Here are 10 tips for hiring a consultant, coach, or other workplace/career consultant:
1. Make sure you need a one. Examine your current staffing/situation/skill set and make a calculated decision. What kind of help do you really need? Just because a consultant is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean they are more skilled. Always check with your in-house talent first. You might be surprised what kind of solutions your staff can come up with!
2. Know what you want the consultant to do. Be clear about what kind of expertise or assistance you want and need. Different consultants offer different types of expertise and guidance. So, are you looking for an expert to tell you exactly what to do? Another pair of hands to do exactly what you tell them? Or a collaborator to partner with you to explore potential and solutions?
3. Be honest about your willingness to change. Clarify your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you really willing to do the changes necessary? A consultant’s work is only useful if you do the work, too.
4. Find someone focused on your needs, not theirs. Many consultants get stuck in a certain model or “intervention” and try to make problems fit their preconceived solutions. You want to make sure your consultant custom designs a solution just for you. During your first meeting a good coach/consultant should interview you. They should ask questions about your business, your requirements, and your expected outcomes. They should not spend their first meeting deluging you with stories of past contracts and clients.
5. Ask for and check references. Make sure you consultant is experienced and credentialed. And then ask those references for other references.
6. Find somebody you like, trust, and respect, and with whom you have good communication and rapport. Personality and fit are essential. Chances are some issues may require close collaboration with the consultant. All things being equal, it is easier to work with someone you like, or whose personality fits the culture of the organization. Open communication is essential. Make sure you find someone who really listens to you.
7. Choose someone who is willing to tell you the truth. A good coach, consultant, or advisor must be willing to give you their honest opinion about what is going on. If you find your consultant agrees with everything you say and holds the exact same perspective as you, then you haven’t hired a consultant. You’ve just paid someone to agree with you.
8. Don’t hire your chief of staff’s second cousin once removed. Avoid hiring anyone related to good friends, staff members, etc., unless the referral comes from a trusted outside source that has used the consultant. Look for “real” consultants, professionals who do this for a living and have related experience.
9. Get a contract/proposal in writing. Take the time to spell out goals, deliverables, and processes. Design the alliance. This is about clarifying expectations on both sides. A good consulting relationship is essential for finding and implementing effective solutions that will work for you and your organization.
10. Be prepared to manage the relationship. Consultants need feedback and guidance to do their jobs well. Don’t just hire the consultant and ignore the contract. Treat your consultant as a partner. This will result in your consultant being more generous with their experiences, objectivity, and expertise. Pay your consultant as agreed upon. Nothing sours a relationship like bad money mojo.