Peter Sheahan: Research, Questions, & Patience Make Quality Insights

Author : Peter Sheahan
Published: September 13, 2013

Peter Sheahan is a business thought leader for innovation, leadership and behavioral change. He is the founder and President of ChangeLabs, a global consultancy working with the worlds leading brands such as Apple, IBM, and Google. He has authored 3 international best-selling books: Generation Y, Flip, and Making It Happen. His consultancy ChangeLabs designs and executes market-facing programs that differentiate brands in the minds of customers in two unique ways:

· Enhancing their reputation by aligning their social investments with their strategy,

· Building our clients credibility by positioning them as strategic partners and trusted advisers.

In this interview, Peter Sheahan discusses forming innovative strategies, making better proposals, and motivating your clients and your team.

How do you, as a consultant, motivate clients to implement a change or a "Flip" strategy?

The challenge in my view is not to motivate them to implement change, but to design implementable change based on their current capability, the culture of the business and their resource constraints. By the time a client is paying you to consult, they have already established their need and their desire to change. Your job is to find the path of least resistance and highest leverage.

What techniques do you use to develop new ideas and strategies?

Research + Questions + Patience = Quality Insights

· Do your research. Know the REAL drivers of success in the business. Understand fully the business model and the nuances of that model.

· Questions. The key to overcoming your biases and the limitations of your conditioned thinking is to ask better questions. Better questions of yourself and of your clients. What if we are wrong? What if we had a blank slate, how would we approach this? How else could we get to the same outcome? What impact will this have on people’s daily behaviors? If we could only change one thing, what we would change?

· Patience. As consultants, sometimes we get too excited about our early breakthroughs in thinking. Jumping too quickly to that solution, and locking it down can rob you of additional layers of insight, and a better solution.

What suggestions do you have for motivating and training generation Y employees?

1.Line of sight to progress and growth. Where am I headed, and how is what I am working on now going to get me closer.

2.Freedom within boundaries – clear deliverables, but with an opportunity to apply a level of creativity to getting to those deliverables.

3.Be pleasant. Seriously, work does not have to be a drag.

What advice do you have to foster strong internal communication, specifically lateral communication between employees in different departments or consulting teams on different projects?

First, understand the difference between collaboration and keeping people in the loop. Leverage low impact communications tool for “keeping in the loop”. Things like email, or pre-recorded messages allow people to catch wherever and whenever suits them, including in down times like when you awaiting for a plane. Invest in high impact communication tools (Video conference and face to face meetings) for ideation and creative processes. Doing this over the phone is very challenging. On email can be even worse. People will be more likely to want to attend these sorts of meetings if they know REAL work will get done.

Second, do more collaboration early, and late. Get people’s insights and ideas early so you set off on the right track. Come back with key ideas / concepts / stimulus materials and refine and ideate again. Deliver the final piece of work.

Third, don’t try and make people collaborate just because it makes your job easy. You are accountable for deliverables more often than not, and it is you who should be investing the time and effort into churning out the real work.

Do you have any advice for making consulting proposals?

· Quality proposals START with truly understanding a client’s needs. Invest in that.

· Clients often have some sense of how they want you to approach a piece of work. In your discovery / lead development phases don’t be afraid to ask questions about this. How would you suggest approaching this? Knowing the culture of your organization, how best could we engage with you team to get this done?

· Use normal language. Don’t go overboard with the “consultant-isms”. Communicate clearly what you will do and the value that will bring.

· Don’t rely on the document and email to present your proposal. Ensure you set a time for the presentation, allow an opportunity for discussion, and then either set another time for follow up questions and decision, or refinement followed by a re-presentation.

Want to read more from Peter Sheahan? Check out his books in our resources section: Best Business Books

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