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.