This time it’s personal: Getting the best from your people

With order books stronger than at any time since 2000 and revenue per consultant per year up to £188,000, according to the Management Consultancies Association 2003/04 industry report, the industry is no longer in the doldrums.

But with growth come challenges such as keeping hold of clients and growing their business, retaining talent and enhancing the productivity and work-life balance of staff.

Coaching can help a business meet these challenges by optimising potential and igniting passion. It’s about energising employees and giving managers the tools and techniques to motivate their staff.

Client relationships

This is the core element of any consultancy firm. A strong, customer relationship is the foundation for long-term loyalty and sales. Here, coaching skills have a strong role to play, developing in staff the advanced interpersonal skills which lead to powerful conversations that drive customer relationships.

Asking the right questions to address salient issues and concerns including cost, timings or future partnerships is an incredibly important component of any customer relationship.

Construction giant Bovis Lend Lease came to us to improve its customer relationships. Its head of learning and development at the time said: ‘We wanted the key people in the business to think in terms of clients not projects, and examine how best to build profitable customer relationships.’ Not only would employees be expected to keep the client informed on specific projects but also to listen to what the customer wanted. Through a series of workshops focusing on the customer, telephone coaching and open feedback, companies can benefit from more powerful relationships with clients as well as more business opportunities.

Making the best use of talent

We all know how critical staff retention, the war for talent and making best use of this talent are for management consultancies. By helping develop a supportive and empowering environment where people can learn and develop, and by aligning HR practices with coaching to ensure the best people are accelerated through the ranks, coaching can ensure the right people are in the right jobs at the right time.

Coaching also acts as an important link between management and talented staff, leading to a greater feeling of collaboration and a more effective way to identify talent.

Redressing work-life balance

The consultancy industry has a long-hours culture. An unhealthy work-life balance can lead to nightmare employees, who are physically present but increasingly unproductive.

And employees are becoming more demanding. A recent Department of Trade and Industry survey found that 78% of employees believe they should be able to ‘balance their work and home lives’ as they choose. By providing people with space to reflect on their work and to face up to personal barriers, coaching can help employees to realise that, while not everything can be accomplished, a fresh perspective, clearly defined goals and the right analysis can make them more productive.

A healthy work-life balance is about having control over what you do and knowing how to achieve peace of mind. Coaching helps create a culture where staff have the autonomy to manage, maintain relationships with customers and operate within an open working environment.

The benefits are huge: reduction in staff turnover, absenteeism and stress-related illnesses, and an increase in motivation, achievement and personal growth.

Carole Gaskell is the founder and managing director of Full Potential Group

Related reading