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If drawing is about looking consultancy is about listening

Phil Swann, Si Managing Director writes

Charcoal sketch of life model (image by Phil Swann)

Charcoal sketch of life model (image by Phil Swann)

It struck me when I scrubbed out my fourth attempt to draw the line of the model’s back. Looking

from behind I could see he was leaning forwards but I was struggling to find a way of conveying that with charcoal in paper.

I was not learning how to use charcoal – that’s easy. I was learning how to see, how to relate one bit of a body to another, and to do so in a way which would help me to convey that on paper. The more you look, the more you see and the more changes you have to make to the drawing. It is simply not possible to get it right first time – because when you make the first mark on the paper you haven’t looked enough.

Similarly, consultancy is about listening. Crafting a set of recommendations is not difficult. But getting a clear picture (interesting word!) of what is happening, getting under the skin of an organisation, group or system, really understanding how one part or function relates to another and feeding that back to client in a way that is helpful to them….now that’s the difficult bit.

The same applies to winning work, to writing a convincing proposal.

I don’t agree with everything Tony Blair said or did, but I do think that he understood this. In his autobiography, A Journey, Blair talks about the many meetings he had with foreign leaders as part of the campaign to get the Olympics to London in 2012. This experience, he reflects, taught him the importance of listening:

“In most of my meetings with other leaders I would listen… or ask them questions to get them talking, so that I could listen. A good meeting is one where you have listened more than you have spoken.”

On that Blair was spot on.

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