Many books discuss how to change a system by putting in place
This week I received two messages of trust from two clients with whom we work on a big strategy project.
My first reaction was surprise, quickly followed by the little inner voice saying “Are you sure they’re talking about you? Didn’t they mistake you for someone else?” Next, I felt a huge responsibility on my shoulders. I felt that if the project didn’t work out, whatever the reason, I would be the first to be thrown out. To sum up the sequence of emotions: surprise, deep gratitude and then fear.
Once my meetings were over, in the quietness of the cab, I thought about my professional positioning as a coach/consultant who helps companies go through organisational and cultural changes.
First I thought that my fear was more than welcome, considering the impacts of the actions I help manage (for 1000-5000 people) and furthermore I am paid to assume part of the project responsibilities.
Then I realized that my position withheld a huge power: the client knows his objectives, his organization. But he has never experienced the techniques and the processes we offer. There is a shift of balance, due to the momentary dependency of the client towards the coach.
And that’s when my fear rose. I got scared. All the red signals in my mental dashboard lit up: “Watch out what you’re doing and how you do it and especially be careful of not considering that the customer can’t do without you.” And I reached the real little devil of the consultant / coach: To maintain the client who “doesn’t know” dependency as long as possible. It is surely gratifying and fills up the ego’s glass which by definition is never full enough.
Luckily, on the other side, there is the little professional ethic angel. But, beyond words, there is for me something more important: the deep respect for these people who want their organization to evolve and who dedicate themselves body and soul to reach their goal. Who am I compared to them? A coach/consultant who brings innovative ideas. And that’s it. And, beyond the project, what is my real added value? My mission? It is something that in my opinion goes beyond the success or not of the goal. It is to help them think at 360 degrees, to give feedback in a positive way, to question themselves, to discover their strengths which go far beyond their imagination and to become fully autonomous.
From my consultant's point of view, if my client becomes autonomous, then he won’t need me anymore and I'll make less money. I think that the major challenge we have to face in our work is to distinguish what belongs to us and what belongs to the customer. It is not because we give ideas that they belong to us. We share them so they can evolve in the context of the client's company's culture.
Deep down inside, I believe that the ability to let the client go when the time is ripe is an essential part of our work. And this is even harder to do when we have developed together respect, a bond, a common vision and a deep ethic on how these ideas should be applied.
If I push my idea to the extreme, I would say that if we can’t do this, we should change jobs. And paradoxically, it is how we overcome this difficulty, that pushes the client to come back to us for new projects. The client and the coach each grow up side by side.
I realize how much, to play a leadership role and accept to yield your full power, you need to take the time to pause, to avoid being swept away by your emotions (enthousiasm as well as fear) and to stop your ego from getting drunk with power; so that you can remain humble, open and available.