Consulting: Identity, Education & Change

Business and commerce are a very singularly human activity. No other creatures on earth buy and sell, products or services. When you think about your activities of coaching a potential entrepreneur in achieving their dreams of becoming their own boss, I find it helpful to always keep this fact in mind. At the core of the human experience is Identity. How a particular individual resonates with that definition, and more importantly, how one engages that identity in the world proves out the success, failure or stagnancy of their activities. The encouraging motivation of the human experience is that the process of defining and engaging identity is not static but very much dynamic and we all have a lifetime to change.

When talking about identity and societies, it’s easy to default to one’s family name, vocation, socio-economic, political views or station in life (husband, mother, father, widow, single, etc.); However, for our purposes, identity should be the moral standard and ethics you define yourself as; honest, kind, fair, hard-working, humble—The characteristics that cannot be easily removed and are “hard-wired” in at an early age.

If I haven’t lost you yet, you might be wondering: “Thanks for the philosophical input but what does this have to do with consulting success?” Understanding people’s perception of their own identity and self-awareness enables you to coach them better. In the next few headings we will discuss how to do that.

Major on the Majors

Recently, I had an encounter with a longtime client who has yet to open a business; She had been a client for over two years and it was my impression she wanted company over consulting. In our most recent meeting she indicated she wanted to open a non-profit and essentially “shake-down wealthy” people who connected with her on LinkedIn®, in order to open up a community center.  She had been relieved of several jobs, had no formal vocational or other training and along with that, she had no money to invest in herself. What do you do?

I guided our conversation along in order to help her understand, she needed to find a job and learn how to work with different kinds of people at varying levels of chains of commands. We went on to talk about how in order to lead, however noble the cause, you need to learn how to follow well. In doing so, providing for your dependents and yourself is the noblest of causes.

This is an example of showing the client how to “major on the majors” taking care of the big issues first, those that are foundational in building success in business, work and life. Priorities, we often forget, are food, housing and shelter — the basics. When the plane is going down, they tell you to put the mask on yourself before you help someone else–Bill & Melinda didn’t nearly eradicate polio without providing the basics for themselves—and their children first.  This principle is the same in life as it is in business, sit-up, crawl, walk, run. Guiding the client successfully though this takes patience and empathy.

Begin with the End in Mind

One of my favorites 7 Habits from Covey’s classic is beginning with the end in mind. This aligns and “reels in” the big dream; The story ends and so do we and therefore, we should plan for it. I find there are very few people who can dream, plan AND execute— The Trifecta of Entrepreneurship—Beginning with the end in mind, helps with learning any of those missing skills. Enabling the client to put an “end cap” on their business plan helps in a few ways: 1) It helps contain their plan to their mission; 2) It focuses them on the planning from dreaming and enables them to execute. 3) It threshes out their motives and reminds them they aren’t what they do.  That last one is the kicker—especially when it comes to their relationships (family, friends, colleagues). Several questions come from #3, the main one is why do they want to go into business. If their response is to provide a need in the community/market place, we are on the right track. If the motive is to get rich and spend winters on a Caribbean Island, then odds are they won’t be successful.

When the subject comes up of “how are we gonna end this?” Mortality and all the stuff we talked about in the first several paragraphs come into play. Do you sell the business? Do you Will it to a relative, or do you just close the doors. How one executes this while maintaining your identity and relationships relate back to character and relationships.

Process and journey over Outcomes and Destination

Helping your clients understand that process and journey trumps outcomes and destinations is key. Consulting is an educational format and when done well with coachable people, education fosters change. Whether someone goes into business or decides not to go into business, is a success. Learning basic accounting or higher-level market data analytics still results in change—also a success.

Without change there are no measurables. One’s attitude toward change will determine where they are in the practice of change. If everyone was the same yesterday as they are today, we would all be in trouble. This is why a solid identity and self-awareness is important for good consulting and good coaching.

Process and journey evoke change while the actual outcomes and destination do not. Good consulting is becoming a change agent though educating your client on themselves as well as business practices and principles. A good consultant can influence change by creating an authentic relationship with their client in order to gain ‘street-cred’ to help them in though processes or attitudes that may prohibit their success in business.

Suggested Readings

  • Then Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey
  • The E-Myth – Michael Gerber
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
  • Business Secrets from the Bible – Rabbi Daniel Lapin
  • The Book of Proverbs – King Solomon
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  • Leading Change –John Kotter

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