrote me a check. As I went to put it in my binder, I noticed that in the memo it was written, “insulting consulting.”

I stopped for a moment, looked up at the client, and asked what prompted that memo. Some of the responses from the employees evidently hit a soft spot. I considered the comments and the owner’s response. Then I shared the following:

There are two kinds of consultants. The ones you pay to tell you what you want to hear. And the ones who pay to really learn what they need to hear.

I then apologized that I had believed this owner was of the second category. Evidently not!

Next time you ask for advice or seek a consultant, consider which client you may be: one who wants to hear only good things or the one who wants to hear what you need to improve. If you’re of the first category, don’t pretend that you really want to hear what you need to hear.

Yes, for a while a consultant can make great money telling you what you want to hear. But if the consultant you hire has any ethics at all, they’ll still share with you what you need to hear. Then you can decide to ignore it. But try not to shoot the messenger.

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