For funzies, I decided to re-read part of one of my grad school papers. Sometimes when I get a little overwhelmed with stuff, I like to look back on what I wrote and remind myself of how much worse it could be. Grad school was a lot.
One in particular was this recap of a group project I did in my first year. Two of my classmates and I were given a client system to consult with about a real problem they were experiencing. We were given a non-profit board who was having some trouble determining what to do next with their enthusiasm and their membership.
We did a series of interviews, feedback, and an intervention that resulted in some real, tangible, immediate change for them. It was a pretty rewarding process that was great for getting our feet wet when it came to applying theories, models, and ideas in real life.
One thing I read was the review of our feedback session with our sponsors and how ridiculously off track it got. We presented our findings and one of our two sponsors was just aghast at what we found. Truly aghast in the almost Victorian swooning sense. He denied some of our pretty universal themes, some of which he had identified himself in his interview. He thought we were mischaracterizing and overblowing the problems within the board. Part of his reaction could’ve been the three martinis he sucked down when he walked in, or it could have been because he just didn’t like hearing some of the stuff we had to say. His vodka-fueled anger just increased when we asked him and co-sponsor what they wanted to do with our findings.
“Isn’t that what we hired you for?” he spat at us.
Bahahaha. <—-That’s me ROFLMAO in hindsight. He thought he hired us. No, sir. We are free labor right now, so there was no hiring. And even if there was, no, that is not what you hired us for.
Of course, I didn’t say this. I was actually pretty shocked and truly understood the phrase “deer in a headlights” in that moment. I looked to one of my colleagues to pleasepleaseplease make this mean man stop being mean. I was rescued and looked at the bread basket for some help to calm down so I could get back to the learning. Always with the stupid learning.
In my role as a consultant, I have to fight the perception that was put in place by traditional, old-school consultants in the early days of consulting. Namely, that I will come in, diagnose, and hand off a binder of recommendations for the system to carry out. That I will have an objective, clinical view of the problem and can identify solutions cleanly and easily without getting my white gloves dirty or requiring sweat from the client.
Nope. Not even close to what I do.
I have this radical idea that the system already has all the answers it needs to be interacting healthily and happily, they just need to be extracted like delicious juice.
So, I will get the process started. I’ll help plant some seeds, add some fertilizer, water, and sun, and then let the system grow the ideas. I’ll help with the harvest, and maybe even the fermentation process (we’re making wine now) and then let them bottle and drink it. Yum.
But damn, I will not do all that work for you. That is a lot of work and I am just one person.
I am a “we” consultant. I get wildly invested in my clients. I end up loving them in a real way and will feel just as attached to the outcome as they do. I want them to succeed and that’s why I show up with my whole heart and brain every day.
“You” consultants are the ones who can maintain a bird’s-eye view the whole time and look at people as interchangeable parts. These people are important for particular problems and I have already advised some clients to seek these sorts of consultants out when that is what seems necessary. These people want you to succeed because your success helps their bottom line or ability to upsell.
I want you to succeed because I’ve fallen in love with you. I want to come back and play some more because it feels like play, not work. You and your people are cool and I wouldn’t work with you if you weren’t.
I can and do get on the balcony and look at the system as a whole and all the parts of it from a higher level. Chances are this is what you are paying me to do because you yourself can’t do it. But what you don’t know is that I already have stars and hearts in my eyes for you because I think you’re rad and can we have a second date?
To put some academic theory on this, I ascribe to the beliefs of psychologist Carl Rogers, who believed that humans are born with everything we need to be healthy and get off track when we are imparted with a cultural desire for Approval.
Dude, I know that Approval. I hear it and its silky call everyday. Approval is an intoxicating elixir that tastes like chocolate and cake and fresh peaches and snuggles. (I imagine that Approval tastes different to everyone, like Felix Felicis in Harry Potter.) (Yup.)
But I will help you see that Approval is also fleeting, difficult to wrangle, and really tricky to manufacture. I will work to help you and whomever else you bring to the party see that you are already healthy, whole, and lovely just as you are. It’s call Positive Regard. More specifically, it’s called Unconditional Positive Regard. Even if you piss me off, I still hold you in a loving light. Cuz you’re perfect just as you are and fuck that Approval.
So, hire a You consultant if you want some more clinical approach to your work. If you need someone to look at you with sterility and surgical precision, they are for you. And truly, there are things that need this. I will tell you if this is what you need.
If you want an infusion of goodness, the faith that you will find your way, and actual tools, theories, and ideas to get there, then call me, a We consultant and someone who is already in love with you before we’ve even had our first bottle of wine together.