The OD Process Professional Certification Program helps those entering the field of Organization Development to demonstrate an OD Process approach when working with leaders, teams, and individuals. The OD Process Consulting Model teaches participants how to work with clients effectively and helps them to build rapport in client relationships to gain their trust and confidence. The OD Process approach is knowing when and how to give help and to build relationships that are more productive and satisfying.
As an OD Process Professional, you need to recognize the client’s emotional state before offering help. At the beginning of every helping relationship, there is a state of imbalance. Often the helping process fails because not enough time was spent building the relationship, setting expectations, or contracting for agreement.
When clients need help, asking for it can create an uncomfortable situation that results in an emotional response. The OD Process Professional must deal with the tension and anxiety that arises when building this relationship. The client may experience several initial responses when offered help, such as mistrust, relief, attention-seeking (seeks reassurance and/or validation instead of help), resentment and defensiveness (pulling the helper down), or stereotyping (having unrealistic expectations, and transference of perceptions/projections onto the helper – basically a mistrust of helping relationships). Lack of awareness of these responses may make it harder for the helper to build a balanced relationship.
Building a long-term relationship is the key to success when working with clients. To build a successful relationship, the Process Consultant begins by asking questions to learn more about the client, their expectations, and their experience working with others. The Process Consultant also helps the client define roles, identify needs and preferences, clarify outcomes, and set goals to help them be successful.
When taking on the Process Consultant role, here are a few areas to avoid:
- Taking on the expert role and prematurely assuming you know the answer to the problem without gathering data.
- Taking on the doctor role and prescribing the solution; assuming the client has the skills to fix the problem.
- Taking over the lead too quickly and pressuring the client to move forward to implement a solution before identifying the priorities and contingencies.
- Resisting taking on the helping role and relying on the client to take the lead while you act as a pair of hands.
- Judging the client’s ability to change and forming a bias that impacts your ability to work with the client effectively.
Learning how to build a helping relationship means you’ll have the ability to assess the client, understand their resistance, overcome your emotional responses to their reactions, and show patience, caring, and understanding. Showing curiosity in the client (to learn more about them) while being mindful of your own emotions, biases, and perceptions will help you to focus on the client and build a successful relationship with them.
At the beginning of the helping relationship, the information needed can be gathered by asking questions that help you identify what you don’t know and what the client doesn’t know. There are several considerations to make when collecting this information: Does the client understand the questions being asked? Is the client able to make decisions? What is the client’s real motivation for asking for help? What are the client’s standing and relationship with other members of the organization? Does the client have the knowledge and skills to follow up on the helper’s recommendations? What will it cost the client emotionally, socially, and financially to accept the help?
The helper must choose a role that will influence the flow of information. There are several roles you can choose from:
- An expert who can provide information or resources
- A doctor who diagnoses and prescribes
- An OD Process Consultant who helps the client solve their own problems through effective questioning, guiding, facilitating, and consulting
The Process Consultant role focuses on the communication process by paying attention to the behavior, body language, tone of voice, and other cues that help you to learn more about the client. A helping relationship is built by the interest the helper conveys using a humble inquiry approach. The helper will start with a general question to reveal what the client doesn’t understand. A simple inquiry can be: “Tell me a bit more,” “When did this start?”, or “What did you do?”. By asking for additional information, the helper is doing three things:
- Building the client’s status by giving him/her the role of knowing something important
- Conveying interest and emotional commitment to the situation
- Receiving crucial information to enable the helper to figure out what to do or ask next
There are four types of inquiry:
- Pure Inquiry – To build the client’s status and confidence and create a safe environment. Some questions to ask: Tell me more…, How can I help…, What brings you here…, Can you give me some examples…, What else would help us understand more?
- Diagnostic Inquiry – The helper begins to influence the client’s mental process by focusing on issues other than the ones reported in order to dig deeper. Some questions to ask: How do you feel about that…, How did you get there…, Why did you react that way…, What have you tried so far?, What are you planning to do next? The goal is to build the client’s own diagnostic capacity to think more clearly about possible consequences of actions and decisions.
- Confrontational Inquiry – The helper interjects his or her own ideas about the process or story and makes suggestions or offers options. Such interventions require taking on the expert or doctor role and should only be considered when trust and confidence have been established to make this type of inquiry successful. Here are some suggestions: Here’s how I see it…, What do you think? Did you confront him or her about that?, Would you consider doing this?, Here’s my suggestion, How could you try this?
- Process-Oriented Inquiry – The helper shifts the focus from the client’s process or perspective to a focus on the here and now. Here are some questions to ask: What do you think is happening between us right now?, How is our conversation going so far?, Are my questions helping you? You can combine inquiry questions -such as confrontational and process-oriented, for example, you seem to be leaving some information out of your story…, or I wonder why you are leaving out some critical details about the past?
Use process inquiry when there is an opportunity is to shift the focus when the client has said something that is significant to the story and needs to be remembered. The shift or the action should be tied to something the client said.
The inquiry process is more than active listening, it also requires an understanding of the individual’s social and psychological dynamics. Process inquiry involves building trust when someone asks for help and understanding how challenging it can be to trust someone with information that could be detrimental to them.
The Process Consultant helps the client identify roles and gain agreement on how they will work together. Once the client forms a trusting relationship and commits to becoming an active problem solver, asking inquiry questions at a deeper level becomes more challenging.
To learn more about the role of the OD Process Consultant and how you can gain certification as an OD Process Practitioner, please visit our website at www.instituteod.com/programs/ODPC
Dr. Nancy Zentis is the Chief Strategist and CEO of Institute of Organization Development (IOD), offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and Professional Development Skills for ongoing learning. As a consultant in the field of OD for many years, Nancy is recognized for her experience as an OD Consultant working with many clients to create strategies for Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Talent Management, and Organization Development Change. She can be reached at Nancy.firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about our OD certification programs and professional development workshops, please visit our website www.instituteod.com.
Reference: Edgar H. Schein, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling