Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 48: When should you hire us?

April 13, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 48: When should you hire us?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 48: When should you hire us?
Apr 13, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"Often decisions about hiring consultants get budget consideration. 'Do we have the money for it?' But actually, the bigger question is, 'Do we have the time?'"

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"Often decisions about hiring consultants get budget consideration. 'Do we have the money for it?' But actually, the bigger question is, 'Do we have the time?'"

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about the collaborative space between individuals.

Unknown:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode, we start with a question, and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "When should you hire us?"

Karen:

Yeah, that's totally self serving, but part of me just wants to say, "Now."

Paul:

But that's not always true.

Karen:

Well, the reason I'm tempted to say it is because, while it's not always true that now is the right time to hire us, I think it is true that most potential clients who would need the kind of work that we could help with wait too long. And so so maybe a better answer is "Probably sooner than you think." And so what we want to explore today is kind of how do you know when someone like us who helps people work through differences and work on sort of the relationships and the communication and the conflicts kind of spaces, when is that a good thing to invest in? And when might you need it?

Paul:

So I think it's worth sort of exploring, like, what are the kinds of things that clients get out of working with consultants like us, right? It's not just us, there are other people who do these kinds of things. One of the things that we've talked about before by which I mean off the show, not actually on the show, don't go looking at another episode of trying to find this is that like, consultant is often a really loaded term, or an overloaded term where it can mean lots of different things. In some places, it means staff augmentation, right, we need more hands to do some things. But if you sort of go back to the idea of consulting, right, it's like, "Hey, I want someone to consult with," to come in and sort of offer their observations about the ways that we are working, to bring in their perspective from having seen a lot of other organizations and a lot of other groups. And to sort of provide some of that perspective. That's kind of what we're really talking about. I'm very influenced in a lot of my thinking by the late Jerry Weinberg. He wrote a book called Secrets of Consulting, and More Secrets of Consulting, and I had the opportunity to do some work with him, before he passed away a few years ago, and one of his things was, he talked about the Law of the Cucumber, where he said that the cucumber gets brined, more than the brine gets cucumber. And what he really meant by that was that when you're in an organization for a long time, you get pickled. You just kind of see the world the way the organization sees it. You take on those perspectives. And what a consultant really brings is someone from the outside who hasn't been pickled yet, who can sort of see what what's happening for what it is, kind of from the outside. His point for consultants was don't spend too much time with any one client, because you get pickled. What you're useful for is actually bringing the outside perspective, so if you're spending too much time with a single client, you stop being useful in that way. But I think that is really from particularly a process consultation perspective, is really, when you should bring in somebody is when you're realizing it would be useful to have some perspective on what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Karen:

Yeah, I think that a lot of times people think about bringing in a consultant because they need knowledge. They need somebody who knows stuff we don't know. And that is probably a real thing. Probably Paul and I, and others, like us spend more time reading Secrets of Consulting and other books and, you know, working strategies and talking to each other about this sorts of stuff. Hopefully, we do more of that than you do, because I imagine you're busy doing the thing that you do. Right. I think one thing is that knowledge and just ideas and strategies and things like that, and I think we do bring that. I think another thing that you get out of hiring a consultant, potentially, that you don't think is what you're buying, but it is that when you hire a consultant, you take time to stop and think about these things. And there is this tendency to say, "Well, you know, we could do that without a consultant," and I'm going to agree with you. You absolutely can especially if you read a good book or do a book study. There are lots of ways to do this without a consultant that work, maybe not as well, but close to as well. Like you can make some really serious progress on these things, and I'm betting you won't. Because what I see is that this sort of work gets sort of put off and postponed. And yeah, it'd be a great idea to do that to stop and think about these things. Or even somebody reads a book and says, oh, there's these great ideas, and let's implement them, but we never get around to it, because we don't prioritize it. And so when you hire a consultant, you actually prioritize this type of work.

Paul:

There is a degree to which a good consultant is also, in this type of work, gonna create some accountability for you around doing that. It's actually something that I do when I'm working with organizational clients, in particular is sort of spell out at the beginning, here's the work you're going to need to do. Sometimes organizations want to hire a consultant because they want to outsource it entirely. They're just like, "We want someone else to just go and do that." Then for the type of work that you and I do, where it's really about building the capacity within the organization to have certain types of conversations in a skillful manner, to build relationships it's capacity building that isn't something that can be done by someone outside. Someone outside can help hold you to a structure that will help you build that capacity. And that's often what I try to be really clear with my clients around is, "Here is what I'm expecting from you." I want to partner with you in this. And that means that I'm going to, you know, I'm going to ask you to spend time on stuff that you probably know you should be spending time on, because that's why you're bringing me in, but you're probably not gonna, without something external. I often think of it as scaffolding. You're eventually going to develop the ability to do this on your own. But if you could do it on your own right now, you wouldn't have hired me. And so my job is to help construct enough scaffolding around this, that you can now start to build the things that you need to do so that when I leave because I'm gonna, I'm not gonna stay with you forever that when I leave, you can continue to do the kinds of things that we have done together. That, for me is like one of the key things about when you should hire a good process consultant, is when you are ready to do the work of developing those capacities.

Karen:

And I do think that's an important thing to note. Often decisions about hiring consultants get budget consideration. Do we have the money for it? And I'm going to tell you that, yes, I expect to be paid. So yes, you'll need to have the money for it. But actually, the bigger question is, do we have the time? And particularly if you're asking us to come in and work with a group I mean, Paul and I both do some individual coaching. and that might be a different question. But if you're we're asking us to work with a group, the money that you pay us is a tiny piece of the resource. And the real value that you are investing is the time of the employees or the members of your community. If you're going to have twenty people sit together in a room for a day, and try to build a thing or improve a thing, if it's in this realm, that's the big investment. And the price tag of bringing in a consultant like one of us is a tiny piece of the investment. And to my thinking, if you're going to invest all that other time resource that is actually money in many cases that if you're going to invest that, why wouldn't you invest a little more to make really good use of that time? Which is what I think you and I do.

Paul:

Yeah, there is another piece of this, that's a that's kind of a point of tension or paradox, which is that often, you're only really willing to do that work, and you're willing to commit that time and that energy, when there is a painful problem to solve. When you're at that point, where you have to confront the difficulties of learning and growth, because learning and growth are hard, right? It's the idea that we're not actually going to show up to do the work until not doing it is more painful than doing it. And so there's that. But also, it would be really nice if we did that work before we really needed to, before we got to that pain point. And so it's interesting because I see this a bunch, where if it's not yet difficult and painful, people aren't willing to put in the time and the energy to actually doing the work and the growth. But also when it is they're at that point where they don't have as much time and energy to do it. And so that's the harder part for me. Particularly when I work with my individual coaching clients, one of the questions I always ask them is, "What's your urgency around changing this now? If you don't change what's at stake? If you don't do this work now what's at stake?" And if they don't have a good answer for that, then often I'm not a good fit for them as a coach. But as an organizational clients where, it's more of this development, like, "Hey, we know this thing is coming," or "We're trying to get out ahead of this." Like that is actually more of a clue for me, that they're actually thinking about this in the right way, that they're buying into the notion that we want to head off a bunch of problems before we get there. So it's a real struggle. Ideally, you want to be in that "We're being proactive, because we could see what might go wrong, and so let's do the work." But there's also this idea that we're not really going to invest in it until we're feeling the pain.

Karen:

Yeah. So I think it's worth talking about just sort of structurally sometimes that you might want to ask yourself, "Hey, should we hire a consultant?" And so one of those, I would say is anytime there's a new formation. Anytime people are coming together that haven't been together before getting some help getting that relationship off the ground solidly, building some structures and methods of communication that you can all sort of have in common and use together can be really helpful. And sometimes that just the fact that there's an outside or leading that lets everybody else be on more equal footing. So that can be really valuable. So that's one, is anytime you're gathering a new group of people, even if they're not new people to the company, but if there's new. And sometimes even if you're just adding one person to an existing team that that is a time to get some help. And that can be a nice reset for everybody. But certainly anytime anyone joins or leaves, that's a transition point. And I'd say that's the other thing is anytime you're making a significant transition of any sort bringing in a new system or whatever that thing is that you're transitioning, that's a point where likely some support for relationships would be useful.

Paul:

One of the things that you're pointing to there is that having an outside consultant, and someone with a process focus in particular, is really useful when you're going through change. Because when you're in it, it's really hard to make sense of it in a way outside of your own experience. Because in a lot of ways what I do with groups when we're going either we're adding a new team member, or we're starting to work in a new way or working with a new system is I'm helping them to do some sort of collective sense-making around, you know, "Each of us are all having our own individual experiences of this change." And it can be really useful to recognize, "Oh, what are other people's experiences? Like how is that all happening for us collectively, as a group?" I have a background in improv theatre, and we used to say that when you step on stage, you lose 20 IQ points. Because you're in the middle of it. And you're going, "I gotta to do this, there's this thing that's going on, I gotta pay attention..." and the audience, meanwhile, sees everything. And so the audience is way smarter than the performers. And in some ways, that's what's really going on, when you're bringing in someone from outside, you're bringing in someone who's not in the middle of it, who's not in the middle of the swirl, and the chaos and the change, who can sort of tell you what they're seeing, who can help you notice what's happening, and just kind of help you figure out how you want to be with all of that swirl.

Karen:

Yeah, so I think that, in addition to those sort of structural moments or like that you can kind of predict the transition, the other thing I want to list a little bit is other signs. So Paul, you mentioned when the pain gets bad enough, right? So that's usually conflict is erupting. People maybe are yelling at each other. Like there's really a lot of tension and emotional energy. You all probably already knew that that was the time you might want some help. But some precursors to that, that are predictive, that if you're seeing might be a trigger, like, "Let's get help now before it gets really bad." If things are getting shoved under the carpet, if sort of conflicts are sort of beginning to happen, and then they're just getting shoved off to the side, so without actually getting resolved, you're just sort of walking around them. If you're seeing that happe with any regularity, that's a pretty strong indicator that something's amiss and may eventually blow up. You're gonna eventually took over those lumps in the carpet. I'd say another one is if you're seeing any sort of cliquishness that there are groups of people who are sort of isolating on their own and not welcoming of other groups of people, or any sort of side-taking. If you get these people are lined up on this side and those people are lined up on that side, and there's this sort of competing energy, that's an indicator. And then the other one I would say is, if there's a lack of transparency. If there's sort of this little group over here doing things, and others are like, "I didn't know you were doing that way, how did that happen?" Sometimes that's a pretty quick fix. But that's another indicator that something is not working relationally if people are sort of hiding away to get their thing done before someone else could object to it, that kind of energy. Those are all pretty good indicators that things are likely to get worse before they get better if you don't get some help.

Paul:

One thing I'll add to that list is, we talked recently on a recent episode about patterns and recurring patterns. And so when you start to notice, hey, this pattern is happening again and again, and it's giving us a result we don't want like we'd rather get something else that's another good sign that you probably would benefit from having someone give you some additional perspective from the outside. That may be knowledge. It may be, "Oh, yeah, you let me help you because you don't realize that you have different alternatives. There are different ways that you might address this." And so some knowledge might be useful there. But in some cases, it can be useful just to have somebody kind of hold up the mirror and say, "So I'm noticing that every time you interact in this way, this is the pattern. What do you actually want it to be like?" So those recurring patterns that you would like to shift is for me one thing I would add to that list of when you might want to bring in someone to help with these kinds of things.

Karen:

So I think just to track where we've been: When should you hire us? And we're saying probably earlier than you might. Typically that's what we see. Look for times of transition or change. Anytime changes are occurring, that's the time you might. Look for signs of relational disconnect. That's another time that you might. And when we come one of the things to think about getting is not only the knowledge that we bring, which is usually the first thing people think about, it's also the outsider perspective that we can see things because we're not in the pickle jar. And then the other additional thing that people really discount is that when we come in, we bring in accountability, or at least there is "a this time is set aside." There's a commitment that comes with that that really helps with "Okay, we can't just cancel that and move on. We've already committed with somebody." And that turns out to be a really useful service. So I think that's what we've got.

Paul:

Yeah, I think that's gonna do it for us today. So until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karin Gimnig, and this has been employing differences