I have worked in consulting with clients in various capacities, industries and service lines over the last fifteen years. Consulting is varied, full of challenges, rewarding and allows you to have a positive impact with clients.
In terms of when we are working with clients, the initial hurdle we all have as consultants is to develop relationships that are built on high levels of trust. This includes aspects of trust such as building a rapport with your client, understanding their organisation and industry, delivering on deliverables you have promised as well as aligning on expectations around commitments, communications and outcomes they are looking to achieve. It also includes the importance of really understanding your clients unique problems and challenges which they are employing you to solve and challenge them on.
I like to think of the building of the relationship as the first gate of being able to consult long term to clients. They like working with you, your styles align or integrate and there are strong levels of trust that you have built up over time. This ensures the relationship is constructive and affiliative with a real focus of working together as one team.
The second gate for being a great consultant is how you deliver outcomes and even whether you do this or not, this is much harder as this isn’t about deliverables. This is about tangible impact. The ability to deliver outstanding outcomes for the client that they may not have thought possible or follow through on what they employed you to do in the first place. This is where a lot of consultants struggle because they are not outcome focused. They don’t understand what it means and don’t believe it is their role to do so. They perceive their role as the provision of advice or deliverables rather than driving and leading change that delivers an outcome that the client values, appreciates and then willingly re-employs you to do other work because you delivered that outcome. They are also advocates for you to others for precisely this reason.
Relationships and trust are great. I enjoy them as much as the next consultant with our clients. However, I also want this balanced with a reputation for delivering outcomes for my clients even when they are fearful of the advice or feel challenged in the process. That is where we deliver real value, positive impact and also genuinely put our clients’ needs first even if it presents some risk. As a reflection piece, have a think about how you like to be perceived as a consultant and give some serious thought as to whether you are delivering real and tangible outcomes that your client should be demanding.