Key consultancy styles

In the final part of our blog posts on the art of consultancy and its associated skills we look at the different styles that you can come across as an in-house specialist or ‘consultant’.

In your job role, you are likely to interact with a wide range of clients, in different internal functions, who all have their own unique problems.

You need to be able to choose a style of working appropriate to each situation.

We’ve identified four separate styles of communication that will help you to adapt your personal style to differing circumstances and personalities:

consultancy styles

Active listening: This is used when your internal client’s feelings and emotions are stopping them from dealing with the issue in a logical manner. The key to an active listening approach is being empathetic, helping them to acknowledge and cope with the feelings that are blocking progress. In this mode, you stay very closely with the client and his or her frame of reference until they say, or you sense, that they are ready to move on.

Directional questioning: Here you support your client in clarifying their understanding of the problem, analyse it and then move on to look at all possible options before making a committed decision. It’s important to be certain that your client is ready to be gently encouraged to move away from their initial ‘safe’ position on the issue you are tackling.

Challenging: When you find that the client is part of the problem itself, you may need to point out that there is an inconsistency between what they say they will do and what they are actually doing. This is a high risk intervention and you must be sure that your relationship with the client and the level of trust between you is very high before you use this style.

Prescriptive: A prescriptive approach can be defined as listening to your client’s problem, conducting a thorough diagnosis, and then offering them a solution or recommendation. Your client needs to have bought in to your credibility and expertise and to have given ‘permission’ for you, in effect, to tell them what to do!

To get a chance of practising these four styles, and how they are experienced as a client, find out more about the Leaders Lab Consultancy Skills Programme for Internal Advisers.

If any of the themes raised during this, or the other two consultancy blog posts, strike a chord, then do leave a comment or email us at

More to Read:

Your Mindset & Your Assessment of Risk
Inject a Little Risk
The Right Conditions For Developing Your Employees