STS Business Leader Book Review

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Brenda O'Hanley
Strategic Training Solutions (Consultancy industry)

Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used

Consulting is primarily a relationship business.  No matter how research-based or technical the project, it will always reach a point at which the success of the work will hinge on the quality of the relationship you have with your client.  This relationship is the conduit through which your expertise passes.  
Flawless Consulting steps deeply into driving quality and value into that relationship.
This book has been my personal go-to guide since I was introduced to it in graduate school.  While it is an amazingly pragmatic, useful, and enjoyable read, its real value is that it faces into some of the most vexing issues we face as consultants:  resistance, doubt, vulnerability, role definition, and accountability.
It’s considered a bible to those of us who have chosen that path of external consultants.  Yet most organizations today are looking to their individual employees to take on the role of internal consultants as project managers, change managers, etc.

The challenges, requirements, and strategies to successfully engage individuals over whom you have no true authority will hold true for you as well.

Key Content
Block applies a very informative breakdown of typical mistakes made and best practices to employ during each of the five phases of consulting:

  • Entry and Contracting
  • Discovery and Dialogue
  • Feedback and Decision to Act
  • Engagement and Implementation
  • Extension, Recycle, or Termination

My personal key take-aways that have served me well in my career:

  • We must remember that we are getting paid to consult, not to manage.

  • When you encounter resistance, work to understand it.  Look for your client’s concerns about control and vulnerability.  The process of effectively dealing with resistance helps the client move from a position of helplessness, alienation, and confusion to a position of choice, engagement and clarity.

  • To bring value to your client, we need to redesign our efforts to support learning at the expense of telling.

  • We get stuck when asking wrong questions.  The most common wrong question is the one of the engineer / technical expert who wants to know “how” something gets done.  This question will quickly take you down the path of methodology and technique.  It assumes the problem is of what is done rather than “why” it is done or whether in fact it should even be done. 

  • If we want to see change, we had better not wait to leave the session for it to happen.  How can we have hope in tomorrow if today is not different?  Each moment in the meeting has to carry within it an element of that destination.  This is why coming together is so very important.  It offers hope about how the future might look.  It therefore will lead us to give great attention to how we design this moment – which is the meeting itself.

If you are looking to take on more of a role as an influencer and trusted business partner within your organization, I highly recommend this book. 

Warm Regards,
Brenda O’Hanley


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