Marriott Alumni Magazine

Spring Summer 1977 Exchange

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sultant's style is such that he alienates the people with whom he works, it will be difficult for him to move ahead with effective problem-solving action. Likewise a lack of competency in dealing with the problem is going to reduce the client's acceptance of the consultant. In securing a consultant, the client should review and discuss in some depth the consultant's effectiveness at both levels before making a commitment to retain. "Don't Upset Mother" Sometimes clients decrease the probability of a consultant's success by either consciously or unconsciously specifying certain restrictions that make problem solving almost impossible. For example: Assume that a family requested that a prominent counselor help members deal with domestic problems. It is apparent to the counselor that the major difficulty is the family members' inability to deal with a dominant, manipulative mother who controls everyone by threats, allocation of affections, fear, and guilt. Everyone is worried about the mother, and the counselor is asked to help improve the family situation-but family members are quick to add, "Don't upset Mother." I have worked with clients where I found (after gathering data and diagnosing the situation) that the major problem was a set of longstanding relationships among senior managers who wanted conditions to improve in the organization but who did not want anything disturbed in their world-another variation of "Don't upset Mother." All the consultant can do is honestly identify the problem as he sees it and then move on if the client is unwilling to work on the situation. The client may (and sometimes does) then look for a consultant who will agree to work on solutions without "upsetting Mother." No Guarantee The skillful consultant may agree to attempt problem solving without creating too much disruption in sensitive areas, but he cannot guarantee to help produce change while never creating upset. If the client is aware of some areas that must not be altered, it is extremely helpful to the consultant for those areas to be identified at the beginning-before an agreement is reached. Certain emotional factors sometimes cloud the consultant's and client's ability to establish a clear and satisfying working relationship. If the client is in awe of the consultant, or if the consultant is overly concerned about impressing a client, neither may be open enough to candidly discuss expectations and understandings that should be agreed upon before work begins. There should be some clear understanding of what the client expects of the consultant and vice versa. If the client expects the consultant to move in quickly and the consultant feels that is inappropriate, this should be discussed and resolved. Such issues as the timeframe, point of entry, confidentiality of gathered data, fees, evaluation of progress, and termination procedures should be explored in order to produce a clear working agreement. The Empty Till Particularly important is an understanding regarding time-the consultant must be given a fair opportunity to make a difference. The least effective consultation to which I agreed was early in my career when an organization contacted me and said they had a few thousand dollars in unexpended funds in the budget. Rather than return the money to central finance, they asked if I would give them that much consulting time, for after all, "all organizations could be improved, couldn't they?" I allowed that they could and took the contract. In short order I uncovered a series of problems-some of which the client did not want to deal with and others that were at the early stages of research and action-when the money ran out. Experience has led me to attempt to work through the contract with a client much more carefully than I had prior to that early disaster. Consultants can help. Presently, research data indicating the' usefulness of consultants is extremely limited. Sometime, however, someone will conduct research on consultants and discern what kinds of consulting are helpful, for what kinds of clients, and on which problems. Until such time, most clients should do their homework carefully before allowing anyone to influence an on-going system in an attempt to be helpful. The homework should include both what to expect from the consultant as well as what behaviors are appropriate from a client. The client is always hiring a fallible resource and should not expect the consultant to do everything, and the consultant should not promise the moon

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