How to Get Your Clients to Participate in Their Consulting Projects (Part 1 of 3)

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    A common question that we get is “How can I get my clients to participate in the consulting project when they seem too busy to even attend our meetings?” This question is relevant whether you are an internal or external consultant.

    In those situations, you are faced with the dilemma: “Should I just do the work for the client, or should we keep slipping deadlines in the project”

    Research suggests that long-lasting change will not occur in an organization if the client does not have strong understanding, commitment and participation in the changes. So if you do the client’s work, it is not likely that your project will be successful.

    In these posts, we’ll share some ideas about how you might respond to the situation where your client seems to want you to just fix their problem by yourself — and then go away.

    Be authentic with your client.

    Notice that your client is not participating in the project, such as not doing what they said they would do, when they said they would do it. Mention your observation to your client. Do not judge them. Be quiet and let them respond.

    Remind your client of the importance of their participation.

    In the midst of the day-to-day challenges of leading an organization, your client may have lost perspective on the overall importance of the project. The project may have been replaced by another top priority. Talk with your client to come to a conclusion about importance of the project for now.

    Recognize the other priorities of your client.

    There will be times during a project when your client suddenly needs to attend to other matters. You will need to recognize those times and, with your client, adjust your plans accordingly.

    Integrate your project plans into your client’s current activities.

    Identify opportunities to include project tasks into the activities that your client is already doing. For example, use current staff meetings and status reports to communicate about the project. Use current evaluation activities as part of the project’s evaluation.

    We’ll soon post the Parts 2 and 3 of this Series in this forum.

    What do you think?

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, faculty member of the Consultants Development Institute.