Acting on Difficult Advice

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There’s a time & place for external consultants in organizational transformations. They can help you in unique ways but you have to pay attention and act.

Some years ago I had a game-changing conversation with an exceptional guy we’d hired in. Everyone loved his straight-talking, he had a way of talking common sense that resonated all the way from individuals on teams to our execs. We knew that one or two conversations would never be enough so I asked him to join us permanently – he was exactly what we were looking for.

His response (paraphrased)

“I’m flattered and I’d love to – but one of the great things about what I do is that I can tell you the painful things you don’t want to hear – knowing I’m right – without having to worry about losing my job and knowing my boss has my back.”

We managed to get him to speak to our local leader at the time about what we were trying to achieve.

“…you do know that the level of change you need here is going to have an impact on productivity for a while right? Are you ready for that?”

“…absolutely not, we have to complete our transformation with no impact on our current delivery commitments to the business”

It wasn’t that his advice was wrong. It was that the boss didn’t feel safe to take the hit. Needless to say the rollout stumbled. Fortunately we knew it was coming and corrected as best we could.

If you invest in a consultant, It’s your responsibility (and risk) to act on their feedback. Be prepared for painful input and… please …do something with their advice – that’s what you paid them for in the first place right?

If there’s a risk or impact, weight it up, bring your stakeholders in, explain the situation and reset expectations. You are empowered to act but here’s the trick you’re missing! It doesn’t all have to be just on your shoulders.

In fact, you don’t have to have the difficult conversation yourself at all, you’ve just paid for someone to do it on your behalf. If they’re really that good, they’ll be more than capable and willing to do so and probably more credibly than you.

That kind of ROI is priceless.

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