Flawless Consulting Summary (Book Review For Consultants)

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How do you — the independent consultant or consulting firm owner — get your expertise used?

In this article, I’ve summarized Flawless Consulting to help you master the craft of consulting.

Flawless Consulting: Book Stats

Flawless Consulting By Peter Block Background

Flawless Consulting by Peter Block offers an interesting perspective on the consulting business for aspiring and experienced consultants.

Written by consultant Peter Block, the book focuses on the human aspect of business relationships instead of consulting tactics.

Published in 1981 and updated for the modern world, the book has its strengths; particularly in how it frames consulting as a collaborative process.

You won’t be able to get to a point where you can successfully deliver if you cannot manage the relationship.

Block argues for a process where consultants empower clients to find their own solutions, which creates a strong sense of ownership.

However, some readers might find this approach idealistic — underestimating the complexities of real-world consulting projects.

For entrepreneurial consultants, the book provides great advice for building client relationships and effective communication. Yet, its high-level perspectives might not resonate with those seeking concrete, step-by-step strategies.

High-Level Thoughts

Flawless Consulting is a mix of philosophical insights and advice. While it offers an important view of the consulting process, emphasizing personal connections and mutual respect, it can be a bit dry — and at times, feels like you’re reading a textbook. And it may fall short for readers looking for actionable scripts, strategies, and solutions.

(If you’re looking for a more practical guide to starting and growing a consulting business, check out the Consulting Success® Book)

Flawless Consulting Summary Notes

“The more complexity, confusion, and uncertainty in our lives, the more we realize we cannot go it alone or keep doing what we have been doing. The demand for help and advice should keep growing.”

With the uncertainty in the world right now, conflicts, unrest, AI, and technology, this actually bodes very well for consulting. Consulting thrives and provides a great advantage to organizations that are trying to grapple with uncertainty and change. Now is your chance to provide your services to help clients deal with uncertainty — and solve their problems.

The 5 Phases Of Consulting

  1. Entry & Contracting: Setting up the meeting, qualifying the buyer, and an opportunity to confirm you are confident and can provide value. This highlights one area that consultants don’t pay enough attention to: buyer qualification. Use this phase to not just prove yourself to the buyer, but to qualify them and make sure you feel good about working with them, their goals, and their values.
  2. Discovery & Dialogue: Getting clear on everyone involved in the project; the decision-making process, defining the problem, what kind of data and information is needed, and the project timeline to complete.
  3. Analysis & Decision To Act: Setting up clear goals for the project and selecting the best action and steps. Think about this as planning for the project.
  4. Engagement & Implementation: Here you are carrying out the planning of the 3rd phase. This might be a series of meetings or workshops. It’s about turning complexity into simple actions and moving on the recommendations made.
  5. Extension, Recycle, or Termination: This is all about learning from the engagement. Deciding if the engagement should be extended, or expanded. Taking what was learned from the engagement and deciding what the best next steps are.

I like the high-level approach to these phases. Phase 1 and 2 are often combined. Breaking them out is a good reminder of the importance of each of these phases. And you can get clear on the role and what a successful outcome for each phase looks like. Thinking about your consulting process, and breaking it down into specific phases, may highlight where you can make improvements.

The author writes, “One reason consulting can be frustrating is that you are continually managing lateral relationships.” Your job isn’t to just say yes to a client if it’s not in their best interest. And because of that, it means that the client-consultant relationships can feel ambiguous at times. He then says This book is about managing this ambiguity.”

“There is much more to the client-consultant relationship than the simple content of the problem or project the consultant is working on.” Peter goes on to say “A major objective of every consultation is to encourage you to focus on and value the affective, or interpersonal, aspect of the relationship you have with the client. Most of us have a great deal of experience working at the cognitive or content level…” And here he is referring to the importance of feelings. Clients have feelings of course, and how you read them, interpret, react, and respond is critical to your success as a consultant. You won’t be able to get to a point where you can successfully deliver if you cannot manage the relationship.

I like how he encourages us to model the behavior we want to see in our clients. He says Our own consulting behavior should be consistent with the style of management we advocate to our clients.” This is something that we share with our clients: in our own business — where we provide coaching and training for consultants — we invest in our own coaches, mentors, communities, and programs to help us develop different areas of the business.

An advantage consultants have is that they don’t need to be involved in the politics of the organization. The author says “Consultants, however, are in a unique position to address the people or process issues productively. As third parties, they have no vested interest in the process issues – no power to gain or lose, no territory to expand or contract, no budget to increase or decrease.” Bring this into the conversation that you have with buyers. Unlike their executives or employees, you can deliver more objective, impartial feedback because you’re not a part of the organization.

“Effective consulting skills are the steps and behaviors that act to create internal commitment… Each of us has seen examples of consulting projects where the study or report ends up on a shelf despite its cost and relevance.”

Block goes on to say this is because there wasn’t enough commitment built. If you’re not getting commitment at every stage, you might get paid, but it won’t lead to implementation and results for the client.

The author does a good job of outlining the foundation for a smooth consulting project:

  1. Define the Initial Problem (and making sure it’s the right problem)
  2. Decide whether to proceed with the project
  3. Select the dimensions to be studied
  4. Decide who will be involved in the project
  5. Select the method (and make sure it’s the right method to deliver results)
  6. Do the discovery
  7. Making sense of the data
  8. Provide the results
  9. Make recommendations
  10. Decide on actions

And he provides an explanation and example of each part. Each one of these elements is a real opportunity for improvement.

Later in the book Block talks about contracts, but he doesn’t get into much detail or provide examples or scripts which would be helpful for the reader.

While examples and scripts are lacking when talking about contracts, the book does provide quite a few scripts and examples covering situations consultants might find themselves in. For example, outlining the question a client might ask, what an unprepared consultant might say, and what a prepared consultant would reply with.

Most consultants will find value in this book. However, at times it feels like you’re reading a textbook. It also feels a bit outdated at times.

The book closes out with an important reminder that consulting is all about relationships.

The author writes,

“Consulting cannot be done well without genuine caring for the client, and the challenge is to find ways to embody our care in the way we do the work.”

Get Help Becoming A More Skilled & In-Demand Consultant

While Peter Block offers a unique perspective on the consulting process, building a successful consulting business requires more than ordering a book on Amazon.

Don’t get me wrong — consulting books are great. We read them, recommend them, and have written a few ourselves.

But it’s never easy to take what you learn in a book and apply it in the real world. If it was, everyone would do it.

So, if you’re a consulting business owner looking to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical, actionable strategies, we designed our Clarity Coaching Program for you.

In our Clarity Coaching program, we’ve helped over 1000 consultants to build a more strategic, profitable, and scalable, consulting business.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CLARITY COACHING

We’ll work hands-on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, consulting offers, fees and pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.

You’ll learn how to make more money with every project you take on — and how to land more clients than ever before. Learn more about Clarity Coaching and get in touch to talk about your situation and goals.

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