You know the old adages about assumptions: “Assume makes an ass out of you and me,” and “Assume I’ll want chocolate when I visit, and you’ll be right,” and, of course, “Assume spelled sideways is almost masseuse.”
Assumptions alleviate the strain on your brain. You needn’t ponder the melting point of olive oil because you can safely assume it will remain liquid as long as you don’t refrigerate it.
Assumptions also save you time. You lose no minutes questioning whether a Pain au Chocolat is fattening because you assume it is. (Or pretend it isn’t.)
Since the amino acids of consulting are brain power and time, it’s little wonder that you aggressively employ assumptions to build your successful, lucrative consulting firm.
Unfortunately, assumptions can also trick you into poor decisions and suboptimal consulting behavior.
7 Assumptions that Might Be Sabotaging Your Consulting Firm
Assume Your Client is Wrong, Doesn’t Know, or is Faulty
Many consultants start a project with the a priori stance that their client has no clue. After all, if your client knew the right answers, he wouldn’t need to hire a consultant.
Sure, there may be a gap here or dysfunctional behavior there. But, clients generally have excellent information and perspective, and are, overall, operating quite well.
Break the Assumption: Take your consulting client’s positions, information and viewpoints as valuable input. Collaborate with him and use your combined knowledge and perspective to help him achieve success.
Assume You Know the Answer
If you dove deep during the discovery process (a good practice), you may feel like you’ve already discovered the solution. Also, if your current consulting client’s situation closely resembles a past client’s challenge, it’s easy to assume you can reapply the solution.
You owe it to your consulting client to not jump to conclusions.
Break the Assumption: Test past solutions in two ways: Testing whether your solution is right is easy. Also do the hard work of testing whether you solution may be wrong for your client.
Assume Your Client Understands You
Your discovery questions, your proposal, your mid-project emails, your deliverables and every other touch point between you and each client is swimming with opportunities to be misunderstood. It’s all too easy for a project to go South when your client’s understanding doesn’t match your intention.
Break the Assumption: Have a layperson read every document you send to your clients, then pay attention when they say something doesn’t make sense. It’s as annoying as a swarm of mosquitoes, but it works.
Assume That Logic Will Prevail
Your proposals, recommendations and solutions make sense. They’re logical. They’re best for your client. And that’s why it can be mystifying and frustrating when your client ignores you or rejects your suggestions outright.
Break the Assumption: Look for the emotional impact of your consulting work. How will your client personally gain or suffer? Who in your client’s organization might look bad? What’s going on in your client’s personal world that might be bleeding into his work life?
Assume Your Value is Obvious
From the moment you present your proposal for a consulting engagement to the moment(s) you deliver results, you increasingly believe your value is evident. (At least, if you’re doing good work and helping your client.)
In reality, your client may barely be paying attention to you. Plus, your client’s memory of every win you deliver has about the same half-life as a box of truffles. (About one week.)
Break the Assumption: Scorecard your results and regularly highlight the value you’re creating for your client.
Assume Your Values Are Best
Cultural assumptions pervade your consulting projects. They shape your approach, how you interact with your clients, the recommendations you develop, what you present and how you present it, and more.
At the extreme end, consider this: equality, meritocracy, honesty and transparency are hallmarks of Western cultures. But are those values necessarily “right” for your client?
Break the Assumption: Don’t gloss over culture. Take the time to learn about your client’s culture and why he thinks it’s good or best. You don’t have to agree with him, but you do need to be able to bridge any gaps between your worldview and his.
I won’t presume I’ve caught all the assumptions that sabotage consulting firms, so this space is for you to add your views.
What other assumptions can sabotage consulting firms? Add your thoughts to the discussion below.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.