As a consultant, I have many discussions with people who might be future clients. I never quite know at the start of the conversation where it will go – I’m there to listen for the opportunity, to understand what the client needs (perhaps before they do), and to help them to decide whether I might be an effective part of the answer, whatever it might be. Until they explain their situation, I can’t tell where we may finish up.
Even so, I was taken aback recently when I was told quite out of the blue at the start of a client meeting that I thought was going to be the usual consultant’s exploratory discussion, that it was effectively an interview for a senior role in their team (I’ll talk about miscommunications another time!). My immediate reaction was to express my surprise at this turn of events, while inwardly panicking slightly and trying to think very fast about what this role would involve, what experience I would therefore need to tell them about, and whether I even thought I could do it.
Afterwards I realised that although I had gone into the meeting with my flexible ‘I’m a consultant, just tell me what the problem is’ hat on, the hat was not that flexible. It took me a few minutes to adjust to the new situation, and to feel comfortable again.
We all put ourselves in boxes – even ones with somewhat flexible walls, or room to rattle about in – all the time. The walls of the boxes are safe and comforting. Outside the walls lies danger (at least that’s how it feels) – but also opportunity. How hard it is to allow ourselves to be born into that new world of wider opportunity – but like birth, how essential it is if we are to grow!