One of the biggest priorities you’ll face as an independent consultant working with a new organisational client, is establishing trust with the leadership team, for you to deliver candid truth, honest feedback, and most of all, successful results.
We look at 6 ways that effective consultants build trust with any new client they work with.
1. It’s about them, not you.
Without trust, it is very unlikely that you’ll get to learning the truth about what’s really going on in the organisation. The moment you walk through the door of a new client’s business, they’ve made their decision about using your services. They have probably researched your experience, scoured through your LinkedIn testimonials, held endless conversations with you about why you’re suited to work on their project. So, the minute you arrive at your client’s front door, it becomes all about them, and less about you. Enabling the leadership team to feel confident that you, as an independent consultant, hold their corporate values and goals at the core of everything you do, is probably the most important step you’ll take to gaining their trust in your capability, and making them feel assured in their selection of your services to them.
2. Listen to individual contributions
As much as leadership teams believe in the power to direct and deliver strategy, ensuring that you listen to important input from every part of the business, regardless of level, function or positioning is one of the critical steps you can take to build a complete and comprehensive picture of that organisational story. Translating that into an achievable, target-driven strategy will enable your client to feel that the welfare of their organisation is important to you, and the strategy that you deliver.
3. Commit to follow through
Even the best-intended talk is hollow, if not followed by corresponding action. A perception, albeit changing, already exists in the business world that believes consultants are very often theory-heavy, and practicality-light. And although businesses are embracing the world of independent consulting more and more each day, independent consultants are keen to demonstrate that they can deliver a strategy that fits the client’s needs, but more importantly, they are able to implement and action that strategy in partnership with their client, allowing them to feel supported throughout the project, and long after you have left the building.
4. Be consistently clear
Being consistent and being clear – two huge trust-building pillars that set the tone for the success, or failure, of a project. Trust is built when someone knows they are getting what they expect, every time. And in a client’s world, they want to know that what you deliver is consistent – and that every little thing you’ve done along the way has been consistent towards your (their) end goal, and points back to their success. Walking alongside consistency is integrity and clarity in feedback and communication. If your client knows that what you’re telling them is delivered with integrity and truth, no matter how hard it may be, they will soon realise that you are the real deal, and the course will be set.
5. Claiming your accountability
Accountability means being responsible for decisions made, actions taken, and assignments completed. Within an organisation, it all-too-often happens that we fight for our right to claim accountability for a success or a reward, but how light is the battle when that fight to claim accountability is aimed towards failure, mistake or upset. Taking accountability for an action is not just about putting your hand up. But rather – making it clear, from the start, that your intention is to follow-through on a particular action – and being there at the end to be able to analyse the actions taken throughout that led to a particular result. Building trust is all about being accountable to those we work alongside – as a client, as a partner, as a colleague. And as an independent consultant, being able to demonstrate accountability towards your client will stand you in good stead to build a relationship on trust and reliability.
6. Show character
People react better to someone who does what’s right, over doing what’s easiest. As an independent consultant joining an organisation’s culture and work ethos, you are in a fortunate position to not be bound by the same rules and protocols that formulate the day-to-day of employees within that organisation. You are independent to that and as a result, you are able to demonstrate a different approach to challenges that your client struggles with. True character is shown when you are able to have difficult conversations, address difficult subject matter and most of all, demonstrate your integrity through the way you conduct yourself throughout your client’s project and organisation.
About the AuthorMore Content by Dorothy Mead