Consulting Roles for L&D – Part Two

In our previous blog, Consulting Roles for L&D Part One, we identified that to successfully focus on performance, L&D must be redesigned so that it’s goal is to enhance human performance in support of business goals. In doing so, L&D professionals act as performance consultants in their organizations. But transitioning to a performance consultant from the more traditional role of learning consultant is not always easy, especially if they have been working and viewed as an Expert or Pair of Hands and not as a Collaborator by the client.

The following is a summary of both benefits and drawbacks for each of the three roles.

Expert Role


  • The consultant retains control of the situation. Ego gratification and self-esteem are enhanced.
  • Decisions are executed quickly.
  • Specialized expertise is applied to the problem.


  • The client may not be committed to the solution.
  • Inaccurate and incomplete diagnosis is probable. Only the consultant’s (limited) perspective is brought to the situation. Important information may be missed or misunderstood
  • When the consultant initiates communication with the client, although it may it may appear to be two-way, it is usually limited.
  • Client responsibilities are rarely specified. Consequently, if the initiative is not successful, the consultant will be blamed for the failure.

Pair of Hands Role


  • The consultant is responsive to client’s request. Action can be taken swiftly.
  • Relives the consultant from decision making.
  • The client’s stated needs are supported.


  • Ineffective or incorrect actions may be taken due to an inaccurate assessment of the problem by the client.
  • Resolution of the performance problem is unlikely. Performance problems usually have many causes and are rarely solved by one action such as learning and development or recruiting and onboarding. A learning and development initiative is often the solution of choice used to fix the performance problem since it is often the first thing that comes to mind. (everyone attends the two-day program).
  • Blame may be attributed to the consultant for not solving the problem. The two-day program from L&D didn’t work or it was “no good”.
  • Actions and accountabilities are not specified in this role. The consultant is responsible for implementation by default.
  • The consultant implicitly endorses the proposed action.

Collaborative Role


  • Accurate diagnosis is more likely and more strategic. Both parties participate throughout the initiative.
  • The client has invested time and energy in decisions. Commitment to the approach and solution is higher.
  • Achievement of the desired results is more likely because all actions by both parties have been specified and taken.
  • Lessons learned occurs during the intervention for both parties. This can be beneficial for future work.
  • A relationship is established. Mutual trust and respect is encouraged and necessary to ensure success. This can carry over to future interventions.


  • Both the consultant and the client require more time. Numerous meetings and decisions are necessary. Differences are sometimes difficult to resolve. (ultimately achieving results the first time is more effective and efficient than taking several separate ineffective actions).
  • Many clients are more experienced in the other two roles (Expert and Pair of Hands) and may resist this approach. Collaboration requires a sustained effort and commitment, which some clients may not wish to provide.

The following are possible questions to sustaining and further developing successful Business Performance Consulting competencies. These questions are to facilitate growth and purposeful action. Think of the most recent initiatives with your business partner (client):

  1. Did the role I played (Expert, Pair of Hands, Collaboration) make sense to me, given my current business partner and the initiatives that I have with them?
  2. Is this the role that my business partner wants to me to fulfil (be in)?
  3. Is this the role that I want to fulfil (be in)?
  4. Do I feel that I am proactively positioning towards Collaboration versus an Expert or Pair of Hands role?
  5. What are some of the things that I am doing today to cultivate the business partnership and maintain a strong relationship?
  6. Have I “earned the right” to be more collaborative and more strategic due to my credibility in the Expert and Pair of Hands role or has it hindered my role as an L&D Business Partner?

Earning the Right to be More Collaborative Through Credibility

Credibility is achieved when the business partner believes in the consultant’s capability to deliver results for the business that they expect and the consultant has met the agreed upon criteria and standards. Earning the right to be collaborative often begins with successful interventions carried out in the role of Expert or Pair of Hands. However, credibility requires the consultant to have a deep knowledge of the business they support. A successful Performance Consultant understands the organization’s business model and the external factors impacting upon it and will continue to gain a better understanding of the business no matter what role they are in.

Typically, the L&D professional will need to use all three consulting roles. However, remember if they:

  • want to link their initiatives and efforts to business needs
  • Want to ensure that the work environment will support the initiative
  • Want to do all that is possible to ensure the initiatives will yield organizational results


They must work as an equal partner with their clients in a collaborative role.

For more information on FKA’s Performance Consulting Workshop.

To assist your organization transition to a more collaborative role or to attend the Performance Consulting workshop, please contact Geoff Nolan at

FKA President
Michael Nolan