How To Engage Clients in Consulting Assignments

Sections of this topic

    As we clarified in Part 1 of 3, if your clients don’t participate in the consulting to improve their organization, then you are faced with the dilemma: “Should I just do the work for the client, or should we keep slipping deadlines in the project”. However, long-lasting change will not occur in their organization if the client does not have strong understanding, commitment and participation in the changes. So if you do the client’s work, it is not likely that your project will be successful. Here are some additional suggestions for getting your client to participate:

    1. Realize that your client’s lack of participation may be a form of project resistance.

    If your client is experiencing discomfort about the project, but is not admitting it to themselves or to you, then it may lead to resistance. Often, their discomfort shows up, for example, in their lack of participation. It is important for you to effectively recognize and address resistance. Otherwise, your project will lose the momentum necessary for successful change. Be authentic in your response to the resistance.

    1. Remind your client that choices about the project affect the entire organization.

    Many times, clients are so busy reacting to the day-to-day demands that they forget about the importance of their project. They sometimes end up treating the project as if it is a nuisance to be tolerated. It is important for you to remind your client of the difference between working harder and working smarter – working on the project is working smarter. By avoiding the project, your client is not investing in the overall health of their organization. If they expect to “cut wood all the time, they have to take time to sharpen the saw.” Ask them what they want to do about the situation, then be quiet and let them respond. Listen and be authentic.

    1. Continue to recognize accomplishments in the project so far.

    Projects are not “all or nothing” events that are either complete successes or failures. If your client gets pulled away to address another priority, the project might have to adjust to a change in plans. Work with your client to keep perspective on what has been accomplished and what remains to be done in the project.

    1. Work with a subset of key members of the organization.

    If all key members of your client’s organization cannot participate in a particular project activity, consider forming a smaller group of participants to conduct that particular activity. The small group will provide its results, including specific and clear recommendations, back to the larger group when finished.

    In part 3 of 3, we’ll finish with our suggestions.

    ? What do you think?

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, is a faculty member of the Consultants Development Institute.