You’re Not in Charge!
You’re Not in Charge!

I’ve talked to a number of leaders recently who are retiring and thinking about becoming a consultant.  Having coached and mentored others who have made the same transition, I have one major piece of advice: Remember that you are no longer in charge!

New consultants who have been former leaders often run up against their own “Make it so!” approach.  That might work when you are hired to lead an organization, but not so much when you are hired to consult with it. That’s because a consultant’s role is to assist the leader’s efforts, not take over for them. A good consultant recognizes this boundary and honors it.

I saw this first hand a while ago while mentoring a former police chief into becoming a law enforcement consultant.  As a chief, he was listened to, respected, and obeyed. As a consultant, he was frustrated with clients’ resistance to his ideas and the slow speed of change. Learning to be a consultant meant realizing that he was no longer “the law” – and accepting that clients were making the best decisions possible for situations in which they lived every day.

A consultant is in danger of overstepping their bounds when they:

  • Do not listen well to the client’s unique situation, making assumptions instead
  • Try to impose their will on a client (for solutions, decisions, or action items)
  • Dismiss objections as “resistance to change” versus digging in to understand and work with them
  • Act hurt, defensive, or angry if the client chooses not to take a recommended course of action

As a good consultant, you will use understanding, knowledge/information and encouragement to influence clients. You will accept their leadership and not take it personally if a client decides against what you suggest. That said, if in the end you don’t think you can support the client’s direction, you don’t need to take the next contract with them. It is, after all, their organization, not yours!

Cathy Perme is the co-owner of Perme & Peterson Associates, LLC.

Fizz by Cathy Perme

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Fizz! How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant author Cathy Perme also wrote Confucius in My Cubicle: Practical Wisdom for the Leader in All of Us, released by Wisdom Editions in 2017.

rich set of suggestions
Cathy's marketing and selling background makes for a rich set of suggestions for getting business and building one’s brand. I think it is rare ...
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Barbara A Tuckner
Cathy's marketing and selling background makes for a rich set of suggestions for getting business and building one’s brand. I think it is rare for an independent consultant to "give away" so much of their business engine and expertise. That adds up to a heap of generosity; something that is remarkable in the "friendly" competitive consulting world.
rich set of suggestions
Barbara A Tuckner
down to earth and practical
Down-to-earth, practical, and provides plenty of tools to use to develop your independent consulting business. Cathy takes a constructive look at how to succeed by ...
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Meghan Jost
Down-to-earth, practical, and provides plenty of tools to use to develop your independent consulting business. Cathy takes a constructive look at how to succeed by intelligently marketing yourself, engaging others, and keeping it all in balance with your personal life.
down to earth and practical
Meghan Jost
dozens of ideas
Cathy gives dozens of ideas about networking effectively, making sales calls and using social media and she doesn’t minimize the effort that has to ...
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NES
Cathy gives dozens of ideas about networking effectively, making sales calls and using social media and she doesn’t minimize the effort that has to go into it. It’s a reality check for anyone who thinks they can just hang up their shingle and become a consultant, but a great guide for anyone who’s willing to put in the hard work to be a success.
dozens of ideas
NES
from a to z
Cathy will take you from point A to Z on how to successfully become an independent consultant.
Charles Bever
Cathy will take you from point A to Z on how to successfully become an independent consultant.
from a to z
Charles Bever
methodical steps
For those that take the leap, Cathy's methodical steps will surely be helpful in achieving success.
Kevin Walsh
For those that take the leap, Cathy's methodical steps will surely be helpful in achieving success.
methodical steps
Kevin Walsh
recommend to anyone
I recommend to anyone starting a business.
Patricia Jayne Keefer
I recommend to anyone starting a business.
recommend to anyone
Patricia Jayne Keefer
years of lessons
Cathy shares years of lessons and a broad breadth of practical consulting and business experience in a very clear and engaging guide for starting and ...
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Ted Clark
Cathy shares years of lessons and a broad breadth of practical consulting and business experience in a very clear and engaging guide for starting and developing a successful consulting company. Highly recommended.
years of lessons
Ted Clark
I appreciate Cathy sharing
I appreciate Cathy sharing what she’s learned over the past 30 years about how to succeed as an independent consultant. Her advice is straight forward, ...
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Amy Brown
I appreciate Cathy sharing what she’s learned over the past 30 years about how to succeed as an independent consultant. Her advice is straight forward, thoughtful, organized, and easy to follow.
I appreciate Cathy sharing
Amy Brown
Learning Experience Face
This has been a truly learning experience and has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Anonymous
This has been a truly learning experience and has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Learning Experience Face
Anonymous
drove to closure horse
Took a very complicated and dynamic set of realities and personalities, surfaced underlying issues, facilitated a robust and healthy interaction, and drove the process to ...
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Anonymous
Took a very complicated and dynamic set of realities and personalities, surfaced underlying issues, facilitated a robust and healthy interaction, and drove the process to closure and action.
drove to closure horse
Anonymous

Cathy Perme