How to Use Your Consultant

DPA Insights

By Steve Mueller, Director of Operations, Daniel Penn Associates

Your company has hired a consultant, you’ve held your kick-off meetings to introduce him or her to your staff and the project is officially underway. Now what do you do?

Sounds simple, but consultants often report that their clients do not know how to use them effectively. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you get the most out of your consultant:

power meeting from above

DO be candid and realistic with your consultant about the project’s goals and what he/she needs to understand about the company’s culture to work effectively with employees.

DO set up bi-weekly progress meetings with your consultant and your internal team to review progress and remove any impediments to success.

DO use your consultant to do the things they were hired to do.  Make sure your staff understands that they should work with the consultant, not around them.

DO help your consultant get connected to the right people and invited to the right meetings. Drop in on them for informal updates. Consultants do not want to work in a vacuum.

DO communicate your support and expectations for the project to all participants. This will help your consultant be more effective when he or she needs to work with your staff. Work with your consultant to prepare a project summary “elevator speech” that helps all levels of management consistently describe “why are we doing this?”

DO pay attention to the project task plan and schedule. Expect that your consultant will provide you with regular updates. Be prepared for events to come. If you are unsure about the task or status, ask!

DO recognize those on your internal team who collaborate with the consultant — and their peers – to brainstorm ideas, propose solutions and work through difficulties.

DON’T expect your consultant to only give you the good news. Your consultant needs to feel free to tell you the truth if you expect to achieve results.

DON’T allow passive aggression to sabotage your project. People often resist change when they are fearful of how it will impact their job or work environment. Because consultants work best when they are able to work with, not against, the organization, pay attention to and resolve any internal conflicts that may impede progress. It will be important to identify and address perceptions before they translate into road-blocking behaviors.

DON’T cherry-pick from the consultant’s recommendations. Quite often the recommendations are meant to be incorporated together as a holistic solution. Leaving some out may leave out some benefits as well.

Your consultant wants nothing more than to support your organization’s success. Spend time at the beginning of the project to build a relationship with him or her. As the engagement unfolds, your consultant will not only work against the project objectives but will quite likely be willing to help in other ways if possible. The stronger the relationship, the more likely you will see benefits beyond the project’s scope.

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