Sometimes consultants get to show courage… more than a little.
Sometimes they even have clarity of thought.
It can take courage to deliver assessments that are not what clients want to hear, even when those assessments will help to mobilize powerful and effective actions for the future.
At the same time, it also takes courage for their clients to receive those kinds of assessments and then act on them.
I am coming to think this is the greater and more powerful kind of courage.
Distinctions for courage
A few days ago, I wrote about clarity of thought and courage as they support clear and concise team communication.
At the end of the post, I promised to come back to courage here.
Used as an idiom, the courage of your convictions is the confidence to act in accordance with your beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.
More formally defined, courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
(Both definition sources – dictionary.com)
I have noticed in the past few days how people get triggered by the word “courage” as it relates to significant danger, almost discounting courage as it relates to other sources of fear.
But I think it is good to respect courage, and especially to call it out when we see it.
The courage I have exhibited as a consultant appears to me now more like a version of the “butterflies” I feel sometimes when I first get on stage to speak, present or sing.
I can have the most responsible intentions as I make assessments for my clients.
I can hold myself accountable to the knowledge I have and the counsel I give.
Where I make mistakes, my clients may not retain me in the future.
But oftentimes, they are the ones who have to take what I give them and execute in the long run. In that, my best performance on the job may have similarities to a performance on stage.
When it is over, the butterflies are gone, I am off to the next opportunity to help someone else, and my client faces the dragons of execution and marginal practice. (Not necessarily alone, but I hope you see my general point.)
Putting things in perspective
I’m not discrediting consultants. I’ve been one for a long time, and I believe I’ve produced uncommon value for my clients, as have many others.
I also say it doesn’t matter what I believe about the value I produced. Purely looking at the market economy, my clients have said so, too, by accepting my services at a premium for many years… and that assessment is far more important.
My intention is mainly to give credit to the courage my clients have in:
- Holding to a vision that was greater than they could tackle alone
- Actually asking for help
- Sifting through the “greedy consultants” to find the help they need
- And actually accepting the help and executing
If you think about that, it is a much more courageous position than sitting still and letting the marketplace drift by.
As I wrote about clear and concise communications, I referred to clarity of thought and more than a little courage.
Consultants can often help you think.
We offer knowledge and tools to inspect, dissect and rearrange the constraints, compromises, obligations and relationships you face into new opportunities. We can help you to declare or refine your vision.
But I notice how much courage you have in executing strategies that we (the consultants) are one small part of, even when we facilitated them. You display the courage, and you have my respect for it.
(Incidentally, getting beat by the marketplace while you fail to adapt, adopt and execute requires its own form of courage… but that’s not a posture most professionals would intentionally choose… so I am not addressing it here.)