Due to prioritising family time these days I decided to take a break from doing consultation work, other than the occasional phone consult. Every now and then someone on the Sunshine Coast will contact me and given that it’s local I sometimes make exceptions depending on my schedule. I had recently had a phone consult with a local client and given the nature of the problems faced there was a need to follow-up with an in-home visit. I’m glad I did as it certainly made a significant difference on a number of levels. I’m not going to get into specific details as I take the confidentiality of working with my clients seriously. What I can do in this forum however is to share some of the general learning experiences, philosophies and approaches used in some of my consult sessions so that reader’s can hopefully benefit as well.
In the case of my most recent consult there was plenty of food for thought that we can all find value in reflecting on. I’m going to elaborate on three of these over the next three posts (including this one). Let’s start off with…
Want behaviour change? – Get that environment right
When you do in-home consultation work you get used to being prepared for anything. I’ve pretty much seen it all – the very good and the not so very good. One thing you need to be prepared to do is to sometimes throw out Plan A (your original pre-consult goal set) and switch to Plan B. Plan B rarely actually `exists’ – the other (and perhaps more appropriate) term for it is `Wing it and work with whatever is in front you in most need of changing’. What starts off as - `Yeah – let’s see if we can get together and work on that step up behaviour!’ quickly gets shelved in favour of - `Umm – let’s see if we can do a renovation rescue on this here cage so the little fella doesn’t have to perform a Cirque de Soleil routine just to get anywhere near your hand’. In almost every in-home consultation I have done over more than 10 years of going into people’s homes to help them with their parrots I can’t recall a single one that didn’t start off with some necessary improvised goal setting re-directed towards environmental change. In my experience, the most potent precursor to the establishment of behavioural issues with parrots that are incompatible with harmony in the home lies firmly and squarely in poor environmental arrangement. The absolute bottom line for achieving any behaviour change goal is that the starting point for success is in environmental change.
So…What’s often wrong with these environments? It varies – anything from completely inappropriate housing, improper perching, inadequate enrichment, excessive exposure to aversive stimuli, poor diet management, improper handling – the whole suite. Therein lies the dilemma if you are working with a client in an environment where just about none of the right boxes are ticked. Where do you start? This is where the skill of consulting is much greater than just theoretical understanding. Being able to determine what your client actually has the capacity to achieve both financially and motivationally is critical. There is no greater waste of time than instructing a client from an authoritative stance and setting up what amounts to a list of demands for what you might know are `ideal’ but in reality may never be achieved by the owner. The concept of `approximations’ is just as relevant for goal setting with clients as it is with their birds – a very, very important idea to keep in mind as a consultant.
It can be a real challenge to think on the spot when consulting and come up with contingencies for situations that are outside of the scope of what you were mentally prepared for. Be prepared to set aside the more explicit expectations of the client which, in the client’s mind, most commonly starts with `I want the bird to do this…’ and redirect their thinking to where the foundations of behaviour change really need to be addressed first – which should see a mindset shift towards… `To get the bird to do this… we first need to have an environment that looks like this…’ That approach will ultimately make the difference between success and failure whilst (perhaps most critically) elevate the level of `ownership’ of the problems and the solutions to the client – not the consultant (I’ll reveal more on that in the future). Overcoming challenges in confronting situations is exceptionally rewarding – particularly knowing that you probably achieved more in your time with the client by taking a step back to go two forward.
So, next up over the next two posts I want to go into some detail on the following little reflections…
- Buyer Beware – Hand raised is all in the interpretation of the term
- Trust Account Bankruptcy – Happens long before you’ve called in the receivers
I’ll post each of these over the coming weeks so keep checking back in ☺
What's going to be more important during a consult session for this guy - A `Bird in the hand' or an `Environmental Makeover'? Sometimes the most important focus for achieving goals with clients requires a one step back approach to get those all important two steps forward. The `step back' is where consideration of the environment and the necessary antecedent arrangement to set the bird up for success is achieved.