Tip 1: Become a Student of the Business

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Really good consultants have an insatiable curiosity about how

business works: how things get made, transactions get processed,

and services get delivered. Learn as much as you can about the

client company and the client’s industry. The Internet offers a treasure

trove of information and easy access to client information,

annual reports, investor analysis, magazine articles, and so forth;

however, being a good student means more than doing the homework.

When going on-site to the client location, take the opportunity

to tour the facilities. Come to the tour with a set of questions

about how business gets done. Learn about how the company units

are connected (or disconnected!); see product move through the

system; see how customers are dealt with; take in the company

culture and begin to understand the organizational context in which

people work.

Demonstrating an active and visible interest in the business can

also be a differentiator from other coaches who may not don the

consulting hat. Conversations with several senior leaders and coaching

clients revealed one of their hot buttons in this regard: they have

trouble relating to coaches who do not understand the company

culture or the organizational context in which they work. This

concern or frustration can continue to build as coaching sessions

are delivered exclusively over the telephone. Clients who say they

prefer coaching sessions to be in person are often expressing a

wish for the coach to understand the extent to which the client’s

behavior is adapting to the organization’s norms and cultural

context. Beginning the coaching relationship with an on-site

onboarding and orientation process can alleviate these concerns

early in the relationship. Occasional follow-up on-site visits can be

undertaken to continue the process of understanding the client’s

behavior in the broader organizational context. These on-site visits

also provide a platform for spending time with the sponsor of

coaching, meeting other client people, and better understanding the

cast of characters.