Having worked in consulting for many years across a range of industries and locations, what has struck me are the great technical skills that some consultants possess. In accounting, this may range from your tax specialists to your risk management gurus through to specialists in the ability to determine whether a business is a going concern. In engineering, this may translate in to a great bridge designer, a tunnelling expert or a water expert on a desalination plant. These are great skills that have been accumulated over many years. Similar to a brain surgeon, you want these people working on critical items that matter.
High technical consultants have a choice as to where and how their career progresses. For the very few that are world class at a technical level, they can get away with being the “guru”. This status can mask massive gaps in other areas of their work. For the remaining vast majority who are good technically but not great, there is a strong need to develop the non-technical areas if they are to be successful as a consultant. That is, the areas they see as not as important but ironically can let down the great work they do in the technical area. The client experience is often not as positive due to dates not being met, work not being planned or the Rolls Royce design when the client was only looking for the Holden Commodore.
These are gaps that need to be filled. They often can be addressed through years of experience or through focussed training and intent around learning these areas from those that have experienced similar challenges.
Key gaps in the non-technical area of consulting that lets down highly technical consultants include:
- commercial pricing strategies and how the consulting practice makes money
- project management of the projects including key dates, delivery and ensuring the work done is fit for purpose
- communication generally with the client and team members and keeping them up to date
- taking the client along for the journey looking to solve problems and achieve outcomes rather than writing a strong technical report
- delegating to work to others in the team
- business development, personal marketing and network
- development of proposals including scope definition, bottom up costing’s and the appropriate qualifiers and assumptions
- building the pipeline of work and activity in a sustainable manner
- strategic planning and business planning for themselves and the team
- partnering with the right organisations where appropriate to take advantage of significant opportunities
- time management and the ability to prioritise competing deadlines and projects
- people management, emotional intelligence and leadership skills
University sadly focuses on the technical area of disciplines and professions far greater than the non-technical areas outlined above. This leads to a misalignment around the importance of all areas critical to your success not only in being a great consultant but being able to succeed in the workplace generally.
Invest time in developing these non-technical areas and watch your career progress rapidly. There is a lot to be said in having great consultants do both the technical and non-technical well making the client experience well rounded and extremely positive!