Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe

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As consultants, we are led to believe that we are must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything. Indeed most consulting companies tend to sell our services as if it was magic – you hire us, we are available within the hour, and we will make your problems go away in no time.

The issue is, that type of consultancy doesn’t exist, and can’t even be delivered by the likes of Winston Wolfe – the infamous character created by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Truth is, consultants don’t have an answer for everything, and can’t turnaround businesses with a snap-of-a-finger.

And to be honest we shouldn’t. Any business is a complex entity, and our job is a labored one. It requires investigation, assessment, consideration, creativity and thinking. The other day I read “thinking is one of the hardest human occupations, which probably explains the fact that so few of us like doing it too often”. So true!

I see so many consultants rely on instinct. Others shout the first thing that springs to mind. Only on the basis of what they already know, or have done once before. This is halfway to a solution that will not have the positive impact or results businesses are looking for. Consultants like us need to stop and think.

I have witnessed some of my peers in the consulting world being afraid to tell their clients they need time. When in reality, letting people know we are thinking about their business and challenges, not only indicates that our response will be measured and thorough, but it also lets them feel that they are taken seriously and deserve respect.

Furthermore, we need to understand, and make clear to our clients, that our job cannot be done by one person. Even Winston Wolfe needed “associates” to clean up the mess (played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) and support from his “client” (played by Quentin Tarantino).

They helped Winston Wolfe gather information, assess the problem, understand the timeline, create a plan, as well as find tools and means (blankets, soap, old clothes) to sort out the issue. And notice how even Wolfe takes its time, and needs a coffee to think and consider the situation.

If we do our job properly, making sure we don’t skip any steps and don’t rush into any half-baked solution, our clients will not only appreciate our services, but also respect us as much as Winston Wolfe was respected by his clients and the public in general.

The definition of a consultant is: someone who advises people on a particular subject, on which he is considered a specialist. As consultants our job is to work alongside our clients and our teams, to jointly find answers, a way, a solution, an alternative, a workaround, to reach a desired outcome.

We’re not magicians!

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