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Carl Robinson, Ph.D. on Leadership April 24, 2012
 
We help maximize the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by helping them improve their ability to lead, work together, select and develop their people.  Some of our related business services include: executive coaching, executive team coaching and executive assessments for development and selection.


Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal
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Seattle, Washington
206-545-1990
carl@leadershipconsulting.com

In This Issue:

Getting the Most Out of External Expertise

"Change" Versus "Improvement"


This Week In History

1964 - The Ford Mustang Debuts at The World’s Fair
 
1972 - Apollo 16 Departs for the Moon
 
1775 – Paul Revere Takes His Famous Ride
 
1861 – First Blood Drawn in the Civil War
 
1999 – Incident At Columbine Shocks the U.S.
 
1945 – German Leader Hitler Admits Defeat

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Getting the Most Out of External Expertise

Whether you need specific technical expertise, additional personnel for project leadership, help with hiring your next superstar, or just to add a qualified voice in making decisions, the practice of utilizing external consultants successfully has gained steam in recent years.
 
However in this day and age of high unemployment, retiring baby boomers, and inexperienced entrepreneurs the process of sifting through the crowded field of free-agent assistance can make it difficult to find good help.
 
Here are some of the things to look for & consider when hiring a consultant.
 
Shared Understanding of the Role of the Consultant
Contrary to what some people would have you believe, consultants don’t want to replace employees. Whether the consultant works in the areas of Learning & Development, IT, Sales, Process, or Strategy there is typically a push/pull feeling in which someone feels the need for help, and someone else feels threatened – but there is no reason for tension.
 
Properly preparing those with whom the consultant will be working directly is a key issue. When employees know that the consultant is there to augment and support what they do well rather than replace their function the relationship instantly becomes more valuable and beneficial. Consider a consultant much in the same way you would any other service provider such as a carpenter or tax preparer. It’s likely you could accomplish the outsourced project yourself, but the additional expertise leaves you feeling more confident in the results and with more time to do other critical tasks.
 
Selecting a Consultant
Easily the most critical component of a successful external engagement is in choosing the right firm for the project right from the beginning. But even before you pick up the phone to inquire about the services of any expert you should already know the following:
 
1) What your desired OUTCOMES will be
2) A defined, and REFINED set of criteria that will ensure success
3) Determination of project requirements and SCOPE
4) Assessment of the VALUE of the project to the organization
5) How the consultant will fit in to the CULTURE of the organization
 
Even a small gap in these areas can make the difference between a high-return engagement, and one that leaves you with a bad taste for all opportunities to utilize outside assistance. Don’t rush in choosing a consultant based on reputation or price. Understanding both the financial resources you will be putting into (and expecting out of) the project, as well as the time you spend in preparing specifically what the project will entail will provide you with a head start in regards to which consultant is going to give you the greatest chance at success.
 
Managing the Consulting Relationship
Perhaps the trickiest area in the relationship is the one that spans the distance between over-managing an outsourced assignment and not providing enough guidance to the consultant in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
 
Even in the instances where the consultant has more knowledge of the subject matter than the client, they will likely still need guidance on the impact that the project will have on the policy and cultural issues that the performance improvement effort will have on both the micro and macro levels of the organization. Too often it is assumed that once the consultant has been hired they are now “Hands-off” until completion. It is only with a collaborative effort in the areas of project Content, Communication, and Management that your organization will realize maximum value from your engagements.
 
Please click the button below to explore how our firm may be able to help you reach your goals - or simply contact us with any questions you have on how to maximize your external relationships.

"Change" Versus "Improvement"

Let’s get the semantics out of the way, so that we can focus on the heart of the matter. When we talk about “Corporate Change” it immediately brings to mind a scene of fear. Of managers running about, putting out fires both literal and figurative. When we talk about “Performance Improvement” the visual imagery is far different and far more positive. Taking the two words out of context it is easy to see why one invokes reticence and the other optimism.
 
 
But it’s not just word play. The differences are stark.
 
Change happens at the tactical level. For example, you can change your investment strategy – but have you improved it?
 
Improvement happens at the strategic level. If your investment portfolio has improved, more than likely either you or the environment has shifted and changed in order to allow that improvement to occur.
 
Here is an example more appropriate for the workplace. You can help supervisors change the way they interact with team members much more easily than you can help them improve the team’s work performance.
 
It is easy to imagine that any request for change would be a wise request, and one that would point directly to an intervention that would yield an improvement, but that isn’t the case. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years; we all know something, and none of us know everything. Even well-intentioned change can have a significantly negative impact on performance – and taking the request for change at face-value can destroy your credibility.
 
Taking a Systemic Viewpoint:
In order to reach the level of improvement you desire the first thing that needs to happen is to understand the issue from an organizational level. It is only when the needs of the organization are properly aligned with the needs of the departments and individuals that we can start to plan what improvements we would like to see, and how the individual and group changes can properly be applied in order to achieve the goals.
 
That is the challenge of the systemic view—seeing all parts of an issue and getting all the little parts to work together to form a coherent big picture. A project that focuses only on improving performance of process X or in Department Y is not meeting the challenge. In fact, and in accord with the subsystem maximization principle, improving one little system is quite likely to make the total system worse!
 
No project can bring about complete organizational alignment, but every performance improvement project should be a strategic step in that direction. Ensuring that everyone involved in effecting performance is rowing in the same direction is critical.
 
Are you more focused on Change Initiatives than you are on Improving Performance? Are you unsure of which direction your efforts are taking both you and your organization?
 
Email me to schedule a conversation and help to ensure your success!


Advanced Leadership Consulting • 2815 Eastlake Ave., E, Suite 300 • Seattle, WA 98102
http://www.leadershipconsulting.com/
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