Outside In

Those of us in the coaching and consulting industry sometimes get just a little frustrated.

And the same applies to project managers, information consultants, IT experts, HR experts, management consultants and everyone else who has professional skills, even sometimes accountants and sales professionals!

You and I know that we can help people by using our ‘special powers’ gained through our knowledge and years of experience in our particular field.

We know exactly what to do to help people and organisations, and we know exactly how to do it.

So, when an individual or organisation is looking for help it should be a ‘no brainer’ – yes?

But it isn’t.

It isn’t, because people in general and organisations in general don’t really understand what we do or how we do it.

(They don’t need to, but that’s beside the point)

The thing is that most of the skills I’ve listed are a ’mystery’ to most people.

Sadly, most peoples’ concept of a ‘coach’ is a single decker bus or a train carriage, or that vehicle the Queen rides in.

Or it’s specifically someone who has something to do with sport or sometimes business.

But most people don’t understand what coaches actually ‘do’, and the same applies to ‘consultants’.

There’s a popular joke about consultants being someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time.

Unfortunately for those of us in the ‘helping industry’ most people just think we don’t ‘do’ anything, but charge a lot of money for the privilege.

It’s up to us, you and I, to get over that hurdle and make sure that the people and organisations we believe we can work with and help, do understand the benefits they achieve from working with a coach or consultant.

But then there’s another obstacle in our way.

Another message to get across to those people and organisations in need.

You see, there’s another common belief which is actually a big problem for the economy and for the way the country works, and for individuals who find themselves ‘in difficulties’.

It’s the belief that if someone doesn’t have the same background, doesn’t work in the same industry or niche, doesn’t have direct experience of the same problem, doesn’t have education in the right ‘subject’, doesn’t live in the same area, – and so on – then they cannot possibly help with the particular issue that organisation or person is wanting to deal with.

There was a period in the first few years of the century when the NHS were putting out a lot of advertisements for consultants in various fields to help them tackle some serious problems with the organisation.

Unfortunately, those problems are still there. Because at the bottom of each and every ad there was the phrase: “Do not apply if you have had no previous experience of working with the NHS” (or words to that effect).

So although they had, and still have, significant problems, they were only prepared to take on those who had tried to solve the problems before – and presumably been unsuccessful.

This may be changing now but at the time they clearly believed that only people with direct experience of the organisation and its issues could help.

The same applies to a number of other (usually public sector) organisations.

And it applies to many individuals as well – “You won’t understand if you’ve not experienced my problem yourself”.

They forget that it’s impossible to see the whole picture when you are actually in the picture yourself.

Remember that you and I have never seen ourselves from the outside.

Yes, we’ve seen ourselves in the mirror but that picture is all the ‘wrong’ way around, and we may have seen images and thought “Oh that’s what I really look like”.

But you and I have never – in reality – seen ourselves from the outside.

And that’s what we need to explain to people about coaching and consulting.

It takes a fresh view, a view from the outside.

And it usually works even better when we have no preconceived ideas about what is actually going on inside before we get there.

But how do we see ourselves, you and I, from the outside in?

In truth, we all need a coach, but many people have found the answer to this though forming ‘mastermind’ groups with other coaches and consultants; not necessarily to ‘work’ together, but to enable a ‘reality check’ on what each of us is doing.

But it’s also a good idea to ask ‘other’ people what they think, clients for example. How to they see you from the outside, and how do your ‘friends and family’ see you?

Just holding up the mirror doesn’t work.

Time for a ‘reality check’ from the outside in.

Go on then.