Renee Prejean-Motanky

TIPS FROM A CONSULTANT

In Business Strategies, Consulting on August 11, 2009 at 2:46 am

Effective consulting requires the ability to thrive in the midst of ambiguity!  Consultants deal with lots of ambiguity.  You’re told that the doorway is on the left, but then you discover that it’s actually on the right!  What may seem clear and aboveboard on a Monday can be in absolute tatters by Tuesday.  Client situations can both elate and disappoint you.  But you must avoid catching what they’ve got… your job is to make it better!

There are some days, as a consultant, that walking into your client’s office feels like walking into a windstorm of confusion.  Even when you aren’t the one stirring up the tornado it’s challenging to avoid becoming a casualty of their storm. 

So, how do you avoid getting sucked up?

The Road to Tomorrow (and Happy 2009!)
Image by Stuck in Customsvia Flickr

The answer is simple — MAINTAIN THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE.  As a consultant, it’s critical to learn how to dive into the storm, gather as much intelligence as you can, and then step back outside of it to analyze the situation.  After learning all that you can and then analyzing, you dive back in…this time with the ammunition required to devise solutions.  Over time you’ll find that you develop the consummate consultant ability to project a soothing calmness even while in the midst of chaos.

Consultants’ strengths can sometimes be their weaknesses.  One of my own strengths, for example, is that I have tremendous empathy.  I genuinely empathize with what clients are going through no matter how large or how small the job. It adds to the feeling of “personal touch” they receive. They know that I care.  I, however, must remind myself that sometimes empathy makes me too pliable when I need to be firm or too willing to take the blame when a client “passes the buck.”  That later leads me to regret that I didn’t tow a harder line, wasn’t more direct or that I let them off the hook instead of holding them accountable for their mistakes. Over empathizing can make you feel too connected to your clients when what’s needed is that you stand apart from them as an objective observer. 

Ignore the little voice that tells you to soft-peddle it.  Believe in yourself and remember that what you sell is yourself and your knowledge. It’s important that you develop confidence in your abilities and skills and know what it is that you can do for a client.  Remember to treat your clients with respect and don’t short-change them by not being straight with them.  Never patronize… give clients good value for their money.    

If you take the following tips to heart, you’ll be a great consultant:

  1. MAKE SURE ALL LINES OF COMMUNICATION ARE OPEN; be accessible.
  2. BE A LEARNER; always open to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
  3. COMMIT TO SELF-DEVELOPMENT; deliberately put yourself in uncomfortable situations that challenge you both intellectually and emotionally.
  4. IMPROVE INTERPERSONAL SKILLS – developing your interpersonal skills will reap rewards you won’t anticipate! Be an expert and learn to articulate your points clearly and concisely and in layman’s terms.
  5. LEARN TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC; this is one of the most important things a consultant can do!
  6. BE ENERGETIC; drive and enthusiasm are very attractive qualities to clients
  7. SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT; clients need to feel you’re committed to them
  8. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK; – join online and offline groups. Get to know your peers as well as who your potential clients might be and make sure they know who you are too.
  9. TAKE RISKS; don’t be afraid to take (calculated) chances.  Remember that there is no such thing as failure, just feedback.  Failure only results when you don’t try again!
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