Consult (v.tr.) To seek advice or information
Sherpas in Blue Shirts – what an odd image. Burly, weathered mountain guides certainly don’t match the mainstream view of well manicured, pinstriped professionals who jet in and out of clients’ offices offering sage advice for substantial fees. But perhaps they should. For hundreds of years, mountaineers have sought out experienced guides to aid their ascent, specifically those who knew the mountain’s landscape, weather and routes. The arrangement between the climber and Sherpa was truly a partnership based on alignment of interest. The adventurer wanted to reach the top. The Sherpa wanted to be paid. Dead clients don’t pay. At least not very well.
So how did the Sherpas develop such legendary status? Why did their clients readily share their experience and recommendations for the guide’s services? Ultimately, how did the Sherpa manage a successful trip every time? I believe it was because he/she never strayed from understanding four basic things:
- What is the client’s ultimate goal?
- What are the client’s capabilities?
- What are the environmental conditions influencing the trip?
- What is required of the Sherpa to ensure the client achieves his/her goal?
Racing to the top in record time would have robbed the client who wanted to achieve a well-paced, spiritual journey. Ignoring a client’s poor health and shoddy equipment often resulted in the injury or death of someone in the climbing party.
Perhaps it’s time we begin to rethink how consultants and their clients engage. Perhaps we should expect a true alignment of interest and active participation by consultants. Perhaps we need to confirm that they are providing an approach that is unique to the combination of the client’s objectives, capabilities and surrounding environment.
Perhaps it’s time we trade in those pinstripes for an ice axe and ropes.