Trust is not given, it is earned. This is a lesson T.A. Cook Manager, Joy Singh, has learned time and time again over his eight years working as a consultant. “Having a trusting relationship is absolutely essential to the work we do. The client is relying on us to bring the right knowledge and skills, and we are relying on the client to share with us the right information and to be open to our ideas and feedback.”
Text: Jennifer Layer Adams
When first starting a project on site Singh knows that you can’t jump right in to making changes without first cultivating a solid relationship. Much the same as learning to race a car, a friendly base must first be laid between the instructor and the student before any real progress can occur. “Taking high performance driving classes taught me some things about pacing yourself and the proper time it takes to receive feedback for changes in things we already know how to do really well” says the speed hungry consultant. “Before you even get into the car the instructor and you have to walk the track and establish a connection and good rapport.”
From his high performance driver training Singh has gained insights on how to take the time to build a proper foundation with a client before rushing into any lessons or change inducing critiques. Singh brings these values of patience and personality bonding into every site he steps on. One particular petrochemical site requested consulting support to reduce the duration of routine outages, improve equipment breakdowns, and to improve the efficiency of their maintenance work management process. “These people have been operating these facilities for years and have been doing a good job at it,” says Singh. “However, they want to stand above the other Petrochemical players which is why they called us, to bring them to that next level.”
Even when being called onto a site consultants are often met with some resistance. “At any time when change is being pushed on people as a management directive, which was the case at this site, it can stir up emotions and distrust. Especially when the changes are being suggested from an outsider,” says Singh. “Which is why it is so important to first build a relationship and make them feel comfortable with the idea that we are there to work with them and not against them.”
Singh builds this relationship by first getting to know the workers on an individual and personal level. Going out to lunch or coffee, bonding over similar interests, learning their personal work style and motivators, and allowing them to see that he’s not there to tell them how to run the process, rather he’s there to share with them the experiences and standards for better industry practices that have been more effective at delivering the same results faster and at a lower cost.
“Any kind of coaching is a sensitive practice” says Singh. “For example, there is definitely a delicate balance between the amount of praise and critique that is appropriate to give out and between the amount of time spent observing versus conversating.” When it comes to changing processes or long-established ways of doing things Singh understands that these changes cannot be imposed on the people but rather walked through together hand in hand. “It’s all about pulling the client with you rather than pushing them.”
Whether its learning to race a car or coaching others to improve their work processes, Singh knows how to take his time and create relationships that allow for the highest level of achievement. “My greatest passion is helping people and businesses to perform at the highest level they can. It’s why I'm even in consulting, to see, not just my friends, but most people that come into my life understand what their total potential is, or what their potential could be.”