Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021)

I was delighted to present the first (fully booked!) Professional Marketing Forum “Coaching and consulting skills for marketing and BD” workshop earlier this month. This post includes some of the key points arising from the coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop as well as signposting resources requested by the delegates. The next presentation of this course is in February 2022

Use of coaching and consulting skills by M&BD professionals

The delegates had a variety of reasons for wishing to develop their coaching and consulting skills, including:

  • Make the transition of M&BD from a reactive service to proactive advice
  • Help fee-earners acquire and practice new approaches and skills
  • Learn how to have more influence with fee-earners
  • Help fee-earners develop and achieve their M&BD, personal and professional goals
  • Influence M&BD strategy
  • Achieve Trusted Advisor status within the practice (read about trust and Trusted Advisor)
  • Shift to long term relationships with fee-earners to support long term performance improvement
  • Overcome the challenges of digital and remote helping relationships
  • Provide more one-to-one support to fee-earners

One delegate commented that M&BD professionals need to be seen as professionals in their own right with expertise and skills to add value to the firm and that coaching and consulting were key ways to achieve this.

One of the breakout sessions considered the changing role of M&BD professionals with comments about:

  • fast-changing environment and markets
  • changing partner attitudes and expectations
  • increasing client sophistication
  • need to co-ordinate and integrate the efforts of multiple teams
  • shift to hybrid models of working and relationships
  • need for one-to-one advice and support for all levels of fee-earners
  • changing role of fee-earners
  • changing client perceptions
  • shift from transactional to relationship models
  • adapting to digital disruption
  • increasingly competitive environment 

Prepare and conduct coaching sessions

Another breakout group discussed how best to prepare for and conduct coaching sessions with fee-earners. Key points included:

  • Ensure there was sufficient empathy, rapport and trust to allow a helping relationship to be effective
  • Advance research and fact-finding to understand the markets, clients and past performance
  • Understand the context of relevant business plans and M&BD plans for the individual
  • Work with HR teams to align coaching with competency frameworks, appraisal and feedback processes
  • Access assessment tools for topics such as personality, emotional intelligence, learning styles etc
  • Identify appropriate learning and development resources
  • Prepare structured questions (perhaps using the GROW model) to guide the analysis, discovery and action planning processes
  • Learn about the confidence and comfort levels of the people being coached to tailor the approach accordingly
  • Adapt the process for senior/experienced and junior/less experienced fee-earners and accommodating different generational preferences
  • The importance of building confidence by considering what has been achieved and strengths as well as what needs to be accomplished
  • Encourage the person being coached to identify possible strategies and options
  • Agree realistic and achievable short term goals – in bite-sized pieces – as well as longer term goals that would ensure action and motivation
  • Signpost learning resources to help the people develop the required knowledge and skills
  • Set out a path for monitoring progress and results 

Identify Adaptors and Innovators

We talked about whether fee-earners were more likely to be adapters than innovators (using Kirton’s Innovator-Adapter model). The majority felt their fee-earners were adaptors. This means that we need to adapt our approach to this more “rule-following” behaviour.

I use the model of predictable pigeons and maverick magpies to explain this in a short video. I believe that the best leadership teams have a combination of both types. This view is supported by the work of Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters who use the term aggregators and visionaries. This video about their concept in “Rocket Fuel” explains why entrepreneurial businesses need both.

Develop motivation

Various polls revealed that one of the biggest challenges was in harnessing and maintaining fee-earner motivation in pursuing the agreed actions from both coaching and consulting programmes. Often, this was due to the target and reward system focusing exclusively on fee income generation. Sometimes, this was due to a lack of capacity as client demands usually trump all other actions.

There is material on motivation:

Of course, the other side of the coin to motivation is resistance.

Be more consultant

Being an internal consultant is never easy. The final exercise of the session saw three groups competing to “sell” their consultancy project to a fictional managing partner. Some of the highlights of these mini-pitches were:

  • Successful identification – and engagement of – both the “client” and the stakeholders
  • The role (and skills and contribution) of the consultancy team, their terms of reference and the scope of the project
  • How the consultancy project required collaboration between the consultant and those seeking a solution
  • Clarity in the stages of and reasons for each step in the consultancy project and process (see project management in marketing)
  • An explanation of the data, interviews and research required to diagnose the issues
  • Preliminary insights and ideas for innovation (see innovation in marketing)
  • How the consultants will “walk with” the clients on the journey of discovery and solution development process
  • Certainty about the resources, costs and timelines involved
  • Anticipation of likely barriers and obstacles to the project
  • The expected deliverables
  • Key points and processes for engagement, consultation and decision-making
  • The identification of any possible “quick wins” in the project
  • A focus on the results and outcomes (benefits) rather than the consulting project and process
  • Creation of a compelling vision of what success would look like

Coaching resources

When researching my 2020 book on “Essential soft skills for lawyers” – coaching skills featured strongly.

Coaching books

There are numerous books – from introductory to advanced – on coaching skills. The following is an initial list of those I have previously reviewed:

Other books worth mentioning (further details of these coaching books)

  • The manager as coach and mentor – Eric Parsloe
  • Coaching and mentoring: practical methods to improve learning – Eric Parsloe and Monika Wray
  • Coaching for performance – John Whitmore
  • Mentoring in action – David Megginson and David Clutterbuck
  • Mentoring executives and directors – David Clutterbuck and David Megginson

Coaching qualifications

A few people asked for details of organisations providing coaching qualifications. Make sure you find a course that provides the training and accreditation you are likely to need. There are a lot of “life coaching” courses which may not be relevant for the professional services environment.

The following list isn’t exhaustive (and please let me know if you recommend any others):

  • I did my post-graduate diploma at OCM and was fortunate to have the late Eric Parsloe as my supervisor.
  • Some professional service marketers have transitioned their career with training at Barefoot Coaching 
  • There are short courses (3-5 days) covering: Certificate in Coaching, Certificate in Stress Management and Performance Coaching and Certificate in Psychological Coaching/Coaching Psychology  at Centre for Coaching, London. But I have no information about the quality of these courses.

 Consulting books

I reviewed three books on consulting during summer 2021 – an introductory level book, the “consultant’s bible” by Peter Block and a more advanced view of process consulting

The main associations for consultants in the UK are:

There are numerous articles and book reviews on change management too:

Poll results

During the workshop we ran a number of polls, and here are the poll results for the delegates to reflect on.

Which sector are you from?

  • Legal                69% (11)
  • Accountants   19% (3)
  • Property           0%
  • Consultancy    6% (1)
  • Other                6% (1)

How would you rate your relationships with fee-earners?

  • Really poor      0%
  • Poor                  0%
  • Average         31% (5)
  • Good             44% (7)
  • Excellent      25% (4)

Area most needed to develop to start coaching and consulting?

  • How I am perceived   35% (6)
  • Technical skills           18% (3)
  • Attributes                     12% (2)
  • Knowledge                   24% (4)
  • “Soft” skills                  12% (2)

At what stage must you be in the relationship to start coaching and consulting?

  • Acknowledgement        0%
  • Understanding             6% (1)
  • Acceptance                   22% (4)
  • Respect                         33% (6)
  • Trust                             33% (6)
  • Bond                               6% (1)

Biggest challenge developing relationships with fee-earners?

  • Stubbornness                         5% (1)
  • Arrogance/Anger                   0%
  • Fixed views/closed mind    42% (8)
  • Their lack of time                 47% (9)
  • Our (perceived) lack of understanding 5% (1)

Coaching process biggest challenge?

  • Identify challenges, vision, goals          11% (2)
  • Explore the situation                                6% (1)
  • Develop different strategies/options   17% (3)
  • Agree short/medium term plans          11% (2)
  • Signpost learning resources                    0%
  • Motivation to commit to actions          56% (10)
  • Assess and support progress                   0%

Which is the most important coaching skill?

  • Problem-solving/idea generation    6% (1)
  • Questions/listening                          50% (9)
  • Providing feedback                             6% (1)
  • Guiding/teaching                             22% (4)
  • Goal setting/motivation                 17% (3)

How would you assess psychological safety at your firm?

(A brilliant book on this topic is The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson)

  • Excellent         0%
  • Good              53% (10)
  • OK                  37% (7)
  • Poor              11% (2)
  • Really poor   0%

Which consulting skill you most need to develop?

  • EQ/Emotional Intelligence           0%
  • Analysis and diagnosis                 19% (3)
  • Commerciality                               13% (2)
  • Collaboration                                   0%
  • Influence/persuasion                   25% (4)
  • Problem-solving/creativity         25% (4)
  • Project planning/management 13% (2)

Which part of the consulting process is the most challenging?

  • Entry                         6% (1)
  • Contracting             13% (2)
  • Diagnosis                 13% (2)
  • Intervention            69% (11)
  • Closure                     0%

When presenting ideas and solutions, the biggest challenge is:

  • Achieving consensus/buy in       24% (4)
  • Managing disagreement              18% (3)
  • Dealing with fixed views              12% (2)
  • Managing involvement                18% (3)
  • Confidence in outcome/results   6% (1)
  • Justifying investment                    6% (1)
  • Cultural/structural issues           18% (3)