The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully


If you are a consultant, ever use one, or want to be one, this book will show you how to succeed.

With wit, charm, humor, and wisdom, Gerald Weinberg shows you exactly how to become a more effective ...

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The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully

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If you are a consultant, ever use one, or want to be one, this book will show you how to succeed.

With wit, charm, humor, and wisdom, Gerald Weinberg shows you exactly how to become a more effective consultant. He reveals specific techniques and strategies that really work!

Packed with practical details, the book shows you how to

  • keep ahead of your clients
  • create a special "consultant's survival kit"
  • trade improvement for perfection
  • negotiate in difficult situations
  • measure your effectiveness
  • be yourself

You will also find straightforward advice on marketing your services, including how to:

  • find clients
  • get needed exposure
  • set just-right fees
  • gain trust

The Secrets of Consulting — techniques, strategies, and first-hand experiences — all that you'll need to set up, run, and be successful at your own consulting business!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780932633019
  • Publisher: Dorset House Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/1986
  • Edition description: 20%
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 6: Avoiding Traps

If you know your audience, it's easy to set triggers.

Of course, it doesn't have to be potato chips. Subtle or blatant, printed material is all the same to me. The message on my phosphorescent key ring trumpets


Ominous enough, and it glows in the dark. It will certainly trigger me, but will it work for you? When you're opening the dynamite locker at midnight, will you notice the glow? Or, will there be a gigantic pipeline explosion?


For the sane half of the human population, serious, written triggers aren't nearly as effective as funny ones spoken out loud. Will Rogers, the American humorist, was a master of the memorable one-liner. In fact, whenever I think of Will Rogers, I remember the line:

"I never met a man I didn't like."

Which reminds me of a one-liner I read in 1974, on the wall of the men's room at Gumps in San Francisco:

"Will Rogers never met Richard Nixon."

Most of the time, compulsive readers immediately forget what they read, but that one-liner stuck. It made me realize I was growing older. In my youth, we didn't have Richard Nixon to kick around. There were no Richard Nixon jokes. There were Adolf Hitler jokes. We would have written,

"Will Rogers never met Adolf Hitler.

I remember reading a joke about Hitler's last days in his bunker:

The news from all fronts has turned sour. The Russians have reached Berlin. The Americans havecrossed the Rhine and are racing to beat the Russians into Germany. Overwhelmed by this awful news, Hitler turns to his assembled staff and rants, "That's it! Enough is enough! From now on, no more Mr. Nice Guy!"

Now a line like that has got to be a good trigger for something important. Just now, though, it worries me that Will Rogers might have been right. Could it be that World War II was caused by a misunderstanding? Was poor Adolf really a kindly fellow, misunderstood by us all?

The Titanic Effect

There's always trouble when a national leader loses touch with public reality. The leader's power compounds the trouble, but that's not what makes a disaster. To quote Will Rogers again,

"It ain't what we don't know that gets us in trouble, it's what we know that ain't so."

I think Rogers was on to something big. I don't know about Hitler, but Nixon might have weathered the storm if he hadn't been so sure of himself. Ask any poker player who thought four aces was an unbeatable hand.

The rule in poker is that you don't lose your shirt on bad hands, but on hands that "can't lose." The owners of the Titanic "knew" that their ship was unsinkable. They weren't going to waste time steering around icebergs, or waste money having needless lifeboats.

This attitude can be devastating, as expressed in The Titanic Effect:

The thought that disaster is impossible often leads to an unthinkable disaster.

The trouble starts when you know something that "ain't so." Then, it gets worse because you are so aggressively sure of yourself that you act as if there's no possibility of being wrong. Because you're so sure of yourself, a minor mistake may be? converted into a major tragedy.

Triggering on Natural Events

So how could we concoct a trigger for The Titanic Effect? If managers at Northern Natural Gas want to keep me from blasting their pipeline, they don't have to teach me exactly where the pipeline crosses my property. All they need to do is plant a seed of uncertainty. If you had the slightest doubt about where that pipeline was, would you light the fuse?

Of all the people in the world, the Swiss seem to have the best modem record of avoiding Titantic-like disasters. Can anyone conceive of a Swiss Hitler, or even a Swiss Nixon?

Now some will say that the famous Swiss democracy is the reason they stay out of trouble. Most Swiss don't even know who's President, so there's not much danger even from a President who happens to be a bit too self-confident.

But as a compulsive reader and potato chip muncher who lived in Switzerland for many years, I think I have a better answer: The Swiss have a secret trigger for The Titanic Effect.

There's a potato chip company in Switzerland with an enormous fleet of little red-and-yellow trucks scurrying through the streets. You can hardly walk a block in any city without a Zweifel truck zipping by. And if you happen to be a compulsive reader, that's all the trigger you need, for Zweifel in German means "doubt."

But if you aren't a compulsive reader, or aren't lucky enough to live in Appenzell or Zurich, what good does Zweifel do you? You'll need something else, something that happens all the time, like Zweifel trucks, to trigger a few healthy doubts about what you know for sure.

When you're playing poker, you might remember the Titanic whenever those tiny icebergs clink in your martini. In my case, I remember Will Rogers every time I meet a client I don't like. Then Will reminds me that what I know about that person may not be so.


It should now be quite clear to everybody that most of my troubles come not from falling satellites but from failing brain cells. My own. The Main Maxim cautions me:

What you don't know may not hurt you, but what you don't remember always does.

I know when I've had this kind of trouble when I mutter to myself: "You pea-brained idiot! You knew better than that." The Titanic Effect admonishes me:

The thought that disaster is impossible often leads to an unthinkable disaster.

I recognize Titanic Effects by their titanic effect, or when I swear under my breath: "You pigheaded fool! Can't you ever admit that you might be wrong?" Knowing these things, I want to do something about them, but The White Bread Warning puts me on the alert:...

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Table of Contents

Why Consulting Is So Tough
Cultivating a Paradoxical Frame of Mind
Being Effective When You Don't Know What You're Doing
Seeing What's There
Avoiding Traps
Amplifying Your Impact
Gaining Control of Change
How to Make Changes Safely
What to Do When They Resist
Marketing Your Services
Putting a Price on Your Head
How to Be Trusted
Getting People to Follow Your Advice
Readings and Other Experiences
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  • Posted April 5, 2011

    If you consider yourself a consultant, you MUST read this book!

    In contrast to many other books with promising titles such as "how to XYZ in 21 days" or "Succeeding with XYZ", this book really does stand up to the promise of providing the "Secrets of consulting" (or at least some of them).

    Chapter after chapter Jerry Weinberg unveils the principles and truths behind being a successful consultant. He does this in a humorous and appealing ways, using stories and examples from multiple domains, making this book not only informative and educational, but also a fun experience for the reader.

    Since the very beginning of this book, I got a feeling that I could trust what the writer sais (writes), and as I continued to read on, This trust had increased more, even when some of things written are a hard to implement and require self discipline and character, I do believe that by following the principles offered I can (and will) be a better consultant and of a better service to my customers. I could already detect myself using some of the stuff without deliberate intention.
    I would claim that this book is a must have in every consultant's library.
    The only regret I have about reading this book, is that I haven't done it 5 years ago.

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