Consultants must seek for the highest degree of effectiveness in order to be a success at consulting, however, highly effective consultants who lack the empathy necessary to build trust with clients, will find themselves lacking opportunities to show their effectiveness.
Central to the client/consultant relationship is trust. Low levels of trust lead to low leverage for the consultant and low commitment from the client, while high trust lead to high leverage for the consultant and high commitment from the client (Block, 2011). One way to build trust with a client is to be empathetic to their situation; have the ability to walk in their shoes, understand their position, and feel as they feel (George, 2015). The biggest question clients want answered is “Is this consultant someone I can trust?” (Block, 2011). Clients want to know the consultant is not going to hurt them, not going to con them, and not undermine their authority while also solve the organizational or technical problems they are facing (Block, 2011). By showing empathy to a client, the consultant is able to build rapport and bond on a human level with the client, creating a trusting relationship rather than conducting an emotionless business transaction (George, 2015). By showing empathy, the client can see the consultant being engaged with the people around them on a personal level rather than standing back and judging them for the problems they are facing (George, 2015).
Often consultants feel this need to be impressive in order to gain favor or create confidence for the client, however, this can be seen through and interpreted as a front which breeds distrust (Block, 2011). Authentic behavior is the quickest avenue to developing trust, and being authentic is incredibly easy (Block, 2011). Being authentic opens the door to being effective.
Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: a guide to getting your expertise used (3rd ed). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
George, B. (2015). The New Global Leaders. People & Strategy, 38(3), 26–30.