Being a Great Consultant – mastering the process not the content

I was recently asked what it took to get from being a good consultant to being a great one.  A simple question, but as I described in an earlier post a tough one to answer.  It helped me greatly to clarify first what it took to be Beyond Good as a consultant – qualities summarised in the previous blog below. Finally I came to describe the qualities of what I believe makes the Great Consultant. They possess the qualities of the Beyond Good consultant but have grown to now:

  • Quickly and imperceptibly become the confidante of their clients
  • Become their clients’ long term trusted advisor
  • Re-frame their clients’ thinking and world view through the questions they ask and the insights they generate
  • Be a ‘servant leader’ in their relationship with clients, their ego subsumed to the needs of their client
  • Have a wide repertoire of ‘situational’ consulting styles which they flex and align to the needs of  their client and business context
  • Recognise that there are times when they are at their most powerful / influential when they do and say the least – being the still small voice in the room
  • Selflessly and generously offers insights, shares knowledge, connect people in every conversation
  • Maintain relationships over extended periods of time demonstrating a real interest in and concern for their clients whether or not there is consulting work active or in the offing
  • Continuously, skilfully and adventurously, invest time and energy in their own development as a person as well as a professional
  • Doubt they really know anything other than they have become masters of the process not the content

If you can help me improve this list do let me know, it wasn’t easy getting to here!

The Beyond Good Consultant – the stepping stone to being a Great Consultant

I was recently asked what it took to get from being a good consultant to being a great one.  A simple question, but as I described in an earlier post a tough one to answer. I really wasn’t that sure what a Great consultant was like but I was pretty clear what it was like to go beyond good.  The Beyond Good consultant is someone who has the qualities of the Good Consultant outlined in my previous blog below but who now:

  • Quickly establishes personal credibility with their clients
  • Has integrity that shines through enabling clients to open up their private thinking to the consultant confident in the knowledge that confidentiality is key
  • Recognises the need to be themselves, not ‘acting the part’ of being a consultant, trusting that their insights and feelings are valid and provide value to their client
  • Is flexible and adaptable in their ways of working with clients, recognising intuitively that different contexts require different styles of engagement
  • Develops new frameworks and models in addition to being adept and at ease with a broad range of established one
  • Challenges the thinking, assumptions and world views of their clients – subtly not bluntly, opening their eyes to new ways of seeing the world, the issues they have to deal with and preparing the ground for breakthrough and break out strategies
  • Ensures no long term dependency on them as consultants – leaves a legacy of embedded capability so client doesn’t need their help to do that sort of project again
  • and in the midst of all of this now doubts they truly know their stuff as they once though they did

If you can help me improve this list do let me know.

My description of the Great Consultant follows in the next blog.

What it takes to be a Good Consultant

I was recently asked what it took to get from being a good consultant to being a great one.  A simple question, but as I described in an earlier post a tough one to answer. I think I have a pretty good handle on what makes a good consultant and described the good consultant’s qualities as someone who:

  • Knows their stuff
  • Quickly builds an effective working relationship with their clients
  • Has, and adheres to a clear and consistent method of working with their clients
  • Has a wide repertoire of consulting tools and frameworks they use appropriately and with confidence
  • Invests time to listen, gather data, understand the broader context of the presenting problem
  • Engages in a structured process of diagnosis and root cause analysis to get to the heart of the issue to be resolved and develops solutions that address these root causes rather than the surface / presenting problems
  • Taps in to their deep body of technical know-how to shape and develop practical and pragmatic solutions
  • Understands the fundamentals of change management and in particular the necessity for key stakeholders to be engaged and involved in the change process
  • Is disciplined and structured in the way they plan change and implementation – and remain disciplined and vigilant in the delivery of those action plans
  • Is collaborative in their approach to working both with consulting colleagues when working in consulting teams, and collaborative in their work with their clients
  • Is concerned to ensure that their clients are active participants in the change process
  • Recognises that benefits realisation is key to the success of the project and that benefits are both tangible and intangible, organisation wide and also personal to their clients and sponsors
  • Is flexible in their approach and methodology – not a slave to their methodology
  • Is inquisitive and open to new learning
  • Is business savvy
  • Is aware of and sensitive to the ‘dynamics’ of change processes – interplay

If you can help me improve this list do let me know.

My descriptions of the Beyond Good Consultant and the Great Consultant follow in the next blogs.

How do you become a great consultant? Simple question, tough to answer

I was recently asked what it took to get from being a good consultant to being a great one.  A simple question, and one that I thought I could answer quite easily having been a consultant for 30 years. However its the simple questions that prompt the deepest thought. And the more I reflected the less sure I knew what a great consultant was.  I had a handle on what being a good consultant is but the jump from good to great is a big leap indeed.  To bridge the gap I worked on what I thought the qualities of the ‘beyond good’ consultant are.  It turned out to be quite straight-forward to describe. That done I turned to the ‘great’ category – and had a go.  Easier I thought to understand the great consultant through the client’s eyes, and with that perspective in mind and with the  ‘beyond good’ characteristics sorted it became an easier task.

I’ve summarised the characteristics of the Good, Beyond Good, and The Great Consultant in the next three blogs.

I know they can be improved and I’d welcome your feedback and comments to help do so.

The Awkward Talent Paradox of Growth

The impact of the post-Lehman recession has left no business unscathed and for many, perhaps too many, they are no longer with us.  The vast majority of businesses hunkered down, dealt with the crisis, restructured and refocused their tight resources. They displayed toughness, resilience and ingenuity to deal with the challenges.  The economic climate has been improving at long last in many, though not all economies, and indeed the opportunities for some organisations are now the best they have experienced in over a decade.

Many clearly and unambiguously had the capabilities, skill,  cast of mind and personality to lead their organisations through crisis and recovery. The awkward paradox is that a fair proportion of these businesses do not now have what it takes to seize the moment.  The awkwardness is that their current leaders are the very people they relied on so successfully to get them through to today.  People they openly acknowledge they owe a debt to.

We are currently working with one such organisation, an international financial service business, where this paradox is only too apparent.  There is a commitment now to invest in the development of those whose talents were so vital to them over the last few years of retrenchment, restructuring and consolidation.  But our research into the what future leaders need to excel in redefines talent and potential for them opening the doors to a new wave of next generation leaders. But at the same time closing down options for some of the ‘hi-potentials’ of 2008 – 2013.

The development centres we will be running for them, their investment in management development now funds available, and their desire to bring in and integrate new talent are all demonstrate a forward thinking and humane response to this talent paradox.  Their fast growing business will have to exercise the subtle arts of engagement, communications, sensitivity to personal ambitions and motivations whilst rebuilding and extending their talent pool.  Not easy at all but all the signs are that they will do this well.

As we talk to executives of other organisations we see that the talent paradox of growth is a live and current issue everywhere.  The skills of survival are not the skills of growth, entrepreneurship, opportunity seizing, capability building.  The legacy talent bench no longer embodies the skills and leadership styles required to move the business forward in today’s VUCA but optimistic environment.  So:

  • Where do your new leaders come from?
  • How many of your legacy talent pool can be revitalised?
  • How many are now going nowhere further?
  • How do you treat them with dignity, say thank you for contributions in the past but bypass them for the new generations?
  • And do you yet know who these next generations leaders are?
  • And do you know what they need to be good at?
  • So, how do you find those with the potential to be next generation leaders in your organisation?
  • And if you can’t find them from within what will you do to find them outside?
  • And how will you accelerate their development?
  • And how will you build cross-generational bridges with the long serving executives?
  • And how do you do all of this with a business focus, at pace and with dignity and humanity?

Resolve this talent paradox and your company can join the select band of renaissance businesses.