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The Silver Bullet for Successful Consulting


The Silver Bullet for Successful Consulting


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Jan 4, 2017 | by Kathy MacKay


Customers and clients come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fellow I/O Psychologists, others are not. Some are internal to your organization, and others are external. Some are at a level equivalent to yours, while others might be above or below. Regardless of how your paths cross, you are ultimately dependent upon one another for a product, service, or paycheck. However, a silver bullet has been identified and can make or break this symbiotic existence. Are you ready?

It might seem like a no-brainer. It’s the relationship and communication between a consultant and the client that can tilt the scale on your behalf.

At last year’s 2016 SIOP conference, myself and several other I/O Psychologists not only discussed this topic, but also ACTED OUT SKITS and hosted debrief discussions with the audience and fellow panel members to drive home the difference between good vs. poor communication.  Parts of the skits were laugh-out-loud funny, but certainly carried a solid message.

If you were unable to attend the session, below are a few points that were made throughout our hilarious acting debut.

Again, regardless if this is an I/O to I/O, I/O to non-I/O, internal client to external consultant relationship, or whatever the combination, here are the silver bullets:


Understand roles and perspectives. The reality of the “other side” is not always clear. If individuals differ on perspectives, demonstrating value and developing partnerships can be even more challenging. The key is to ensure that you and the client are speaking the same language. Get a list of acronyms or terms that the client company uses, or be sure to adjust your style so that you’re not using technical terminology when stating something more simply will do. For example, some clients hear the terms “job analysis” or “validation study” and they panic.  So instead, just tell them that you’re going to administer a simple online survey or facilitate some focus groups.  Save the heavy-hitting terminology for the tech report.


Identify and touch base on expectations, resources, and timelines for each step of the project. Once established, hold weekly or bi-weekly calls/meetings to discuss what was achieved and what are the next crucial steps for success. Create a presentation deck or master tracking document to use during these meetings to build trust and confidence that progress is being made. It’s also a great way to remind each party what is expected and to document decisions or changes to the plan. Timelines can be adjusted along the way as needed as long as both parties agree; but be sure to account for holidays and vacations when determining deadlines.

Reminders are another great tool. If something is in danger of being missed, discuss the reasons and what can be done to get things back on track before the deadline arrives. Be proactive versus reactive. Establish and maintain open lines of communication. The I/O Consultant: Advice and Insights for Building a Successful Career (Hedge & Borman, 2008) is an important voice on this topic, acknowledging that “building and maintaining client relationships is one of the most important elements of successful consulting” (p.183).


Don’t get me wrong…delivery of what you agreed to is crucial, but understanding perspectives, establishing trust, and openly communicating with your clients from the start to the end, and everywhere in between, can pave the way great success. Clients ask me all the time for a silver bullet to solve their problems. Wouldn’t it be nice if we already had one and incorporated it into our consulting engagements?

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