The greatest change in corporate culture—and the way business is being conducted—may be the accelerated growth of relationships based on partnership.
Have you ever observed or worked with someone who was clearly an expert in his field yet was unsuccessful in influencing others to support a specific plan or strategy? In-depth expertise, by itself, is insufficient when you wish to influence clients to take actions that support organizational and performance change. What performance consultants must be able to demonstrate is the “art” of partnering with clients. By “art,” we mean the interpersonal and collaborative approach to working with others that is integral to success as a performance consultant. These are the more subjective, judgment-based, and behavioral tactics—no paint-by-number approach will do. It is critical that performance consultants use this collaborative approach in the entry phase of the Performance Consulting Process. Without demonstrating this capability in the first phase of the process, you probably will not gain access to strategic work or have the opportunity to optimize your value as a performance consultant.
Cover photo: Klaus Larsen Photography / istockphoto.com
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Bedroom, House of Lord Giorgio di Ugone, Assisi (LATE SUMMER, 1214) Twenty-year-old Lady Ginevra, daughter of Lord Giorgio di Ugone, was lying in her silk covered bed, trying to sleep. Neither the heat nor the humidity were keeping her awake. Her thoughts were.
This morning, at Mother’s insistence, she had sorted through her gowns, discarding the ones she no longer wanted. Some she had sent to the lepers at San Lazarro, but the better ones she had taken to the Damianites, who would refashion them into priestly vestments and altar trappings given free to the churches of the region. She had kept five gowns for herself, and even those she did not like. Who was she trying to stun with her beauty? Every lord whom Father was considering as her mate was boring. Ginevra wrinkled her nose, thinking that in two months she might be sleeping next to one of them.
Ginevra shifted her broad shoulders and lay on her side. Her freckle-faced sister Lady Emilia was happily married and mother to a new baby. Her brother Lord Paolo seemed quite content to be a husband. The problem with Ginevra was God.
As an organizational consultant, I always take time to introduce myself and my biases to the people I am working with, and I am going to do the same here. Although I was born and bred in America and trained there, I have been working as a clinical psychologist in the British National Health Service for twenty-four years. As a systemic practitioner for most of that time, I began applying my systemic ideas to consultation in small units within the health service, social services, or education, such as multidisciplinary teams, area teams, or school staff groups. I also work as a freelance consultant, which has taken me further afield to do work with private sector organizations. This chapter is based on work in various settings, but I have tried to reduce my experiences down to those ideas and techniques that have proven most effective over the years.
Professionally, I have been influenced by my training as a psychologist and psychotherapist to value people’s emotional lives in whatever context I find them, including organizations. Exposure over the years to group relations events has left me humbled but also fascinated by the power of a group to create a “life of its own”, to maintain its beliefs and culture in the face of external pressures to change (see Bion, 1961; Menzies Lyth, 1988; Miller, 1989). The third major influence has been my commitment to systemic ideas and their application to organizational life (see Campbell, 1995; Campbell, Coldicott, & Kinsella, 1994; McCaughan & Palmer, 1994; Selvini Palazzoli, 1986; Senge, 1990; Wynne et al., 1986).