First and foremost: you can relax since this is just a lighthearted story, inspired by this video with American pranksters who pulled a joke on cops relating to coke as in Coca Cola. Remember, I’m in the business of clean consultancy, not of cocaine nor soda pops. 😏
Now we’ve managed to clear up the coke confusion, let’s deal with my bitch.
My wife turned 67 this winter. She worked extremely hard for many years digging for coal in the mines to make a living. Admittedly, she’s not a beauty. Pretty bitter perhaps. Can’t even remember the last time she laughed. That’s her in the black-and-white portrait. I gave it to her as birthday present and barely got a mumbling thank you in return. Not even a small, simple smile. I guess she worries about our age difference.
You see, I turn only 38 in May. Although the big 4-0 approaches, I don’t freak out about it in contrast to my parents when they heard I’d get married. Let alone with a woman almost 30 years older than their only son. That’s where my mistress steps in the picture. She’s a young, gorgeous French mademoiselle. A bit shy. High class. Loves the luxury life. Whereas my wife used to dig for coal, my mistress digs for gold.
Makes me the biggest dig, I guess.
Here’s where my problem kicks in. Supporting two women, my wife and mistresses, takes its toll on my expenditures. Now, my French mistress demands I get her portrayed too after I stupidly told her about my gift for my wife’s birthday. To redeem this foolish mistake without much money left to spend, I’ve found a clever solution.
Yep, I bet you’ve already guessed it from the get-go: I photocopied the portrait of my 67 year old wife, switched the copy since she’s practically too blind to see the difference, and wrapped the original as gift for my mistress. But my young mistress is too shrewd to notice the portrait features a necklace she doesn’t have yet.
Oh well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to please his mistress. That’s exactly where the bitch enters my story.
I’m selling my bitch to get some cash for the necklace. She’s very low-maintenance and doesn’t snarl . I own her for about 10 years already, but she’s just hanging around in my living room so please go ahead and make an offer to make Dali your bitch.
Obviously I’ve made up the entire story. Everything’s totally unbelievable, although I really do own a copy of this particular painting by Dalí. But true enough, the dead giveaway must have been the part where I—of all bachelors—claimed to have a wife. So what’s the moral of this fictional story, and how does it relate to consulting?
People often start on different pages about seemingly same subjects
As consultant, most of your time you’re conversing with clients. Whether you tag along with business managers on presales meetings to discover the deeper desire or problem a client faces; facilitate workshops to dig up the client’s functional specs; or talk with your client one-on-one about some issue (s)he’d like to see resolved.
The public secret goes that we often misinterpret what your conversation partner tells you. And yet, we usually forget that our personal mental map of reality is unique. So by definition, your map diverges from your client’s map of reality. Ranging from fairly small differences if you know each other well to a gaping disparity if you’ve just met. Other important factors such as culture, situational context and language play a major role in misinterpretations as well.
So you probably associated my thought-provoking use of bitch with profanity, your ex or a complaining woman disrespectfully (the last two are not mutually exclusive), while in all my “innocence” I referred to a female dog.
As for my Dali the dog story, this oversimplified illustration of the mouse above won’t likely happen in reality. But what about everyday corporate jargon in your industry?
Take websites for example since we all know what a website is, right?
So let’s say your client asks your advice to get one. What does (s)he really mean and want? Simple internet presence with the usual about page, contact info and product portfolio? Web applications fully integrating with back-office processes and their customer database? A mobile app to take online orders? You name it.
Best way to find out regardless the topic.
ASK (Ask³, Summarize² & Know¹ if you’ve really nailed it all)
The numbers roughly indicate the relative amount of time you’ll need to get it right:
◽ 3/6th of asking questions to dig deep, deeper, deepest without being an interrogating askhole
◽ 2/6th of summarizing what you’ve heard so far to check if you truly understand your client
◽ 1/6th of knowing if every single issue has been addressed to ensure you’ve got them all (right)
Usually that means you only get one final shot by the end of your dialogue to double check that you know exactly what your client really means. In case you find those numbers too scientific, try the biological clue:
You’ve got two ears and only one mouth, so use that 2:1 ratio for listening:talking wisely.
Stay tuned for more dedicated articles here about the two women in my consulting life:
Miss Communication who likes to provoke Miss Understanding.
In closing, enjoy the prank video below that inspired me to write this post.
Please drop me a line (coke pun unintended) with your thoughts on this lighthearted story.
Thank you for reading my post(s) and interacting here with me and fellow consultants.