Why Trust is More Important than Likability In Consulting

Why do organizations and businesses opt to work with a consultant?

It’s because either A) they want someone to tell them how to do better and operate more efficiently for the greater good, even if that means turning an entire project on its head. Or B) they want someone who will come in, shuffle a few things around, tweak some processes (but not rock the boat too much), and play nice with others.

People often say they want option A, but make the mistake of hiring B.

Why? Because they’ve chosen agreeableness and likeability over truth and meaningful change.

The fact is that most consultants tell clients what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Consultants might even go as far as flattering clients on their blatant inefficiencies to land a deal. And because the consultant was likable, the client reflects on their work as a pleasant experience. It’s all kumbaya.

That is, until a few months later (or even days) when they realize nothing has improved.

That’s the consultant who breaks trust.

Personally, I’m not concerned whether or not I’m “liked” as a consultant; being trusted is what matters most.

What does it mean to be trusted versus liked?

The consultant who prioritizes being trusted versus liked is the one who says the things most people are afraid to say. Consultants come into a project or business because something needs to be done differently, and it’s not happening because the team either doesn’t know how to do it differently — or they do but can’t reach a consensus due to structural or self preservation dynamics.

A trusted consultant is the eyes and ears of the team with a fresh perspective and innovative and bold ideas.

A liked consultant is there to make friends, get the job done with the least disruption possible (so they don’t lose said new friends), and wipe their hands clean of another job done. 

The difference is authenticity and genuine relationship building.

Trust is built by being authentic, and in a trusting relationship, business or otherwise, you can be your true self, and others can be themselves, too. 

If a consultant is present, it means there’s a challenge at hand. A trusted consultant will point out where you’re struggling. You might even already know it — you just need to hear it from someone else (and sometimes even in a brutally honest way if you’re not willing to listen).

Why does trust matter more than likability?

Trust matters more than likeability because it’s real. And because it’s real, it’s long-lasting.

This is what we mean at Showpiece Solutions when we talk about orchestrating encore results, and why I want my role to be known as The UnConsultant to distance myself from the reputation of the standard consultant who flatters and fawns, applying one-size-fits-all strategies to projects before moving onto the next.

You’ll quickly discover why trust matters more than likeability when you find yourself with an urgent and complex project. Thanks to the authentic relationships they’ve built, the trusted consultant will assemble the right team on a whim and get things done; the ‘likable’ consultant might have a roster of names to call but few who will actually answer.

The Showpiece Difference

I’ve defined trust as being authentic, which comes part in parcel with other adjectives like vulnerability, confidentiality, and empathy — the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective. But what does it look like in practice?

Being the trusted one in the room who says the things people don’t want to hear doesn’t always have to be akin to a grenade going off (though admittedly, sometimes it is. I have to accept the collateral damage for what it is to maintain truth as my core value).

More often, it simply comes down to turning ideas on their head by asking a simple question:

“What if we looked at this differently?”

Does it rock the boat? Yes.
Does it prompt deeper reflection? Yes.
Does it offend? Not usually.
Does it make you likable? Perhaps not. You’re probably going to be the annoying one. And that’s ok. Because…

Does it invoke change? Absolutely.

Most of the time, trust ultimately results in being liked, but that’s not always the case. That’s what a good consultant has to be comfortable with, and that’s the standard at Showpiece Solutions. No matter what, trust and truth come first.

Are you ready to hear the truth? Fill out the form to get in touch, and we’ll get back to you soon.