Principles for consultants

Consultants need to follow a few principles. Here are mine:

  1. Know your client’s origin story.

You may think you know what the root of their problem is but unless you can tell the story and the client does not object to it, you don’t.

  1. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups.

Test all your advice to the client for underlying assumptions. If you find them, validate them before making any recommendations.

  1. Listen and relate

Your client’s problems are very different from yours which means that you may know what they need. To reduce the chance of your hybris getting in the way of helping the client, exercise your listening skills. Give advice only once you believe you can relate with them.

  1. Offer proper foundation

If you’ve been in the trenches of your specialty will you be able to give advice the customer can listen to. Advice not rooted in lived experiences will lack in depth and insight.

  1. Have skin in the game

If your mandate does not carry any risk for you - you will not fight as hard for your clients success as you would if your fortunes were not somewhat intertwined.

  1. Tell the truth

Not lying and telling the truth are not the same thing: Telling the truth carries the additional burden of properly questioning, understanding and internalising a subject before offering advice or opinions on it. Not lying is a low bar to clear since it allows you to pass superficial knowledge and your client will not know the difference.

These are some of the principles I want to apply in my practice. I have a long way to go on all of them.