I am a consultant at heart. I have had great moments within different working settings when I can hardly hold the joy. When my clients and I discover uncharted territory to explore, when the institutional pathways open up before us, when our experience is illuminating by the light of knowledge and common faith, then consulting is one of the finest works I know. I am into a truly helping profession.
But I had had difficult moments where the setting is so painful or confused and I am so powerless to advance some progress, that my claim to be a consultant seems a little bit tired. Then the “enemy” is everywhere in those people that seem from some alien planet, in the person I thought I knew but I didn’t, and in the personal obsession that keeps me working hard to achieve results and earn a decent living for my family.
So consultants have bad days and good days. But the thing is that I care for both. The older I get the more I comprehend that bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something we love. Yes, I love my work and I refuse to harden my heart because I love my clients, the continuous learning and the consulting-knowledge action driven life.
When you love your work so much the only way to get out of trouble is to go deeper in. Thus, I like to enter into the tangles of consulting, so I can understand them better and negotiate with more grace, not only to protect my spirit, but also to serve my clients well.
The tangles of consulting have, at least, three core sources. First, the subjects we consult are as large and complex as life and as the reality out there. Our knowledge of them is always moving and is very dynamic. This profession requires a true commitment and devotion to reading, researching and teaching for commanding a content that adds value to the working reality. This can be a very peculiar life-style. Second, the customers we work for are very intense, absorbing and complex. To see them clearly, and see them as a whole, and respond to them wisely in the moment requires very hard work and requires sacrifice. But there is a more profound reason to these exhausting realities and it is that we consult who we are. What we are is what the client gets. Consulting is an expression of our identity.
Consulting emerges from one’s inwardness. We practice so much the profession that we become the profession. As I consult, I project the condition of my being into my clients, my organizations and our way of being together. This is all about true partnership. Knowing myself is crucial to good consulting, as knowing my clients, their organizations, their problems and their opportunities. Knowing my customers, my profession depends heavily on my self-knowledge. When I do not know myself, I cannot profoundly know who my customers are, at the deepest levels of embodied, personal and institutional meaning.
This work requiring to “know myself” is neither selfish nor narcissistic. It is a diligence that serves out customers and serves our scholarship well. But in order to achieve such a condition, three important dimensions must be integrated: intellectual, emotional and spiritual. None of them can be ignored. Reduce consulting to intellect and plain knowledge and it becomes cold abstractions; reduce it to emotions and feelings and it become narcissistic; reduce it to the spiritual, and it loses its anchor or to the institutional world. Intellect, emotion and spirit depend on one another for wholeness. I have enjoyed every personal and organizational effort at integrating these development domains.
The intellectual dimension is about the profound way we think about consulting, the form and content of theories and concepts about people and organizational realities. The emotional dimension refers to the way we and our customers feel and about the way we engage into a change and transformation venture. Feelings can either enlarge or diminish the exchange between customers and consultants. Chemistry and solidarity play an important role. The spiritual dimension points to the way we answer the people’s longing to be connected with God, condition that will animate love, service and work, for answering a kind of calling and for aspiring to leave any kind of constructive legacy.
But consulting is not simply about applying the flavor of the month or fancy technique. Technique is what you use until the wise consultant arrives. Good methods can help find the way into a customer-organizational dilemma, but quality of consulting does not begin until real-life consulting joins with the real life of the customer. The challenge is to combine humbleness with mature wisdom.
My work is about coping with a question closer to the bone. Who is the self that consults? By addressing it directly, openly and honestly, alone and with my dream team, we can serve clients with loyalty, enhance our own well-being, make common cause with the profession and help consulting bring more light to any kind of institutional and social reality.
Copyright 2004 QBS, Inc.