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Several years ago, I wrote on three essential practices of successful Organization Development practitioners. As the lines between internal People and Culture (HR) disciplines continue to blur (e.g., change management, diversity and inclusion, leadership development), the practices I proposed then seem relevant to all working in the People and Culture disciplines. This updated article reflects the shift that is occurring.

Internal People and Culture consultants or partners often face a unique challenge – they need to have a client or multiple clients to succeed. Too often, manager-clients are burdened with poor or insufficient ideas of what a People and Culture partner brings to a business. But with the right approach, you can ensure your positive and enduring People and Culture practices thrive in your client organization.

  • Relationships: One of the most important things to remember when practicing internal consulting is maintaining relationships with your clients. This means being responsive and helpful and keeping your communications clear and concise. Being respectful of your client’s time and resources is also essential.
  • Clarity: Make sure you are clear on your engagement with your clients. This includes specifying what you will do for them and what they can expect from you. It’s also essential to agree on what success looks like so that everyone is on the same page.
  • The Concept of Fit and Fashion: Knowing the enduring and latest trends are essential. This means ensuring that your services are relevant and valuable to your clients. It’s also important to know your client’s organization’s current needs and tailor your services accordingly.

Relationships

Building solid relationships with your clients is one of the most important aspects of being a People and Culture consultant. This includes a deep understanding of their values, goals, and objectives. It also means being able to communicate your ideas and recommendations effectively. Building trust is essential in any consulting relationship, but it is necessary when working with changing organizations. To be successful, you must be able to earn the trust of your clients and stakeholders.

The consultant must develop and maintain relationships with multiple and diverse stakeholders to succeed. Inclusion is essential.

In the case of the organizational reporting relationship, the internal consultant needs to understand and negotiate the boundaries for services and styles of delivery. In addition, the consultant and manager must fully explore and define objectives and desired outcomes in organizations with goal-based performance systems. With peers, especially given the increase of those practicing in this area, it becomes critical to clearly articulate a value proposition. In other words, the consultant must know what they are bringing to the peer group. Finally, with clients, it’s essential to position relationship development as a matter for the long haul, despite the vagaries of employment relationships.

In all these relationships – manager, peer, and client – the internal People and Culture consultant must have and must be willing to bring a different point of view. Often, consultants work on enduring issues in organizational life (e.g., leadership, organization design, relationships between and among people, and technologies). It is in these enduring issues that clients and others seek new solutions. For many, this raises a familiar consulting dilemma – clients demand you because of your experience. Still, they want you to deliver different approaches from anything you have done in the past. Given the very nature of this relationship, the need for innovation should rank paramount for successful internal practice.

All consulting relationships are enhanced by preserving and sustaining credibility regardless of industry or profession. Others have written on this topic, and in People and Culture practice, it means conforming to the highest ethical standards, which are tested frequently in dynamic organizations.

As it does in many circumstances, integrity is the center stage in effective organizational relationships. Others must know that you can be trusted and trustworthy. When integrity is questioned or questionable, credibility is reduced. While many do not address this topic in organizational life because of difficulties in providing feedback, losses in this area will contribute to the erosion of relationships essential to the consultant.

Relationships are crucial to your success if you’re an internal consultant. Here’s why:

  • You must develop and maintain relationships with multiple stakeholders to succeed.
  • Exploring and defining objectives and desired outcomes with your manager is crucial in organizations with goal-based performance systems.
  • With peers, it’s essential to articulate a value proposition clearly. And with clients, it’s critical to position relationship development as a long-term commitment. Preserving credibility is also crucial to all consulting relationships. Vital and meaningful relationships won’t last if others can’t trust you.

So, if you want to be a successful consultant, remember relationships matter.


Clarity

As an organization development consultant, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure clarity in your work, including contracting. This will help you prioritize your work, understand the values necessary to your clients, and establish commitment and alignment with stakeholders. Effectively managing time is essential in the People and Culture partner’s fast-paced world. By understanding and utilizing the ebbs and flows of work demand, you can create a cycle of flourishing and reflection that will support your practice.

To be an effective consultant, you must first understand the basics of organizational change. This means having a solid understanding of the different types of changes that can take place within an organization and the various theories that guide our understanding of how change happens. Change is a complex process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing it. The most important thing is to be aware of the different factors that can influence the success or failure of a change initiative. Once you grasp the basics, you can begin to tailor your approach to meet the specific needs of your clients.

Another critical component of being an organizational development consultant is a solid understanding of the various tools and techniques available to help facilitate change. These tools range from simple questionnaires and surveys to more complex data analysis and people and culture tools. The most important thing is selecting the right tool for the job. No single tool will be suitable for every situation, so it is essential to understand the different options and how they can be applied to achieve the desired results.

Finally, as an organization development consultant, you must also be prepared to deal with resistance to change. This may come from individuals within the organization who are resistant to change or from larger groups who may feel threatened by the prospect of change. It is important to remember that resistance is natural and should not be seen as unfavorable. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. By understanding the reasons behind resistance, you can develop effective strategies for dealing with it.

Organizational change is a complex process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing it. The most important thing is to be aware of the different factors that can influence the success or failure of a change initiative. Once you have a goPeople and Culture grasp of the basics, you can begin to tailor your approach to meet the specific needs of your clients. With a solid understanding of the principles of organizational change, you can be an effective organization development consultant.


Fit and Fashion

For successful practice, the consultant must regularly explore their fit with the organization and organizational styles. This is an issue of consequence as it affects the ability to bring the new and different to individuals, teams, and organizations struggling with familiar topics. Just as countercultures are rarely found in organizational life, consultants who do not “click” with the organization are at risk. If the best is expected of internals, long-term dissonance with organizational fit or style is unhealthy.

The consultant must take an honest inventory of self, strengths, and weaknesses concerning organizational fit. This is not easy as it often requires a tempering of idealism (“Shouldn’t they change for me?”) with realism (“But I really do like what they are doing here!”). Part of the tension is that the consultant wants to be liked by clients; this is human. Unfortunately, being liked by the client organization does not always lead to successful consulting. To paraphrase an old saying, “The consultant who tries to please everyone usually pleases no one—especially himself or herself.”

One way of thinking about organizational style is whether the organization is “people-oriented” or “task-oriented.” The former type of organization emphasizes interpersonal relationships, while the latter focuses on accomplishing the work. People-oriented organizations are generally more common in the public sector and service businesses, while task-oriented organizations are found more frequently in manufacturing and organizations where work is routinized.

The consultant who is successful in a task-oriented organization is usually one who enjoys working independently and does not need much social interaction to feel fulfilled. These consultants are often self-starters who take the initiative and enjoy working on problems with clear answers. They may clash with people-oriented organizations, which tend to be slower-paced and emphasize process over people. In these types of organizations, the successful consultant is often patient at building relationships and comfortable with ambiguity.

For example, a task-oriented consultant working in a people-oriented organization may need more time to build relationships before getting to business. Similarly, a people-oriented consultant working in a task-oriented organization may need to speed up the pace of interaction and be more direct in problem-solving. The key for the consultant is to be aware of these differences and to adjust their style accordingly.

Of course, no organization is purely people-oriented or task-oriented; most are somewhere in between. The savvy consultant will take the time to assess where the client organization falls on this continuum and adjust their style accordingly.

Conclusion

Organizational change can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right attitude and approach, you can successfully navigate the process and help your organization reach its goals. We’re here to help you every step of the way! Use the tips in this blog post to get started, and be sure to contact us if you need additional assistance.

Thanks for reading! I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me – I’d love to hear from you. And be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming newsletters.