Can You Hear Me Now?

There is a distinct difference between hearing and comprehending.  “Can you hear me now” is such a relevant question in today’s environment, however, because “hearing” has become synonymous with comprehending.

Too often what is “heard” is not what is being said.  What is being said is not what is meant and the “language” of business (and life) is getting lost in the static of environment and perspective.

This isn’t about Mars and Venus.  It isn’t a male/female communication barrier, although those elements do come into play at times.  It isn’t about the native or non-native language, although that also may have impact.

No, the need for “hearing aids” has more of an origin in the “teenage selective hearing” realm than in any other.  Too often we choose to “hear” (or not hear) what we wish.  Because we don’t want to lose face by asking questions to clarify or we are insecure in some other way or even that we are inexperienced or lack the education or exposure to concepts, “hearing” becomes difficult if not impossible.

While interpersonal relationships give us the most frequent experience in “failure to communicate”, business relationships are quickly surpassing our personal relationships as cause for angst.  Failure to communicate in business leads to more than one person having issues with what has or hasn’t occurred, what was expected versus what happened.  Work gets performed or not.  Invoices get paid or not.  Profits get made or not.  The business exists or not.  Hearing the message or not makes the difference.

Consultants and other service providers find themselves subject to even greater business and financial risk due to the “Can You Hear Me Now?” challenges.  As outsiders, they bring an independent perspective to a business.  They also rely heavily on the ability of insiders to provide information, take action, follow through on information needs, and to engage in the process.

Consulting is a like a coin – there are two sides.  One side says “In God We Trust”.  The other side needs to say “And All Others We Verify”.  Consultants are held responsible for the success or failure of a project within a client organization (this is the “In God We Trust” side), but they must rely on the client team to assimilate and implement the change (the “And All Others We Verify” side).  NO consulting project can succeed if the client organization does not engage in, support, and follow-through on the process.

Consultants advise, educate, evaluate, inform, train, and observe.  Great consultants work with the client organization on the “doing”.  They don’t do it for the client.  Why?  As with any learning opportunity, the client organization will not fully incorporate the ability to do it themselves until they have had to actually DO the work.

Doing anything for the first time is a challenge.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes an understanding that mistakes and even full failure may occur.  In order for an organization to “hear”, it must be listening.  In order for the organization to succeed, it must be able to continue the communication cycle.

Consultants, lawyers, accountants, computer systems designers, software programmers, architects, all bring a degree of expertise to an organization.  The organization that doesn’t invest the resources – time, money, learning cycles, people, equipment – answers the question “Can You Hear Me Now?” with a resounding “No”.

Professional service providers are accountable for performing at their best level of effort.  Clients are responsible for ensuring that their team engages in the process.  If your organization doesn’t make the commitment to the process as well as the time to follow the advice and utilize the expertise of the external advisors, then save your money.  No consultant can succeed in addressing the issues in a client organization without the cooperation of the client.  Only God can work miracles!

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