Over the past months, I have attended quite a few conferences and heard a lot of discussions around the need for quality consulting services. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I have turned my lens inward. I graded myself on what I think are the Four Most Important Skills an eDiscovery consultant should have. This was no easy task. Self-reflection can be very difficult but at the same time extremely beneficial if you are someone that wants to improve. When going through this exercise, I held myself to a high bar.
Listen/Ask Questions: BI think if we all look inward a little bit, we will see that every once in a while, all of us consultants get a little carried away with talking and providing solutions before fully listening to our clients. I know I have every intention to be helpful to our clients, but I’ve realized that many times “less is more”. Taking a step back to ask more questions and really listen to what my clients need can go a long way. Sometimes my clients don’t even know what exactly they are asking for, which is why I’ve found that asking direct questions to get to the root of the problem is a great way for us to both understand the task at hand.
Empathize: A+Most consultants have feelings and want to help! I know many consultants within this industry that care deeply about their clients and it’s because they are constantly trying to put themselves in their clients’ shoes. For me, I try to fully understand what dynamics my client is dealing with. This has been one of the most important pieces to my consulting success. When I first came into this industry, I had no idea what the technology could do and what value it brought to clients. What really helped me make a huge impact with prospective clients was taking the time to understand what its like to be them. I would try to see things through my clients’ eyes and challenge myself to really understand them.
For example, attorneys are dealing with pressure from their own client to help them in a very difficult situation and at the same time dealing with adversarial opposing counsel, timelines from the court, and little control of the facts of the case on the front end. Managing their own client expectations with very little understanding of all the details is extremely stressful. Understanding this, I try to ask myself “how can we help take some of this stress off the shoulders of an attorney.”
Push Back: C+This is where I have had to work the hardest. It can be very uncomfortable and easy to shy away from. But, I’ve realized that being the person that says “yes” to everything is not doing the client any favors. The client might think they know what they want and that’s fine, but as a consultants I need to push back on my client to understand the ask-behind-the-ask if I want to help them find better solutions. When I say push back, I don’t mean being argumentative with a client. I do mean trying to open their eyes to alternative solutions. As a consultant, I have a responsibility to make sure I am providing my clients with most effective and efficient workflows. That burden falls on me and I owe that to my clients. After all, I am responsible for keeping up with the latest and greatest technology, workflows and trends. I cannot always expect our clients to know the technology as strongly as I do. So with that understanding be confident in yourself as a consultant and don’t be afraid to push back on your client. Trust me, they will appreciate it in the long run.
Be Transparent: BBeing fully transparent with the client is something I have not only seen first-hand to be extremely beneficial, but I’ve recently heard it quite a few times at the last few conferences I’ve attended. Setting realistic deadlines or taking ownership of mistakes goes a long way. Is it frustrating to the client? Yes. But at the end of the day when things settle down, clients appreciate the honesty.
A lot of eDiscovery Consultants are afraid of how client will perceive them if they don’t know something. Clients appreciate when I am open and honest with them and saying “I don’t know, but I will check on this for you.” I’ve actually referred a client to another vendor on a project where my team knew they didn’t have the expertise. Believe it or not, my client still came back to me and asked if we could figure out the solution with more time. That is because they trusted that we would try to deliver the best possible outcome.
Overall Grade: B+This was not the easiest thing to do, but I found it to be extremely beneficial. In order for me to continue being a successful consultant I think exercises like this are necessary. It’s very easy to get caught in the day-to-day operations and always think you’re doing a great job, but the reality is that we can all lose sight of things or develop some bad habits unknowingly. When I played college basketball, we would watch game film to look for areas of improvement. One thing I always found fascinating during film sessions was, win or lose it was always the little things that made the biggest difference. My coach would always be most critical of us after a win and I never understand why until now. Looking inward and avoiding complacency is the only way to grow and move forward.
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