Consultants work best when they are - and truly feel - part of your team. There are mountains of information on how consultants should work with their clients. But, ask any consultant about their 'favourite' client, and you'll find some very basic expectations that can lead to optimum results. Here are three common things consultants appreciate from their clients.
1. Make them a team member
The more knowledgeable your consultant is about your organization and needs, the better the quality of their work. And, making them part of your team is a great way to achieve this. Whether they work right beside you, drop in occasionally, or work virtually, investing a little time in connecting with your consultant pays off. It's just human nature. Clients who add my name to their staff list on their website, identifying the work I am doing, get extra points for inclusion.
2. Agree on the best communication channels
On a recent, virtual (long distance - never met the client) project, the importance of communicating, in a meaningful way, grew in importance as the project progressed. I really appreciated that the project manager responded to inquiries promptly. And, if she didn't have the answer immediately, she told me when I could expect it. This made me feel valued - I know how busy PMs are - and helped me with project scheduling. If I learned anything, it was to discuss the 5Ws of communications at the start of a project. Think about communications options, time zones, topics. Agree on the plan.
3. Take time for a de-brief
Although many clients see a consultant as an 'extra', the consultant gives each project their full attention. This energy is what gives a value-added edge to the work. It shows commitment, professionalism and a connection with the client organization. When the project finishes - especially if it is a one-off - consultants can feel isolated, outside looking in, or even down-hearted that it is all over. Clients who have sent me thank-you cards, remembered to copy me in on the final distribution or a key link, and, booked time for a debrief get top marks. It offers an excellent opportunity for learning, and having a positive finale. Everyone wins.
The consulting relationship is an important one in many organizations. A little thought, planning and connecting before you start the work can make everyone pleased with the final results.
Kate Harrison Whiteside has over 25 years experience in plain language, writing and editing, training and consulting.