Our study in Exodus 18 of Jethro as an effective consultant continues with principles 4 and 5.
- 18:12 Fully participate in traditions. Jethro participated in the traditions that were naturally occurring. It is especially helpful when the consultant can observe and participate in meaningful activities planned during the visit. This builds relationship and allows for points of future reference.
- 18:13-16 Observe the context first hand. Jethro was able to observe the organizational situation Moses was in first hand. He saw the dynamics of how many people waited in line to see Moses and certainly many never got to talk to him. During this time of observation, Jethro was able to formulate his response based on actual happenings, not just what he was told.
Anyone can serve another by offering a “fresh perspective.” We all see through different lenses. The consultant has honed his or her skill to assess and evaluate a problem situation. Gaining a true understanding through observation and dialogue is critical.
As was discussed in the blog on systems thinking, ones initial solution to a problem is rarely the best. Deeper reflection reveals interconnected parts that impact the problem. The art of dialogue enables the consultant to suspend opinions and solutions in order to discern organizational culture values and habits that could impact the way forward. A great book to increase your art of dialogue is On Dialogue by David Bohm.
How skilled are you at observation? If you have not yet read the classic story of Professor Agassiz and the Fish you should educate yourself to enhance your observation skill: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/11/16/agassiz-and-the-fish/
Lyle Schaller, respected Christian author and practitioner, notes “the most serious shortage in our society is for skilled transformational leaders who possess the capability to initiate planned change from within an organization” (The Interventionist p.11). He believes that the core essentials of an effective interventionist are the ability to ask the right questions.
The consultant must be sensitive to the distinctive culture and be prepared to customize a strategy for each unique situation. The consultant wants to diagnose a situation well through observation and dialogue so the solution that is offered has a transformational effect. Even the highly intuitive person will see far greater results when growing the skills of observation and dialogue. The end result is to see new habits formed that will rectify bad or less than helpful behavior. To put Jethro’s experience in more modern terms, watch the three minute video by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. ((http://charlesduhigg.com/) This helpful explanation of introducing positive change will be taken up in the next blog.
Next blog: The Consultation Process