Lifetime Lessons in Consulting: Stories, Anecdotes, and Lessons to Share: A book review for all those who have a consultancy role, by Viv Chitty

Professor George Manning is a consultant, as well as an academic, teacher, prolific author and speaker whose focus is on morale and productivity – with an interest in areas such as leadership, motivation and change.

Professor Manning is the author of eleven books, including ‘The Art of Leadership’, which is now in its 7th edition. This latest book reads like his final memoir – but something makes me think he will be writing another book at some point

A book for all consultants

This highly informative and accessible book will be useful for those who provide consultancy in organisations – consultants with all levels of experience – and those in the purchasing role who are responsible for bringing the consultants in.

A few of the lessons for those who consult

As you would expect from the title, Professor Manning’s book shares with us the lessons he has learnt, from both his personal and working life, that relate to consulting

(including the seven steps to leading change [p.85] and regarding the evaluation of consultancy services [p.120]) and beyond.

So, here are a just a few nuggets of advice that he gives (I am not going to list that many – for the detail one has to read the book!)

  • Listen to the client, keep an open mind and be flexible
  • Good outcomes begin and end with good relationships
  • Establishing productive partnerships is based on trust and shared commitment
  • The importance of the consultant being congruent, humble, staying on task and being able to laugh at themselves
  • Where possible go on-site and visit the client organisation to really learn about what they do
  • If leaders desire the achievement of a positive and healthy human environment it can be done under almost any circumstances
  • Learning from leaders like Sam Walton (Walmart) whose prescription for success was to care about the people in the organisation
  • It is important for organisations to have a policy for employing consultants
  • “Presentations on the theory and practice of leadership are most popular and helpful when I provide the theory and a highly respected leader in the field shares person experience, practical application, and useful advice to the audience. It’s especially helpful when the leaders share mistakes they have made and what they have learned from them.”
  • If different teams of consultants are involved in an organisation at any one time those bringing them in need to make sure that they are coordinated and in agreement.

There is a warmth in his writing that made this easy to read and a few times what he wrote made me chuckle. He is fascinated by the ‘human side of work’ so there are many lessons in this book which emphasise the need to understand ‘why people do what they do’. For example, when talking about studying the main schools of psychological theory he states that, for consultants, “It’s immensely important for a consultant to have a fundamental understanding of the many facets of human thought and action.” What Professor Manning gives us is call to action for us to take this need for understanding seriously which is based on his years of experience with a multitude of clients in many sectors.