A consultant is hired by clients to help the client improve something or some things and/or services. This is rather basic.  The ideal consultation works for all – the client (from the most senior members to the most junior members) and those who are served.  In the case of ECE programs, that would be administration, staff, families, and most importantly, children.

Usually, people at the top hire consultants to help fix things that people somewhere in the middle or even lower within the agency are not doing well. 

Sometimes, the people who hire the consultants really don’t understand why there’s a problem. They may be too many levels removed from the daily situation.  Sometimes, they don’t share the negative results of some evaluation with the staff.  The funding agency says hire a consultant to improve the scores, and they interview consultants.

Some would-be hirers see the problem and think a few hours of consulting will either solve it or set them on the road to solving it themselves. It’s so much like, “Come, Ms. Consulting Expert, visit our wonderful program that scored low in just this tiny area. You can fix this in a few hours or even less. We have great staff, and if you tell us what to fix, you can be off on your merry way.” Then consultants go there and see multiple problems that will need lots of time and effort to make real improvements.

Sharing what really needs to be done has scared off many a prospective client. Not sharing what really needs doing sets up the entire process for disappointment all around.

How should a consultant proceed?

Why, just wave the magic consultant wand, fix the stuff instantly, charge a tiny amount for wand maintenance, and get rave reviews in every possible way. What? The magic wand is in the repair shop? Oh dear. What now?

I’m writing these articles in my 19th year as the owner of a successful consulting practice. If you are a consultant, take a ride with me as we explore win/win/win ways to make consulting work well for all concerned.

Consultants are in business to help their clients.  Program directors’ main job is to maintain full enrollment while making sure the program quality is the best it can be in all respects.  

Programs relate to families and children, consultants relate to clients.  No matter what we call the members of the relationship, the first part of the relationship is about connecting to the family member or client by name. Our name is an important part of our identity. If the person has an unfamiliar name, practice saying it over and over again until it’s right. And remember how to say it. Sometimes, I make little tips for myself so in between contacts, I don’t forget.

My own first name is Ellen. It starts my business email address: ellen@earlychildinfo.com and my main social email address starts with the letter E. While it’s not the most common first name, it’s a “common” name that shouldn’t be hard.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with a customer service/email/domain “consultant” who helped me fix up my email accounts. There are a few domains with emails attached to each. Since the prices for email addresses have risen, it was time to prune, move, and otherwise work on them. We were on the phone more than ½ hour, talking about all of the email addresses, some of them starting with “ellen” and some starting with “e”. With all of the deleting, moving, and keeping, the name “Ellen” had to have been said more than 50 times, and other emails starting with “e” close to the same number of times. While the “consultant”  was waiting to make changes happen, she told me how making connections with people was so important to her. I liked that.

A few minutes after the phone call, I got  the follow-up email she had told me about.  She sent it to my email address which started with “e”, with the correct account number and the correct phone number.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the greeting: “Hello Helen”!

Here’s part of my reply to her: “My name, as in every one of the emails we spoke about, is ELLEN, not Helen.”

Here’s a tip: The people in your life don’t usually notice when you get their name right, but they ALWAYS notice when you don’t.