Clients and Consultants go through a number of different stages. Like any good story, I find that they happen in three acts. Nearly every relationship follows this pattern, but the stages are much more pronounced in the business world and even more so for the consultant and their client.
Each of us go through these stages when we meet a new friend – Putting your best foot forward, recognizing their humanity, truly connecting – but they tend to be subtle. In business they happen with a rigid formality – interview, error, resolution – yet seem to hardly go noticed.
Lets look at these stages and how understanding their implications in business can be helpful.
Best Foot Forward
Your resume is a lie. Everyone’s resume is. Resumes are meant to be a polished form of yourself that is so dehumanizing that it makes you a commercialized product which is to be purchased. We dress up particularly well for interviews – both interviewer and interviewee – and hone our answers to a sheen so bright that it’s difficult to see a real person behind all of the gloss. Once accepted, we maintain that facade as long as possible in the early stages of the relationship. Calm, cool, professional, both client and consultant are perfect forms of their job.
This stage is essential to business – particularly to the freshman consultant. This stage gives all involved parties the confidence to proceed. If a resume listed all of our potential misgivings or flaws, we’d never hire anyone.
Inevitably, we hit a road bump. It’s part of life, it is a part of work. Suddenly that varnish disappears and we remember: right, we’re working with a person, not a machine. We admit faults in this stage and become more accepting of the realities of the situation. Errors bring out our humanity. Immature business people will quickly end the relationship at this stage just as an immature couple might break up when they’re shown that their partner is not perfect.
The fact is this reality check is absolutely needed. Once the involved parties stop holding unrealistic visions of each other, they can move into the final, most beneficial section of the partnership.
Walls Go Down
…and clear the path to success. Once those expectations are cleared, the contract and finally excel. Honest communication takes the place of unrealistic posturing and the project launches into the next level. This is where real networking happens as well. Now the consultant and client and truly connect, understand one another, and communicate about how they can help each other.
Understanding this flow will help you move from one stage to the next more easily with less of a chance of the contract ending or the project failing.