Emotional Consultation: A Recipe for Failure

consulting cartoon 2

I’ve noticed recently that one of the things a lot of social media, PR, and marketing consultants love to do is to point out the flaws of things they don’t like. I’m not talking about identifying the weaknesses of a rival firm and exploiting them to a client’s advantage. I’m talking about the consultants who rant about how particular websites or strategies “suck” or how competitors “suck” at what they do.  In my opinion, that particular approach to consultation is totally unprofessional and usually unhelpful.  There are essentially three problems that I see with this approach; an over-reliance on emotionally-driven opinion, a lack of respect for the competition, and a lack of respect for the work a firm had done prior to hiring a consultant.

Consulting cartoon
Cartoon by Richard Collins, Sydney Morning Herald

Leaders and decision makers that have relied more on emotion rather than logic eventually fail, particularly in business. The only people who should rely upon their feelings or intuitions in a business environment are leaders who have no previous experience that is applicable to the decision they face.  Consultants should never propose solutions solely based on their feelings.  They should present ideas to clients that are heavily researched and backed with reliable data.

One of the worst things a decision maker can do is to discount the abilities of the competition. If your consultant ever says to you, “blank firm really sucks so you don’t need to worry about them,” don’t buy it! If they have a competitor has any share of the market at all, they have obviously done something right to get to that point. Even if a firm is currently losing market share, there is nothing that can prevent them from gaining it again.  Always be wary of the fact that if you discount a competitors abilities, you may be vulnerable to embarrassment later on.

Any viable firm that is older than four or five years, more than likely, has considerable brand equity.  If you are a consultant, the last thing you want to do is walk into a boardroom meeting and tell your client how much their current strategy or the website they built last year “sucks.”  You can quickly alienate people by doing that.  Likewise, it’s not a good idea to propose sweeping changes unless the firm is on life support.

It’s important that consultants resist the temptation to be emotionally driven.  Those that do will be much more successful.  They should also be careful not to discredit a clients competitors or the past work the client has done to build it’s brand equity.  Likewise business leaders and decision makers should try to avoid consultants who heavily incorporate emotions into their advice.  Remember that saying that something “sucks” isn’t advice, it’s an insult.

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