The challenge for people in the professional services (accountancy, law, consultancy) is that they are rewarded and recognised for being experts in their field. The “right” answers – and providing those answers quickly – are their trade. The current economic circumstances only increase the pressure on them to have the most current expertise at their fingertips and to provide instant value.
For these professionals in action learning sets, it is even harder than for many others to not give advice and to resist the temptation to “solve” the presenter’s problem. The coaching approach inherent in action learning – asking people open questions and giving them time to reflect – can seem time consuming and can be experienced as a special challenge for results driven experts.
What we hear over time, however, is that where participants in action learning sets have stuck with the challenge, they develop skills in this area that really stretch them. And developing these skills is critical because professional services are essentially “people businesses” with all services being delivered through these experts.
Our participants who have experienced action learning report a real difference in their ability to influence and develop relationships with clients and customers. They talk about the impact of asking customers open questions and the way this opens conversations and creates deeper and more meaningful dialogue.
“What matters to you most in this situation?”
“What would you really like to achieve here?”
“What would be the best outcome for you?”
“What is the best your department could do?”
Asking questions and waiting for the response, has resulted in clients giving them feedback that they really feel they are being listened to and understood.
Our professional services action learning participants are building better client relationships, which are more two-way and more meaningful.
While we hear a lot of how it improves client work, we have not yet heard the extent to which this brings in repeat business, but we wait to hear.
“What would make the biggest improvement in your own work with your customers?”