June 22, 2012

Play Nicely With Other Consultants

A nonprofit consultant is rarely a charity’s only source of advice. Usually other consultants—lawyers, accountants, vendors, etc.—are working for the same client. Occasionally, one of those advisers will say something unprofessional about another or withhold information that would be helpful to that person’s work. This is both a practical and an ethical problem.

Let me share something a nonprofit executive told me about just such a situation. The client said that in her experience, consultants often seem to think they are somehow floating through the company without anyone really knowing what they are doing and with no obligations to other advisers. In reality, she is keenly aware of how consultants interact with each other. And the quality of this interaction and mutual support are key elements of her consultant evaluation.

If one consultant is being unprofessional toward another, the executive usually knows about it and will take action to correct it. And if she doesn’t know about it, she would want to because that kind of behavior hurts her organization. She expects all advisers to work together on their own initiative.

A consultant’s responsibility is to deliver the best value possible to clients. But if consultants are not working cooperatively, they are not delivering best value. Your client hired a group of advisers to solve a suite of specific problems or capture opportunities. Your service is better if you make it your job to understand the challenges and consulting tasks of other consultants, which (since your firm was not selected for that work) are probably in an area you don’t fully understand.

Take the initiative to introduce yourself to other consultants working for the same client. Or ask your client to make the introductions. Ask how you should work together and whether you should bring any concerns about other consultants' work to your client's attention. This is an consultant's ethical obligation per the Institute of Management Consultants’ code of ethics. Your client will respect you for your professionalism, and the value of your services will increase.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? What did you do about it? Do you make a point to reach out to other consultants working for the same client? Respond in the comments section below.