Anyone whose career has drifted into the world of consulting/contracting has experienced being one of the Bobs. Maybe you weren’t actually a “Bob”, but there’s an almost 100% chance, that just one person at your client perceives your presence to be as bad as the Bob characters from the classic movie Office Space. And what happens when that particular person is involved in an interview or workshop setting? Well, they could be overly nervous like the character in this particular video below. They could be combative and ask questions like “why are you here? and what value do you bring?”. Or they project an attitude somewhere in the middle, ready to participate but guarded to some degree. When I worked in industry, I would say I probably fit in the latter column, though I could definitely see myself acting a little combative if the Bob was telling me I didn’t know how to do my job.
And that’s the quandary for the Bobs. It’s very difficult to effectively engage a client because the range of personalities and interactions you may encounter. I personally like to know any landmines that I might encounter when I travel for onsite meetings and I rely on my client liaison to prep me accordingly. But, that doesn’t always happen so you take what you get and try to push forward. The interesting part to me is that I still have a job to do. No matter the way you interact with me, version 1, 2 or 3 above…I was hired and “promised” to complete a set of tasks that aren’t always supposed to be fun. I know people aren’t always comfortable participating in consulting projects. I’m the outsider. The one who points things out and questions items that may have never been questioned. Again, that’s why I was hired. It’s my role in the process.
For me, that reality dictates that I try to show more compassion and understanding than other Bob’s might. I care about what my clients tell me over email and in person. I try to sympathize and empathize, and I share my own experiences that parallel what I’m hearing in their anecdotal explanations of what occurs in their organization. In short, I’m trying to show my clients I care. I care not only about the success of the project, about what I’m trying to help them achieve as an organization, but I also care about the people I’m talking to. Projecting this allows me to build trust and in the end, I believe it allows me to build a better client-Bob relationship. Or at least as good as it can be when I’m asking “tell me exactly what you do here”.