BEST PRACTICES IN CONSULTING – Selecting a Conscious Consultant: How to see the fire that makes the difference

iStock_000003126190SmallI argued in a previous post What Clients Want – And Consultants Don´t Always Give, that organizations and executives are increasingly looking for a new category of consultants that I call Conscious Consultants. These are consultants who can focus on their clients’ needs and on the noble purpose that inspires the activity of consulting: to help others do better. So when it comes to selecting a consultant to work with you, what exactly should you look for to make sure the consultant you hire is a conscious consultant? tweet.jpg

Checking whether your candidate has knowledge of the topic he or she will consult in sounds like an obvious starting point. Asking for a brief presentation about this is important, and I will assume you all know how to do this or that you can bring in people in your organization who can do this expertly.  At the same time, it is such an obvious criterion that it defeats its purpose: the consultancy process does not depend on this to be successful, but rather on the consultant’s ability to make this specific subject matter content and expertise available, and apply it in practical and doable solutions for his or her clients.

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On Fear of Failure – the Value of Being ‘Out There’

CourageI haven’t quite got the hang of blogging yet … but it strikes me that here’s a chance to explore this issue of courage, and not only in theory. Even exposing my thoughts and feelings on a blog feels risky enough to need a bit of courage! I started off thinking each blog must be perfect, correct, special, akin to a Harvard Business Review publication! But the lovely and interesting responses to my last one had me see something different – it’s about sharing, dialogue, connection, service, not about being right.

Last week a friend asked me ‘What do you mean when you say a person is ‘out there’, you say it often, you seem to like those people?’ On reflection, I mean I see a person who is willing to go to their edge, to pursue a life that for them is exuberant and full. Not because it’s easy to them, not because they are fearless, but because they go forward conscious of possible failure. They go beyond their own comfort zone with awareness, they choose to stretch themselves. In their stretch they are vulnerable to failure – that takes courage.

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Conscious Business in Action – Impeccable Escalation: How to Incentivize Collaboration

CollaborationCollaboration is not only a good idea for organizations but often a necessary component for transformational change and high performing teams. The idea of collaborating sounds good but in the rhythm of the business, strict deadlines, different and sometimes competing agendas, reduced headcount and the directive of doing more with less, collaboration is not always an easy thing to create.

Collaboration on Three Levels for Sustainable Performance

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Helen Keller

When we work with organizations some of the critical components of a working agreement are often missing and a great area of opportunity to strengthen a team. It makes sense that an organization’s focus is on what we call the “It” dimension, the business success, bottom-line growth and profitability. What is sometimes missing is the strategy around the “I”, what is important to me as a leader and the “We” dimension which is all about mutual trust, respect and solidarity.

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BEST PRACTICES IN CONSULTING – Conscious Consulting: What Clients Want – And Consultants Don’t Always Give

Conscious Consultants

Run a Google search and you’ll find over 606,000,000 hits for “consulting”. Yes, that’s right: six hundred six million. Consulting today is such a wide category that it’s impossible to define it. When you hear someone say, “I’m a consultant”, you are often left wondering what they are consulting in, and what it is they exactly do.

Many of you may wonder what makes a good consultant (or consulting firm), regardless of the area of expertise. How can you tell a good consultant from one who is not when the offering available is so large? It’s not only impossible to define the consulting world; it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish the good from the not-so-good at first glance.

For over 10 years, I’ve been interacting with clients and colleagues in the consulting world. Leading and attending recruiting processes in more than 15 countries on 4 continents has allowed me to see hundreds of consultants in the interview and experiential context all trying to show me their skills. I’d like to share my insights here, in the hope that they will help you identify the consultants that can truly help you and your organization.  I would also like to put forward a new category on the basis of these insights: the “conscious consultant”.

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Dare to Care: How Compassion Impacts the Bottom-line

Compassionate leadershipBecky’s frustration grew as she watched Joan blow up in her office yet again. Becky had served as the Director of Sales for a successful pharmaceutical company for the past six years and struggled with her relationship with her Sales Manager, Joan. Careful to not say anything that would trigger Joan, Becky began to hold back in their conversations and avoided meeting with Joan altogether.

“Not again.” Becky thought. “It seems that every time I meet with Joan she gets upset when I ask her a tough question or I disagree with her position. This is driving me crazy!  How can we work like this?”

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Conscious Business in Action: On Undiscussables – From Permission to Courage

CourageIs your job driving you insane? Yes, so many people say so, yes they have experienced frustrations, disappointments, toxic cultures, impossible bosses. But, they want to do a good job, to make a difference, to be productive. So what practical steps can you take to untangle the dilemmas, confusions and contradictions of organisational life?

Having the courage to speak up, to ask for clarity, to raise your dilemma, to ‘discuss the undiscussable‘ – Fred Kofman speaks to how to do this skillfully – it makes complete sense. So why don’t we all speak up, why not say, ‘I’m confused about when to innovate and when to stick to the rules, can we talk about that?‘ Why not say, ‘I don’t have the time to do both of those tasks by Friday, can you help me?

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Conscious Business in Action: Integrating Process and Outcome Goals

Marathon RunnersThe London Marathon had banners on every mile marker. The 18th mile marker had a now funny quote: “Why the hell am I here, why did I not burn that damn sign-up form?”. There are times where, beyond your commitment to your goals, everything looks insurmountable.       My marathon trainer used to say “focus your attention on that signpost 150 yards ahead, all you need to do is get to it, then you’ll know what to do next.”

Process versus Outcome

The question underpinning  Fred’s LinkedIn post (Class of 2013: Find Your Spiritual Harness)  is “OK, so how do you stay focused on the process, when there is so much at stake, when you are terribly invested in the outcome?

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Inclusive Leadership: A Modern Competitive Advantage

Inclusive Leadership

As we continue to adapt to challenging and uncertain economic times and look toward the future of how we can sustainably compete in an ever-changing marketplace, we often focus on business strategy, lean reduction, systems, processes and key differentiating factors which define our competitive edge. All relevant and powerful places to look. However, when it comes to attracting and retaining your best talent, harvesting the innovative ideas that live and breathe inside your organizations corridors and eliciting true commitment from employees, inclusive leadership skills are required.

We often see Diversity and Inclusion in the same area so let’s be clear that our stand is that we are ALL diverse. Diversity is about the differences and similarities of everyone – it is NOT limited to a specific group of people. We all have inherent diversity; factors with us from birth that shape how we see the world and how we are seen, like race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Their influence can impact our behaviors, expectations and mindsets. And acquired diversity, aspects of us and our identity that are shaped by elements that change over the course of our lives: where we live and experiences we have. These are less visible but still important in forming how we view the world.

Inclusive leadership is the ability to effectively leverage diversity and most importantly the diversity of thought that comes with it.

Inclusion has become an integral part of the survival conversation, begging the question “How can we enable employees to maximize their creativity to drive organizational innovation and long-term success?” Inclusive leadership creates the environment that does just that. A leader who leverages diversity of thinking can be the disruptive force that breaks-through common limiting factors in even the strongest of organizations. These limitations are often driven by culture, the behaviors, systems and symbols that point to “the way we do things around here”. It is our strong need to belong that has shaped us to quickly and often unconsciously assess what it takes to “be one of us” and what it would take to be “rejected”.

Our goal, and often that of the organization is for someone to assimilate quickly and “get with the program”. This is in direct conflict with efforts an organization might initiate to diversify talent, ideas and ways of viewing things in service of creativity and innovation. If an organization is truly committed to effectively competing in today’s ever-changing marketplace with increasingly global and virtual work teams, it needs to foster a culture that values the unique experiences and perspectives of each individual and fully engages everyone in the drive to success. Inclusion means that employees experience a sense of belonging.

Inclusive leaders strive to create an environment where employees feel they are part of one organization, across the globe. They value every individual’s contributions, no matter their title, in order to better adapt to new competitive opportunities and challenges. Building a culture that thrives on inclusive leadership starts with building the self-awareness of the leaders. Developing their ability to be introspective, being honest and aware of their own blind spots and deepening their ability and commitment to be authentically curious, listen and learn from their employees.

Gone are the days of the lone leader with all of the answers. Today’s leaders are leading with questions, changing the conversation, inviting challenge and demonstrating the powerful humility and self-awareness required to truly be inclusive. This in turns creates a culture where we interact with one another human to human, rather than title to title and invite everyone to be a part of the success of the organization rather than just “doing what they are told.” Command and control will stifle the creativity and commitment of even the most dedicated among us. Today’s modern competitive advantage is inclusive leadership. Bill Gates recently said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”


About the author

Pamela is Axialent’s North America Managing Partner. With more than 15 years of experience in international relationship management, consulting and entrepreneurship, she is a leadership consultant and coach, course designer, and conference speaker. Read more>



Success Beyond Success

Mountaineering and business alike prompt reflection on words like “success” and “failure”: the fragility of the former and the meaning of the latter, the thin line between the two when it comes to projects with a high level of demand and risk. Achieving set goals is a sign of effectiveness and brings about satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

Valentín Giró and Juanjo Garra on the summit of Broad Peak (8.047 m) –  July 20, 2007

But many times, things just happen the way they happen and despite all efforts, that ultimate goal is not achieved. And yet, if we acted in alignment with our values, with integrity, we do not experience the alleged failure as a failure because we took away learnings, and because we value the process itself beyond its completion. This is, in itself, what we call “success beyond success“.

In an article by Fred Kofman, author of Conscious Business, he defines it like this:

“When behavior is consistent with values, we say the person has achieved unconditional success: success beyond success. This success generates an inner peace and happiness beyond the threats of external shocks. It is unconditional because it is based on the human being’s free will, his autonomy beyond any external factor. Even when results may not be what we want, it is always possible to feel at peace because we know we did our best to face the situation with dignity. The (superficial) sadness of (superficial) failure is totally compatible with (profound) satisfaction of (profound) success”.[1]

Just like bold and ambitious mountaineering, daring and innovative companies invite us to learn how to measure our own grandness vis a vis the greatness and power of nature and “circumstance”. In nature, every step forward taken with humbleness is a daily success, and the only failure is not taking responsibility for the fact that you may make a mistake, not enjoying the journey and not seeing in failure the opportunity to learn how to better tackle new adventures. The only ones that fail are those who do not try. The infinite summit belongs to those that pursue their dreams without ever giving up.[2]


About the author

Valentín has experience in international consulting and multilateral organizations. He enjoys integrating his passion for mountain-climbing in workshops and programs for businesses interested in experience-learning. Read more >


[1] For further reading, we recommend Fred Kofman’s article, Unconditional Responsibility: The Power of Being a Player”

[2] To find out more about Valentín Giró – check out his website and blog (*spanish)



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