Why Consultants Shouldn’t Just Do What Their Clients Ask …

… at least not if they want to increase the impact of their projects (and their fees)

Consultant’s midlife crisis

Thinking big has always seem natural to me. At age 29 I joined the Management Team of Pepsi Cola as Sales Director for the Benelux operation. Two years later, when my oldest son was born, I started my own management consulting firm. After a couple of years we had 11 people in our team, working with multinationals all over the world such as Unilever, Heineken, Reckitt Benckiser, LG.Philips, Vodafone, and KPN. We even hit a year with $1 million turnover. Meanwhile we travelled with our family for a year through the USA in an old motorhome, and afterwards we moved to Spain where we built a house plus training center at the beach of the Mediterranean.

Nothing wrong with that picture you’d probably say, and I fully agree.

However, about half a year ago, I had this nagging feeling that something was missing. And if there exists something like a consultant’s midlife crisis, it might have hit me! So far I’d built my business on my personality, and since my personality wants to look good and think big, my projects were great and successful. But still. It felt like my projects could grow in having impact.

Impact is the congruency between what you do and your why

So I started an exploration to get clear on my purpose, my ‘why’. And in one of the conversations with my coach I got in contact with something that really moved me. I realised that apart from my clients, the audience that is really waiting for my leadership is the future, the generations to come. The children without a voice yet, that will have to live in the world we create today.

And at that moment I was clear about my ‘why’. My purpose is to ignite the spark in leaders so they dare to make bold choices, and craft organisations that will put a smile on the faces of the generations to come. To create a world that would be approved by the future.

Increase the impact of your projects – and your fees

It didn’t take long to realise that this vision is something I can’t realise by myself. It needs a whole tribe of trainers, consultants and coaches who think and act based on the same attitude. So, if you’re interested in how to grow your impact, keep on reading.

To increase the impact of a project requires sustainable solutions that work on different levels. It needs to work for the client (the one who is leading the change – and paying for it), for you as trainer or consultant (facilitating the change), and for the organisation (living with the change). And sometimes even for the consumers or target audience that the organisation serves.

But it starts with you. If you want to grow your impact, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How congruent am I with my why? What is driving you, what do you want to change or contribute in organisations? By the way, do you still remember your motivation?
  • How comfortable am I with my current income levels and fees? If you always charge $2,000 per day or €50.000 for a specific team program, what is needed to go beyond that? Because if you stay within the comfort of your day rate, you might be avoiding to ask the questions that need to be asked, or deliver the value that you really can bring.
  • Can I dream big? How would your ideal project look like? What type of clients or projects would you like to attract? If you could send an invoice for double your fee, can you even think of the value you could deliver to justify that?

The moment I was clear about my ‘why’, I noticed that my conversations with my clients changed. Most trainers, coaches, and consultants do just what their clients ask for. “Can you help me with a team building program for my Management Team?”, a general manager asks me. “OK”, the old Joost would say, and based on my experience I would put together a great program, and deliver it perfectly to my client.

But now I try to go beyond the first question. Because this initial question often comes from a complaint, fear, or to fix something. This time, when I ask “Why do you want to have a team building session?”, I learn that the GM wants to have his team aligned on the direction for the coming year. “And why is that important?”. Because if they don’t lead their country back to growth again, the local operation will be closed. “And why is that important for you?”, I ask. “Well, we have about 400 people working here, and I don’t want them to lose their jobs”.

At this point I can ask my client to start dreaming. To describe a future for his organisation that would make the generations to come smile. And him as well…

It’s time to act. You’re up to having bigger impact.

Wow. Look at the different level I am now and the type of program we can put together based on his connection with his why. As a consultant you want to ‘pull’ your clients through the layer of their initial question and connect them with their why. Because when they’re connected, it becomes very obvious if certain solutions are sustainable and future-proof. And for sure, given that the value of the program will be 3 to 10 times higher now, the fee that I will receive as a compensation will increase as well.

“Based on your proposal I landed a €50k project, while I originally wanted to propose €8k”

If this article resonates, I’d love to have a chat with you. So if you’re an executive coach, leadership team trainer, or management consultant (or anything along those lines), and if you like to increase the impact of your projects – and your fees, you can book a complementary, no-obligation, exploration session with me, where we will discuss how you can increase the impact in your specific business case. Click this link to get access to my calendar.

As well you could watch one of my webinars about this topic!