We would like you to be different, but not too different" - Buying in externals

When we invite people from outside as a supplier, facilitator, coach or consultant we are inviting them to contribute to our conversations in novel ways and yet at the same time to fit-in. It’s an ambivalent ask – “we want you to really challenge us, bring in your expertise…. and …..er….agree with us as well”.

Buying in expertise can bring novelty and difference and a real opportunity for change. Yet it can be tricky to really find people who enable us to be our best selves and, at times, for us to invest the time and effort involved in making a change. Too much difference, and we misunderstand each other’s intentions and behaviours, promises are not realised, and money is often wasted; too much of their expertise and we can feel told off.

Here at ndc we spend much of our time being the external consultant – having bought in some expertise ourselves this month – we reflected of the value of external input when at its best.

Familiar things look new to you – You are able to revisit business issues – knotty dead ends you know so very well – and they appear to you in a new light because of the way you are asked to look again by the external individual is different. This lens is offered through questioning, daring to ask you to explain your assumptions, your fantasies, and your dreams.

Relevant expertise is offered – Tales from the outside world that illuminate, oppose, and challenge; all in the spirit of inviting you to look again at what you are aiming for and, why you have got so stuck. It’s not about the consultant, it’s all about you.

Energy is generated – The conversations are demanding and yet so re-energising as you are able to go on together in new ways and take actions with a new purpose.

Your temporary team works very well – The consultant offers robust and respectful challenge to the patterns of conversation and group dynamics they see – they can hold the mirror up to how you get stuck and how you trip yourselves up – are you brave enough, or too risk adverse? What do you need to move forwards?

They genuinely understand where you are at – This requires them to really listen and notice your business needs, to look systemically, which can often be overlooked when briefing. David Casey talks about us being able to begin our work at where the client is currently and not where we think they should be. This seems very simple, and yet the job of really finding out where the client requires expertise and tenacity.

They are grounded and pragmatic – They translate their expertise, to your language for you to act on. They have a can do attitude and help you with your blind spots and eccentricities. They use their network to connect you.

Their objectivity enables you to uncover the elephant or elephants in the room to release unlocked resources.

They remain on the boundary – They join you temporarily and will leave you when you are ready.

They recognise your business stage and move you on – They enable you to transition to another stage in your strategy delivery, business development, personal development or to put it another way, as Greiner suggests, they can get you through to the next phase of business growth – by releasing the best in you.

So, I’d say, based on our experience,that it is very valuable indeed.

Written by:
Dr Martin Egan

Culture Consultancy, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development

May 5, 2020