Humble Consulting | Edgar H. Schein

Summary of: Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster
By: Edgar H. Schein


Immerse yourself in the realm of ‘Humble Consulting’, a fresh approach to dealing with complex organizational problems that traditional consulting methods often fail to resolve. By exploring concepts like adaptive moves and layered problem-solving, this book summary of Edgar H. Schein’s Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster shares insights into building trust and forging a deeper connection between consultants and clients. Discover the nuances of human relationships at different levels and how true collaboration paves the way for success in tackling intricate issues.

The Art of Humble Consulting

Organizations face complex, ambiguous problems that do not yield to traditional consultative diagnosis and intervention. The solution is Humble Consulting (HC) – an approach that recognizes the complexity of the issues and prioritizes fresh thinking. HC avoids quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions, instead opting for initial diagnoses, adaptive moves and limited intervention. The helper in HC guides the client in achieving something they cannot accomplish alone, using a mutual and adaptive decision-making process. The ultimate goal of HC is to help clients understand the messiness of their problem, accept the need for different problem solvers and engage in fresh conversations to find sustainable solutions.

The Power of Humble Consulting

Humble consulting is a unique approach that provides fast and effective solutions to complex problems without the use of traditional tools. It encourages helpers to be vulnerable and establish a trusting relationship with their clients, eliminating initial professional distance. This approach can be utilized by not just consultants but also coaches, counselors, and parents. Building a warm and friendly relationship, without seeming too chummy, helps the client understand that the helper is not in charge of the situation but is there to help. With HC, helpers don’t have to worry about initial responses and can instead figure out which approach works best.

Effective Client Communication

When communicating with clients, it’s important to convey that you’re there to help and not promote yourself. Instead of providing a diagnosis and solution, ask the client what problem they’re trying to solve. Approach interactions with humility and a commitment to working together to fix problems. Help clients clarify their complex situations and offer quick, adaptive solutions. This approach is more practical than a detailed diagnosis and intervention. The key assumptions of effective client communication are caring for the client, being committed to assisting them, being curious about the problem they face, and understanding their perspective.

The Three C’s of Humble Consulting

Humble consulting emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with clients through candid and positive discussions. To do so, consultants must embody the three Cs: commitment, curiosity, and caring. They must be emotionally prepared to assist clients, genuinely interested in understanding their problems, and demonstrate their concern for clients as individuals. By paying attention to clients’ needs and ignoring corporate materials, consultants can make clients feel important and valued. This approach fosters a relationship built on trust, leading to better outcomes for all parties involved.

The Art of Building Strong Relationships

Building quality relationships is at the core of a humble consulting approach. People in a relationship share mutual expectations based on past interactions and are jointly responsible for maintaining it. The book categorizes relationships into four levels, ranging from hostile and exploitative to close friendships and intimacy. Level One relationships are primarily impersonal, and the “professional distance” between consultants and clients can inhibit trust and openness. To build productive relationships with clients, consultants must operate at Level Two, treating the client as an important person, not just another case. Finally, managers seeking to help their bosses, subordinates, or peers should aim to establish Level Two relationships that go beyond the usual professional distance.

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