First of all, as I mentioned earlier, I really love Peter Block‘s book, Flawless Consulting. I can’t say enough good things about it. Block’s writing style is accessible and easy to read. He takes pains to present a balanced viewpoint of the client/consultant relationship. I always had the book open at my desk when I was an internal consultant and now I view it as a guidebook for flawless customer service and flawless management. I know Block was pointing the book at a niche audience, but it really deserves wider appreciation. Consulting services are nothing more than the application of a particular specialized knowledge. The actual knowledge doesn’t much matter, as long as the "consultant" knows their stuff.
It’s easy enough to proclaim oneself an expert and hang out a shingle,
and it’s definitely true that without the technical knowledge of a
particular domain, the services offered will go unused. But the true
distinction between mediocre consultants and really great consultants
comes through in the interaction with clients–it’s the customer
service that sets great consultants apart. Flawless Consulting
repeatedly hammers this point home. The book is absolutely filled with
techniques and methods for distinguishing oneself from the pack.
There are a number of tidbits from the book that I particularly
appreciate as a manager. And I hope to be able to pass along this same
knowledge to others, in order to help them better refine their own
approaches to customer service. For example, the book devotes two
entire chapters to the topic of resistance. Chapter 8 is titled
"Understanding Resistance" and chapter 9 is titled "Dealing with
Resistance." Beyond that, there’s even a checklist in the back of the
book that covers these two chapters and provides helpful reminders.
The resistance chapters note that resistance is a natural part of the
learning process, and that when you encounter it, you should be
encouraged and know that you’re on the right track. Block lists a
number of signs of resistance and details strategies for working
Despite all the good stuff this book offers, some people may have a
difficult time reading Block. At times, he can come off sounding very
New Age-y. In truth, he is just practicing what he preaches in the
book. He’s counseling us and in so doing he’s striving to be, in his
words, "authentic." According to Block, being authentic is simply
putting into words what you are experiencing with the client as you
work. It’s the courage of a running dialog with the client that does
such things as name things like the types of resistance you’re
encountering, or negotiating the minefield of egos as you work. Block
suggests that we express what we’re experiencing, without trying to
make it sound important, and without condenscension. This can be
harder than it sounds.
So, I like the book and it’ll remain a ready reference for years to
come. This was a pretty brief review–I’ll probably post more about Flawless Consulting in the future, since nearly every page justifies an entire post!