Buildling trust…

Consulting Skills – Post 4

We’ve had our second meeting with our client. It really took us another step. The first meeting seemed to be a lot about getting to know each other, the two people from the client org (president and program director) and the two of us. It was really necessary to sit back in the pure inquiry mode and listen during the first meeting. Sometimes things seemed to stray off topic, you could possibly say. But then I do think the few slight digressions helped us to get to know the client more, and perhaps helped them get to know us, too. We also moved into the exploratory inquiry mode as well. For me, the different aspects of the first meeting were essential in the process of building trust. It was evident that although we introduced ourselves and explained our interests over the phone, it was important to have a face-to-face meeting to establish a relationship and to learn more about each of our interests. We did some problem exploration and found a few possible issues or problems, but at the end of the first meeting, I would say neither party was so clear about if things were going to go forward. I felt uncertain whether the problem(s) discussed would be suitable for our project. The class discussion last week helped me see the situation as a doable project and let us to our second meeting.

The second meeting we had on Friday really was another step. We only met with the program director because the president was unavailable. The program director is the only full-time staff person for the organization. I felt the meeting had good energy and we moved forward to solidify the problem issue we would focus on and also pretty much agreed on 2-3 ways which we could collect data. It was interesting to see that when we talked about having a focus group as a part of our data collecting, the program director talked about being in the meeting. We then shared our interest to meet with the volunteers privately and there seemed to be a bit of concern that came over the face of the program director.  It seemed that she might have felt vulnerable because of what might be said about her (and perhaps that she would not be in control). However, when we explained that it was important so that the volunteers feel they could express themselves candidly, because there may be some things that they didn’t feel comfortable to tell directly to the program director. She paused for a minute, reflected, and then moved ahead, saying that yes, she could understand that and she was interested to hear about things that could improve her work. I think she was confident because of what seemed to be the good relations she seems to have with many of the volunteers. I didn’t get the sense that there were so many problems based on personal relationships (but let’s see!).

Towards the end of this second meeting, we asked our client how she felt working with us. She responded that she felt quite comfortable working with us. She said something like, ‘you guys are easy to work with’. It seemed that this exchange really deepened the trust that had been developing. It’s interesting that although I had felt that we work working well together and Tim seemed to feel that too, but when we received the explicitly feedback, it really seem to deepen the trust. Hmmmmm… Interesting to consider how important such simple confirmation could affect a working relationship (and perhaps any relationship!). I can see that like Block and Schein both say, a significant part of process consulting is about emotions, and not just the technical task issues. It’s clear that we must deal with the task, but also be aware of the affective aspects of the relationship because these impact the issues of getting the task done!

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2 Responses to “Buildling trust…”


  1. 1 michelle 1 November 2009 at 4:41 pm

    It is very encouraging to read about your progress in the consulting project. You have done very well developing trust and promoting a positive working relationship. You are following Block’s process with being authentic and asking questions of your client. You were effective at addressing the client’s fear of exposure and vulnerability. You were simple and direct with the issue and it added to your credibility. You validated your client’s fears immediately, Kudos to you and Tim. You have expressed your needs and wants, while keeping the clients desires in the forefront of the project.

  2. 2 Tim Arnette 9 November 2009 at 12:14 am

    Being in the project with you, I appreciate your perspective. We have indeed deepened our mutual trust with the client, and the face-to-face meetings are essential to that. Emotions are important! I too found that the problem we were to solve was a bit nebulous. This goes to show how critical writing down the contract is.

    I agree that our trust was deepened when we received the feedback from Joyce that we are easy to work with. (It was good to read this — I had fogotten just how she said it.) We all need feedback in everyday life as well as work, to address issues and be encouraged when we are on track.


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