How am I contributing to the problem?

Consulting Skills: Reflection 1

Process consulting seems to be quite interesting, very useful and also yet, seemingly, quite a challenging skill to develop. I am excited about exploring the steps involved in this process… I think I’ve gravitated towards this approach, but not always been clear about how to go about it. I have found that being the ‘expert’ is not so effective, really. Partly because I find that I really don’t know the other person’s situation quite fully – all the background, parameters and even more so, how the person sees the situation – any biases, values, etc that impact the scenario. And the other side is that it seems really difficult for many people to receive advice. Maybe at some point, but only if they have had a chance to really explore the situation for themselves and have tried their own solutions.

Even if I seem to see an obvious solution from my perspective, when I have told others, they often cannot see the same thing. Then if I spend time and effort trying to convince them of my own idea or solution, I have found that I am no longer really helping the other person but rather engaged in trying to put across my agenda…

There are some interesting points Peter Block made in the preface – one is authenticity – ‘being honest with ourselves and being direct and honest with others’. In this, he says it’s important that we know ourselves. Aah, that eternal quest… Indeed, I can see that if I’m not aware of my own biases, points of view, or even habits of mind, then I will probably miss some of how I am contributing to a helping relationship. Interesting! It seems that in order to be an effective consultant, I would first of all need to know how I might be contributing to the dynamic of the relationship with a client. I think this is stepping into the double loop side of learning.

I’m exciting about this journey! I suppose I should beware, because it always seems that getting a deeper insight into my own contributions also brings with it some unpleasant realizations about how my theory-in-use differs from my espoused theory… that means my shortcomings! And will I learn something? As I understand it when I am able to notice the gap or discrepancy between where I am and where I’d like to be, then automatically a process starts to close the gap. Of course, if I can become more conscious of the process and open to see where I’m off, then perhaps some transformation can occurs. I’ve heard from a wise person that learning takes some pain. I guess part of the pain is the discomfort of recognizing the gap. I know there are times I don’t really want to acknowledge the difference of what I espouse and what I put into action. It’s much easier to stay in a make-believe world that I have in my head (whether I’m conscious of it or not), isn’t it? But to face the reality of what my actions really are takes a bit more courage.

This seems to be where authenticity comes into play. Even if I am not what I espouse, can I recognize that? Can I acknowledge that? If I can, then perhaps some inner force seeking harmony will strive to seek balance. That may also mean that what I espouse may alter or change – my values, beliefs, biases, perspectives… And, hopefully my behavior too,  if a change can bring me into a more balanced, ‘permeable, integrated,.. ‘ perspective.

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1 Response to “How am I contributing to the problem?”


  1. 1 Tim Arnette 13 September 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I think you are hitting the nail on the head regarding a topic somewhat off the beaten path: humility. Process consulting is a humbling endeavor, requiring that I as the consultant depend on the client for an understanding of the client’s context. Without understanding that context, my advice will fall short and fail.

    Often when I hear someone’s description of a problem, I am tempted to give “instant” advice. But when I stop and consider my tendency, I realize how insulting it is to presume that I can solve a problem in minutes that they have been grappling with for much longer – yet I am still tempted!

    You seem to be in touch with this need for a sobering self-assessment. It takes humility to step back and listen and learn from the client. May we have more of it!


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