I just returned from a weeklong visit at the Mayo Clinic seeking medical advice and treatment for my daughter. It was unlike any medical experience I have seen. I won’t go into details here, but I would like to share a few aspects of the experience that we can all learn from. 

From the Covid screeners at the front doors to the nurses on the floors to the physicians, every single person conveying caring, warmth and professionalism. Every single person took time to extend a warm greeting and make eye contact. Nobody was too busy to make a personal connection. Clearly, it is considered part of the job.

Each of three specialists we met understood that communication is a two-way street. They each spent an hour asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. They did not jump to any conclusions; instead they explored every avenue before developing a diagnosis. Once they reached their conclusions, they delivered them with compassion and patience. They offered constructive solutions for moving forward even when their medical investigation did not yield the desired results.

I usually use this blog to share communication lessons, but my experience at Mayo gave me insight into what organizations should expect from their consultants and what consultants should deliver to their clients.  

Listen actively. Consultants often (rightly) assume that clients want to hear their ideas. However, the best strategies evolve from fully understanding the client organization, its culture, its assets and its challenges. It is important to invest the time upfront in order to prevent missteps later on. Some clients may push back at paying for the time this takes—they want someone who can “hit the ground running.” Resist that temptation; it will make the end results less valuable.

Challenge assumptions. Often organizations rely on pre-existing beliefs to guide their strategies. A good consultant will recognize the need to question these assumptions in order to properly diagnose the problem and deliver the desired result.

Deliver information constructively. Every consultant has to share unhappy news from time to time. Maybe a strategy didn’t work out as planned or the consultant can’t do what is requested or something is more costly than anticipated. The information should be delivered as constructively as possible. There should be a clear understanding of the options available and alternative paths forward.

Treat everyone with appreciation and respect. This is essential but often overlooked in our quests to show just how busy we all are. It doesn’t take much time to make eye contact, to acknowledge people’s hard work, and it will make their day and yours a little more pleasant.