Business Consulting has been around as long as businesses have been around. We have compiled a very compelling case for business consulting. That said, there is a big difference between consulting and superior consulting.
The Business Case for Business Consulting
What Does Business Consulting Do
Simply put, proper consulting grows people and companies who, in turn, achieve better results. Consulting has proven itself to be one of the best investments in growth, training and development available to organizations.
- It engages a client on a one-to-one basis and focuses on achieving the results, challenges, changes or learning most valuable to the individual and the organization.
- It establishes an ongoing, confidential relationship with high levels of accountability that results in the right things getting done.
- It increases awareness of both self and systems
- It cultivates a more strategic view, challenges assumptions, shifts perspectives and supports rapid development.
- It supports individualized learning and growth in key interpersonal, business and leadership competencies that most benefit the individual and the organization.
- It helps eliminate self-deception (what the executive can’t, won’t or doesn’t see).
- It acknowledges leaders and assures that they celebrate their wins and enjoy their success.
- Unlike “one-size-fits-all” or “one-shot” training, the combination of targeted development and ongoing accountability provides the necessary support over time so that new knowledge translates into new behavior.
- It helps executives become more effective. Effective executives create more satisfied employees. Satisfied employees create more satisfied customers. Satisfied, loyal customers create higher profits.
Situations where coaching is valuable:
- As a way to leverage “high potential” emerging leaders
- As part of a blended learning approach to build employee skills
- Teaching and building key leadership competencies.
- Reducing executive isolation, facilitating increased feedback and growth, being a “sounding board” for new ideas.
- Moving out of the urgent tactical issues to hold a more strategic view.
- Building interpersonal skills and developing higher emotional intelligence.
- Supporting integration of 360-degree feedback recommendations.
- Supporting key personnel through change and shifts in culture.
- As a general tool for managers to use with supervisees. A consulting culture helps people shift mindsets and adapt to change and maintain high ethical standards.
- When an individual is demonstrating consistent difficulties in their managerial functioning, or in a particular area of their role
Increasing productivity and time management.
- Stress reduction and adjusting work/life balance.
- Supporting executives in new positions…helping them plan for unexpected distractions and competing goals.
- Talent retention.
- Increasing job satisfaction.
- Building high performance teamwork.
The Consulting Process
Each consulting engagement will usually last 6 months -1 year. It may be intense at the
beginning with gradual decrease in frequency of meetings toward the end of the process.
- Usually includes assessment tools, such as a 360 process
- After assessment and consultation, a written coaching plan
- By involving team members and key stakeholders in the coaching process, the value of the coaching process can be increased exponentially.
- May include regular in-person or telephone meetings, role play, case study, reading, simulation, video feedback, shadowing at work and journal writing and other modes of action learning
- Regular evaluations of the process
Many benefits of coaching have been reported, as noted above. Benefits of coaching
are beginning to be measured more carefully, in quantifiable ways. The benefits include
satisfaction, improvement, business impact and ROI.
Setting the strategic context:
The consulting program should receive visible support from senior management, and be
seen as a special developmental option offered to key or high potential personnel. The
program should be designed in support of specific strategic outcomes desired by the
organization. The following questions are useful guides in this process:
- What challenges is your organization facing currently? In the next two to five years?
- What goals are you trying to achieve?
- What core values best define a common framework for how business results are achieved in your organization?
- Given these challenges, goals and values, what leadership skills, knowledge, and abilities have been critical for success in your organization in the past?
- How relevant do you think they are for success in the New Economy?
- Are any of these attributes different than those that may be critical to success in other organizations?
- How does your organization determine whether you have the leadership bench strength to compete effectively in the future?
- What is your organization’s strategy for developing leaders of the future?
- Does your organization have proven methods to attract, develop and retain required talent?
- Once this overall context is set, it is useful to set the goals for a particular coaching engagement. This happens either before the coaching starts or as soon as the coach has completed an assessment and is able to participate in the goal setting. This should include:
- Identification of success factors for a specific coaching client (or team)
Agreement on confidentiality boundaries
- Identification of specific expected business results (i.e., what business results differentiate an adequate performer from a top performer in this particular role?)
- Confirmation that the “chemistry” is right to build trust and rapport
- Definition of clear reporting roles and responsibilities
- Agreement on financial terms
Addressing these and other questions will help to define the organizational and
individual expectations and support the business objectives.
The Consulting Plan:
The action plan responds to all of the input the coach has received, including input from
direct supervisor, recent performance reviews, the 360 interviews, and the consultant’s experience of the client. A typical action plan includes:
- Strengths and why they are important in the executive’s current role
- Development areas
- Action steps required, or proposed interventions needed in areas requiring
improvement or further development
- The type of coaching style that will best suit the development process
- Suggestions for active learning or experiential development suggestions
- Ways in which direct reports, boss, peers and others can help
- A process for following up with key stakeholders
- Key milestones.
- Developmental courses or action learning may be recommended to support the
It is important for the coach and client to continually revisit the original success criteria.
Having both the client and the coach talk with stakeholders periodically reinforces the process.
Repeating the 360 process at the end of coaching and comparing it with the original will give
measures of success.
Additionally, assessment of the consultant(s) is essential to ensure overall quality. The
coaching client can be asked to rate the coach on key variables such as reliability, ability to
stay focused on the client’s goals, maintenance of confidentiality, help provided to bring client
strengths to bear on achievement of strategic goals of the business, etc. The business leaders
who have maintained contact with the coach, usually someone from HR and the coaching
client’s boss, will rate the coach on similar criteria.
To assure the maximum return on your coaching investment, make sure that external
- Are expertly trained and experienced in the industry or niche of the client
Consulting Program Implementation Considerations
- A coordinator should be assigned by the company to coordinate with the consultant, to
monitor the overall themes of the consulting and to provide periodic check-in with
participants to fine tune the coaching (What is working well? What can we do to
make this more valuable for you?)
- As consulting is new to most participants, any consulting program should include an
overview of how coaching works, a discussion of the typical benefits and an
explanation around confidentiality issues. (Participants and their corporate sponsors
should know that coach/client conversations are confidential.)
- Consulting should never be forced on anyone.
- Consulting should be aligned to support other organizational training and
- Set performance objectives and specific measures for the success of the program