Recently, we have been working with groups of internal consultants/advisors who have been struggling to develop relationships and establish credibility with senior stakeholders. It can be challenging to establish the level of trust which you need to influence senior stakeholders. To compound the problem, establishing a trusting relationship may require different approaches with different people. We know that establishing trust takes a mix of credibility, reliability, and intimacy in the relationship. These are complex skills demanding intelligence, insight, diligence and effective relationship-building abilities. Luckily, there are approaches and behaviours which can be learned.
One of the key behaviours which we note is that it is easy for Internal consultants to focus too narrowly on their brief. There is a typical scenario where participants tell us they go to a meeting, sit down and write down a brief from a senior stakeholder. They don’t ask questions, don’t understand the full context of the brief or grasp the challenges that the stakeholder faces. They may be too scared to ask too many questions or they may be discouraged from doing so. But, allowing this situation to develop has two consequences:
1. The project or assignment will suffer without a full understanding of the business and stakeholder context.
2. You have lost the opportunity to establish credibility by asking insightful, knowledgeable questions, challenging the stakeholder’s thinking and offering some insights of your own.
There are some key approaches to manage the situation better – for your own benefit.
At Openside, we work with Internal Consultants in developing their analytical problem solving and influencing skills, to maximise impact on the business and its key stakeholders. Our participants fill advisory roles across different sectors such as FMCG, Banking, Technology, Property Management Companies and Outsourced Services. Their roles include Data Analysts, Marketing Professionals, Supply Chain Experts, Accountants and HR Professionals.
Inside Openside is a series of shared insights on the specific challenges our clients from across your industry sector face. If any of these sound familiar, let’s talk about how we might do something about it – together.
About the author
Debbie Dudley is a Director at The Openside Group
Openside design and deliver tailored programmes to ensure that Internal Consultants have the skills to operate effectively and ensure maximum strategic impact in project delivery. All of our tutors are experienced consultants and many have been successful in both internal and external consulting roles.