Consulting, Decisions, & Taking the Right Road

mapThe many faces and facets of people I work within a given month…or day keeps this line of work from getting stale. While consulting often comes with being a virtual assistant not all consulting that I do is structured into 30- or 60-minute paid sessions. Quite often a client or colleague will ask for a sounding board or suggestions and guidance about this or that or a how-do-I-proceed-with-this type of question. It’s part of the job. I’m humbled by the trust that is placed in my knowledge and experience.

The tricky part, and what can lead to frustration or disappointment or muddied confusion, is when multiple consultants give varying or conflicting guidance. What’s a person to do? Whose suggestions should be followed? The ultimate decision is always up to the client. Neither consultant is wrong nor has given poor advisement. The client needs to determine – of the numerous options presented around or through the issue – which path is the right path for them to follow. Plain and simple.

There are many roads on a map. Many ways to travel between point A and point B. Which road is followed is the choice of the person driving. In this case, the business owner is steering the direction of the business, setting their goals, determining who they serve with their services and products, and who they want to serve as their customers. When multiple consultants give differing ways to approach something this is merely two roads that hopefully lead to the same destination. One road may be an expressway. Another road may have some twists – hopefully minimal bumps or roadblocks.

Recently some what’s-the-best-way types of questions have come through my inbox. In most instances, I was able to reply with a short answer of we’d need to do this, this, and this. Or, that works with this program then add in this extra step. When something is outside of my wheelhouse or requires a program or service that isn’t part of my business offerings I have no problem in saying so. There are times I can recommend a trusted colleague who offers what is being sought or a trusted online service that can be used. Yes, that may mean the client won’t work with my company for this type of support so I don’t get the sale…and that’s okay. I’m sure the client will remember me for other services that my company does provide.

Here’s where the peculiar responses shape up that sometimes make me shake my head in the not good way. I thrill when I get an email reply like this one: “Thank you for thinking this through with me. You are a most knowledgeable, informed, and skillful gem!” And I usually sigh when the response is along these lines: “Now I’m not sure what to do because X says this and you say something in the opposite direction. I wish you both could agree. My coach says I should move forward with this, that I’ve been dragging this out for months but when everyone can’t agree what am I supposed to do?” Or another that I get from time to time is: “You have your favorite programs and service providers but I must work in what I have.” Okay. Chances are the service provider you’re using isn’t meeting your immediate needs which is why you are trying to solve the issue you asked me about therefore knowing how that program works and what another program offers it may be time to change programs because you’ve outgrown your existing program.

Someone who complains about the recommendation instead of expressing a simple thank you doesn’t get it…they probably won’t. Ever. They are seeking someone to make the decision for them instead of claiming that role rightly for themselves as the business owner, entrepreneur, or boss that they are.

As the consultant, I feel for the second person who is expressing frustration and indecision but making the final choice has never, ever been part of my responsibility. My responsibility and obligation in consulting is to give the person enough information to make an informed decision. Typically, I will include my reasoning for offering a particular road as their solution. I can’t make someone take a specific path towards what they say they want to do. I can only guide. Think of the guy who is lost but won’t stop and ask for directions or who does ask but then thinks he knows a shortcut. He was lost in the beginning and ignoring the directions probably won’t take him to his destination anytime soon.

If you’re the consultant trust that you did your part by giving sound and solid suggestions. If you’re the person asking choose asking someone you respect and trust and has experience and knowledge in the areas you don’t. Getting a second, or third, opinion is fine. What you do with those opinions is up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each. If something falls through or doesn’t work out then make another decision and continue to move on.

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