The worst thing that can happen to you as a consultant (besides not getting paid) is to give a client your best advice – advice that you are confident could help them solve the problem they hired you to help with – and then the client does nothing with that advice. 

The consultants I know care deeply about their clients, and are committed to bringing the most value they can to a consulting project.

The problem is that sometimes a client doesn’t have the appetite for change they said they did, and might not follow through on your recommendations – even when they said they would.

As a consultant, your nightmare is getting to the end of a project and realizing your recommendations may end up in a binder on a shelf, getting an occasional dusting from the cleaning service.

This is frustrating in the extreme because you can clearly see the AMAZING results a client would get if they just executed on the plan they agreed to and helped develop.

This is the consultant’s dilemma: You can’t care more than they do. 


However, you did get paid (hopefully) and you did give them your best advice. They clearly benefited from your years of experience, and what they choose to do with the information is up to them.

What can you do to avoid being in this situation?

Get feedback frequently

My coach used to tell me that my knowing what a client needs is a booby prize – and he was right.

Given your outside perspective and subject matter knowledge, you may be able to easily see process improvements, needed training, sales compensation adjustments, or something that would improve profitability. However, you need to bounce your ideas off key stakeholders and get their feedback in order to get their buy-in.

If people have given input throughout the project, they are more likely to feel some ownership, and may feel invested in seeing it succeed.

Share the vision and benefits throughout

Even though the client hired you, you may need to remind them of the goal and their vision throughout the life cycle of the project, especially if the project is a long one.

You need to keep painting the picture of the goal and how it will benefit the company. If it’s a really big project that will impact a lot of employees, you should have regular communications with everyone who will be affected by this change.

Do you know the origin of the term sabotage? Workers put their wooden shoes in the machinery and it broke down. This is what you’re trying to avoid by clearly and consistently communicating the vision and benefits to everyone involved.

Do your best and then let it go

When you deliver your recommendations or give your final presentation, you need to separate from the results and the outcome. You did your part and now it’s up to the company to do its part. You can’t control this.

If you get triggered by a negative or lukewarm response to your deliverable, breathe. I strongly advise against jumping onto the conference table and yelling, “Can’t you see that if you only…” (Although you may be sorely tempted to do this.)

After the meeting is over, you may feel incredibly frustrated. Cursing loudly in your car on the drive home can help. Doing some strenuous exercise can get it out of your system. Or, you can try journaling.

But you still may be plagued by obsessive thoughts for days or weeks.

There also will be clients who sing your praises, confirm their commitment to making changes, and then do nothing. You may learn about this weeks, months, or years later. It is heartbreaking sometimes.

I know, it can be truly difficult to let it go. You poured your heart and soul into this project!

I had it happen several times when I worked for the big consulting firms. It was aggravating, but didn’t make me want to pull my hair out like it does with my small business or career transition clients who I want so desperately to succeed.

You can’t care more than they do.

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

* This was published originally on this blog here. I am reposting it at the request of a colleague.