Do you have the attributes of an outstanding consultant? We take a look at the personal qualities that make successful consulting happen.
Of course nobody is born perfect at anything – some of these traits you’ll be naturally blessed with, and some you’ll need to develop with a bit of practice and intention.
Part of the reason you’re being brought into a business is to fill a skills or knowledge gap. Sharing your techniques and principles with staff should be part of your service, leaving them better equipped when you leave than when you arrived.
Being a great teacher also means you’ll have a place in their hearts over the long term, and you’ll be the first person they think of when the next big challenge comes along.
So if you’re articulate, patient and great at communication, you’ve got this one in the bag.
Coming into a business as an outsider means your first job is to develop good working relationships based on trust. To help this happen, you need to be straightforward about your role and what you’re there to achieve, so that people know what to expect from you.
You’ll also need to demonstrate your value and reliability, following through on any agreements you make and sticking to timelines. If you say you’ll be there for a meeting, be there – accountability goes a long way towards building trust.
People who are open, straightforward and sociable have a natural advantage here.
When you’re consulting, it’s all about your client. Yes, you’re fantastic at your job and you want to make a great impression, but the task in hand is to solve their business problems, which should come ahead of any self-consciousness or pride in your work.
Part of the nature of consulting is going into businesses where there are established ways of doing things, and challenging the status quo. Not everyone will appreciate this, and sometimes you’ll come up against resistance or criticism that you don’t recognize as valid. Instead of arguing your point, keep your goal in mind – it’s all about solving problems, not being right or wrong.
If you’re confident, thick-skinned and good at separating head from heart, you’ve already got this one in the bag.
You thought you’d been hired in to solve one business challenge – and somehow you’ve ended up in the middle of something completely different. Business priorities can change and adapt at hyper-speed, especially in fast-moving fields like technology or social media.
Thinking fast and being able to let go of existing ideas and soak up new ones is invaluable in these types of settings. If you learn fast and you’re good at transferring your skills to different scenarios, even better.
The ideal personality traits for this part of your role? Creative, spontaneous and lively.
If these aren’t your forte, all is not lost. Fortunately, creative problem solving is a skill you can learn.
It sounds so simple, but it can take real effort to listen well. As a consultant, you need to take in a huge quantity of new information before you can begin to do your job. Discovering the nature of the business you’re in, the challenges it’s facing and the style of communication used are all big listening jobs that lay the foundation for effective consulting.
If your approach tends to be reflective, thoughtful and detail-oriented, you’re off to a great start.
When you’re working inside someone else’s business, it’s easy to let their culture and corporate structures become your own. But if you’re planning to have more than one client over your lifetime, you’ll need a developed sense of your identity as an independent professional, regardless of who’s paying the invoices.
A good consultant is his or her own brand, with an established ethos and approach. Collateral like Flyers, Postcards and even Stickers are a great way to cement your brand identity, as well as market yourself to new clients.