HYCS #43 – How to Shift Your Role

HYCS # 43 – How to Shift Your Role

“In my experience, when I consultant leads the implementation of a program, the program lasts only as long as the consultant’s presence,…”  Yes, I’ve said that.  You will too, just as soon as you break your denial.

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Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Assignment Time:  5-10 minutes at a time over a lifetime

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“In my experience, when I consultant leads the implementation of a program, the program lasts only as long as the consultant’s presence. If you want these changes to flourish in your organization, I recommend moving the bulk of the implementation work into your organization.”

You may recognize that as an experience-based recommendation (EBR), with these 3 parts:  My experience, Finding, and Recommendation.  EBRs work well for shifting your role at any time in a consulting engagement and are especially useful when planning an implementation.  And, if you have been doing the bulk of the work, you must shift your role during implementation, or the program will wither and die when you are no longer propping it up.

A salesperson is fine with that.  A consultant who aspires to be a business partner isn’t.  And yet, this can be a tough conversation to launch.

EBRs have the advantage of changing the direction of something already in progress.  You and your clients are already working together.  It’s very artful to keep your momentum up and simply shift direction by singling out a change in your role

Unless it doesn’t work.

Maybe you’re so busy being subtle and elegant your client misses your point entirely.   You feel that familiar sense of dread as you realize you’ve done it again:  You’ve agreed to do everything.

First, Get Their Attention

  1. It starts with your commitment.  You are certain you must shift your role, and committed to doing what it takes.  Not to do so means endangering the success of the project.  If this were a bacon and egg breakfast, you are the pig, not the chicken.  You’re that committed.

You are equally committed to your partnership with your client: Your job is to shift your role and strengthen the relationship with your client at the same time.

This is easier than it sounds.  Your commitment will shift your client’s attention.  After that, it’s a downhill ride to changing your role. 

  1. To your commitment, you add directness without drama.  You use an EBR rather than becoming resentfully hyper-compliant, difficult to pin down, or cranky.

Here are some other direct, non-dramatic openers:

  • You ask for the opportunity to talk about changing your role. “I’d like to talk about changing my role.”
  • You conduct a plus-delta evaluation of the project so far, and include in the list of deltas your role as the person in charge of everything.  “Now is a good time to take stock and make needed adjustments.  Can we do a plus-delta of our work so far?”
  • You are willing to bring the conversation to a screeching halt if that’s what it takes to shift your role.  You don’t want to.  In fact, you’ll try everything you can think of so you don’t have to.  But if you did have to, you’d do it.  “This isn’t quite scratching my itch.  I think I’m not saying clearly enough that I need to play a different role.  If I don’t delegate this to someone internal, we risk damaging the project’s results.”
  • An EBR based on your experience of implementing change in others.

The Biggest Barrier to Changing Your Role is Denial

This morning, one of my coaching clients said “Once I know someone cannot change their behavior, I have to take action.  If I don’t, I’m hurting the organization, the person and myself.”  Denial is the biggest barrier to correcting a performance problem too.   Perhaps we slip into denial to avoid the difficult conversation. Perhaps it’s because we want to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps it’s because we are still hoping for a miracle.

Experienced consultants know the miracle is in the tough conversation.  Once you see that, you’ll head straight for it, first thing.


I like writing my way out of denial.  I suggest this sentence completion exercise as a way of finding out where our own denial is holding you back.

“If I wasn’t in denial about _________, I would ___________.

Or, try this one:

“If I didn’t dread confrontation/making other’s uncomfortable, I would _______________”

Then take the action you’ve been avoiding.