When “third-party consultants” are for sale.

When businesses have disagreements and bring in a “third-party” to decide who’s right, it’s like a schoolyard dispute.

Do you remember, when you and your friend decided to bring in a referee to your fight, how did you pick them?

You certainly picked someone who knew a bit of the background. You picked someone who knew either both of you or none of you. But, most importantly, you picked the kid who have the intelligence to know the truth and the courage to stand by the truth.

I call it “the courage to make the Right Call, not the Popular Call.”

The Popular Call is so tempting though. You can tell the client – whoever is responsible for hiring you – how wonderful they are and how good a job they did. They are happy with you because you made them feel good about themselves. You’ll probably get repeat clients. Sure, there will be some non-compliances that you neglected to point out. But what’s the harm – your mortgage is paid.

The Right Call is hard – people really don’t like to be told they are not perfect or that maybe the other side has a stronger leverage. Even though it really is an opportunity for improvement, our school system had trained us to think of it as a failure. As a consultant, you have to be skilled at communicating this in a gentle, empathetic, compliment sandwich, or you’ll have a mess of emotions on your hands. Sometimes no matter how good you are, you will have some unhappy clients. Some clients would rather change the consultant than change their procedures, looking for the “popular call” consultant.

Until that one inevitable day when the truth comes out. It may be that year. It may take years for it to happen. But it happens. In some situations with severe penalties. The penalty is to the client though, not to the consultant. Sure, the consultant is exposed, but they’ll just go on to the next client.

As a company, you really have to have the courage to hire someone who tells you the truth knowing it’ll get uncomfortable for them. Someone who looks out for you at their expense. You can always find them by looking for personal integrity. 

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