That said, I encourage you to read the article. You'll find references to the importance of objectivity and humility (which I agree with), and suggestions such as how one should "Establish Yourself As The Expert" (which I do not agree with). If your expertise in the client's mind isn't already established, then it's not likely to emerge positively during a dispute.
I agree with much of Barnes' advice, I just think he's talking about having the wrong conversation. The moment you sense you're about to be drawn into a positional negotiation with your client should be the precise instant when you reset the conversation. It's not about you being right and your client being wrong; it's about working together to reach the best possible solution(s) for the organization. There's a big difference.
When it comes to serving the organization, you and your client should work from the same side of the table. The "I'm right, you're wrong" conversation is unnecessarily personal and essentially irrelevant. Not to mention, prevailing in such an argument may result in the quintessential definition of winning the battle but losing the war. Whatever you do, don't take the bait! Your client is an ally with whom you may disagree, not your opponent.
I believe, of course, that despite your sharing the same organizational goals, you will disagree with your client as to how to achieve them from time to time. I delivered a presentation at Seton Hall University's Learning Leaders Symposium in 2008 called Truth to Power. It was originally aimed at providing truthful counsel to your CEO, but the same holds true for counseling clients: Here are my ten tips for speaking Truth to Client:
- Trust yourself. You have a great deal of value to bring to your client. Listen carefully to all perspectives and have the confidence to share your own.
- You owe it to your client to be heard. You're hired to draw from your expertise and bring your outside viewpoint to the conversation. Consider it your responsibility to share your professional judgment.
- Know your audience. Consider the best manner in which to frame and deliver your thoughts/ideas/concerns to ensure they are received favorably by the specific recipient.
- Be prepared with supporting data and anticipate questions. Come to the conversation with more than your self-proclaimed expertise. Be armed with data and be prepared to address perceived drawbacks.
- Make your case succinctly. Use your communication skills to state your thoughts succinctly and powerfully. Don't ramble.
- Advocate your case in the broader interest, not self interest. It's critical to the credibility and motives of your position that you're not perceived to be advocating a personal or agency agenda.
- Persuade (don't take ceremonial positions). If you believe in something strongly enough to mention it, then be sure to advocate it. You don't want to be the type who offers a thought in passing as a means of "personal/political cover."
- Be patient (let the information sink in). Once you've made your case, stop talking. Allow your client to process what you've said.
- Don't be afraid to share bad news. Understand that bad news or pitfalls are better coming from you now, than from the outside later on.
- Trust your client. Once you've been heard, the resulting course of action may be different from what you've advocated. Keep in mind that the client understands the information from which you are basing your recommendation, but you may not always be aware of all they know - and they are not always at liberty to share. Trust that the decision reached is in the best interest of the organization and join your client in moving forward.