“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
– Leo Tolstoy
My grandpa never met a stranger, he loved people and loved talking to them. My grandma used to say, “waking up, when his feet hit the floor his mouth started moving”. As a small boy when I spent time with them, we’d have coffee cake in the morning, and grandpa would talk and talk the entire time. My grandma trying to read the newspaper, growing frustrated would finally say, “Bernie, give your mouth a rest”. He’d be demurred for a few minutes and then start talking again.
My grandma wanted to make her point a little more clearly one day hung a nicely carved plaque that said, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason”. It was part of their routine and some of their playful banter that I experienced growing up.
It left an impression on me about how to conduct myself. I love talking too, but I also enjoy learning and listening. It’s funny what you remember from growing up and how it shapes your life.
However; this desk of Brad isn’t about my childhood memories. It’s about being good consultants and good advisors to our clients.
As consultants, we talk way too much. We don’t ask enough questions and we aren’t taking the time to really get to know our customers and understand their problems. Yes, that is a pretty strong statement from me and may feel categorically unfair but it true.
Over the last six months, I have been working with many of you in our accounts, involved in several workshops and new business pitches. I see these beautiful decks, I hear our smart thinking, our leading-edge solutions … it’s all great but we aren’t asking questions and when we do, they aren’t very precise.
Being a good consultant is like being a good doctor. They need to figure out what is going on with the patient, what they are experiencing and where is the pain BEFORE they begin to diagnose the problem and solution. So, what does the doctor do? Ask a bunch of questions. There is a pattern to precision questioning, you start broadly and then drill into specifics.
As you begin writing your next deliverable, preparing for a workshop, or creating a pitch deck, start with the questions that need to be answered. We are a collection of smart and happy people, no doubt we are hired for our expertise, but we are not educators or professors. We are consultants, we need to analyze the problem and then use our expertise and solutions to solve problems. If you can’t tie your work product to a well-articulated diagnosis, then you didn’t ask enough questions.
Back to my grandpa for a moment, he was the best salesperson I’ve ever known and although he talked a lot, he asked a lot of questions. He used to say “interested, is interesting”. The reason he never met a stranger is that he took the time to get to know everyone. Let’s spend our time learning more about our customers and their challenges. No more preaching teaching and assuming we know the answers … A great consultant first and foremost, asks great questions.
Let’s go be great!