As an occupational psychologist, I have always specialised in learning and behaviour. Why?  Because learning is everyone’s key capability – providing the gateway to everything else they want to achieve – and because behaviour (what you say and do) is the only way to make a difference.  Also, since learning and behaviour will never be declared obsolete, they are ‘products’ with a very long shelf-life.  No problems such as patents running out!

Over the years (40 of them as a freelance management consultant) I stuck to seven operating principles which I used to share with prospective clients.  Fortunately, this rarely put them off – except on one occasion when I emailed the document called The way I like to work with clients and never heard from them again.  Clearly a narrow escape for both of us!

Here are the seven operating principles:

I focus on the ‘hows’ of people working together; how they are behaving and how this impacts on the outcomes they are seeking to achieve.

I work best by observing people as they interact in meetings, groups and teams, and then feeding back my observations and offering recommendations.  The recommendations are helpful and practical and designed to lift performance (the assumption is that peoples’ performance can always be even better than it is now).

I much prefer to have time to reflect on my observations and marshal my thoughts rather than necessarily having to offer spontaneous, off-the-cuff feedback. I have learnt that reflection vastly improves the quality, and therefore the acceptability, of my recommendations.

I resist being over-briefed. I quite understand why clients feel the need to give me detailed briefings but, as an outsider, I do not need to know all you know as an insider.  It destroys my distinctive competence; a helpful but disinterested pair of eyes.

I am totally trustworthy – I know there is not much point saying this because you have to find it out for yourself!  I always do what I say I’ll do (I’m a great believer in under-promising and over-delivering) and I always respect confidences.

I believe humour is the shortest distance between two people.  I laugh a lot and easily see the funny side of things. When I work with clients who, by my standards, take life too seriously, they either loosen up or think I’m too flippant.

I am totally dispensable.  I never stay around when I’m no longer wanted.  If things aren’t working out, i.e. I’m not making a difference for the better, I am the first to volunteer to go.

Now that you have seen this unremarkable list, whatever do you suppose frightened off that prospective client?

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