A true consultant is a problem solver. We see a problem that a client is facing, and seek to assist the client in the resolution of that problem. But not everyone wants to be helped.
My wife is currently taking a class on counseling techniques as part of the coursework in preparation for becoming licensed as a therapist. Her professor was discussing that one challenge when working with adolescents (although this would certainly apply to any demographic) happens when the client switches from discussion about deeper issues to “my mom grounded me for three weeks.” While it is tempting to redirect the conversation to the issues more closely associated with “root causes” of whatever is troubling the client, the shift in the conversation may be a way to protect oneself from a more painful subject. The client may not be ready to face the issue.
If the client (whether a consulting client or counseling client) is not ready for change, intervention may not be possible. Mark Haas at the Institute of Management Consultants USA, recently wrote about this topic in a post entitled, How to Know Which Organizations Can Most Benefit From Your Help:
Not every organization is in a position to take a consultant’s advice or, even if they are listening, to implement and sustain such advice. The leadership needs a certain level of awareness to understand what improvements are possible, and the organization needs a certain level of operational performance to implement recommendations. Not all organizations are in this position. Whether leadership is incapable or unwilling to talk about leadership, strategic or cultural issues or the organization functionally is not in a position to implement, there are some clients who will not improve despite your best efforts.
Haas suggests that consultants take the “Goldilocks” approach: some clients are going to be too successful to consider change, others may have too weak of a leadership structure to be willing to accept change. Find the clients that “are just right.”
Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right
Scarlet Begonias, lyrics by Robert Hunter