This month’s focus: Let’s start the year with something thought provoking and contentious. It seems to me that many of us coaches, business and management consultants, OD consultants and the like may be doing our clients a disservice.
People in these professions typically provide their clients solutions for existing challenges and issues. Sooner or later, however, we tend to focus on the person or team we are working with and see them as the client. Yes, our solutions include the need for this person or team to go and do something different in the organisation and bring about the requisite change in the organisation; however, from what I can make out, the focus moves from the intended outcome (something in the future) to the person or persons in front of us (the present) and, if we are not careful, we can lose sight of what it is that was intended in the first place. Of course, our clients also fall into this trap with us, but that is not the point. The process or intervention that was intended as a means to an end is in danger of becoming an end in itself.
In many cases, it is a question of the boiled frog theory presenting itself once again. You know, the one about if you throw a frog into boiling water it jumps out, but if you put it into cool water and turn up the heat, it becomes so familiar with its changing environment that it dies! In our circumstances above, both professional and client become so focused on what they are doing in the present, developing the person or team, that we are in danger of forgetting the specific change in the organisation that this development was intended to bring about.
There is another dynamic that tends to assist in this process. Very often the organisations that employ these professionals (and the ‘professionals’ themselves) view the relationship as one of service provision. Calling people service providers is more than just giving them a label – it is a way of defining the relationship, and it’s a way of limiting the relationship.
If we looked at each others as partners, these limitations fall away, for as partners we coaches (etc) have a joint responsibility to act in the interests of the organisation as a whole. In fact, as partners, we WANT TO ensure that the organisation, and not just the person or team we are involved with, benefits optimally from the partnership.
Food for thought:
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
— Winston Churchill
Wishing you all a great start to a great 2013.