Stop Saying “I Can’t” and Start Acting Like a Consultant

Hearing someone say “I can’t” is one of my top pet peeves of all time.

If you’re being asked for something that’s a true impossibility—I can understand that—but too often I hear “I can’t” when the real answer is “I can solve you problem, but I’ll need to approach that problem from a different angle.”

“I can’t” is probably one of the most limiting statements you can make as a professional. Be a consultant and take a minute to troubleshoot, and focus on finding a kick-ass solution to the problem at hand. Immediately responding to any request with “I can’t” is not acceptable. It whiny and sounds like nails on a chalkboard and deserves an eyeroll.

Change the flow of your conversation by behaving like a consultant:

  • Listen to what’s being said—and even more importantly—to what’s not being said. For a great book on how to really listen as a consultant, check out Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play.
  • Focus on identifying the right solution to a problem. To me, that means taking a step back and evaluating rather your solution creates another problem and if it does, modifying your strategy so that you can prevent or solve that problem in a way. That also means that sometimes you’ll have to tell someone that they way they want it done may not be the best thing for them. Which leads to my next point…
  • Go beyond managing your client relationship and start really caring about your client. Learn who they are, what makes them tick, their likes/dislikes, understand the environment their operating in, and care about what they care about. Then develop a solution that makes the most sense for them. You’re not going to be able to deliver in a high-quality way if you don’t care about your client.

Now I’ll hop off my soap box and get back to work…

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