I have been in a consulting career for many years with several companies and find myself explaining the profession to many that I meet. Consulting is a learned set of skills that can be acquired through extensive formal training coupled with on-the-job training, mentoring and a heavy dose of individual learning. I have found that the best consultants have several traits in common. Some of these traits include a lifelong learning passion, self-motivation, high intelligence, good leadership skills, excellent team work skills and the mastery of several deep technical and/or business knowledge areas.
Some people I meet come from many years at one company where they have mastered one or a few areas like product management, accounting, operations or sales and may have developed their leadership skills through promotions and training. Some of these people think they would be “good consultants” because of this experience. Many times though, these people have not considered the fact that there are many other aspects of the consulting profession that are required.
A good consultant has seen many ways of solving challenges from different clients in different industries. Good consultants take these experiences combined with leading practices to truly assist end clients with great business solutions. Good consultants leverage the experiences of their colleagues and the firm by employing past examples of project plans, techniques and deliverables to produce quick, effective and outstanding results for their clients. Finally, good consultants understand the business model with their profession and firm. They realize that people are the economic engine just like raw material is to a manufacturing company or a network is to a communications company. Good consultants also realize that end clients expect this of firms they engage for management consulting services. Many authors and books are available that cover consulting. Patrick Lencioni has written several great books that teach consulting principles including “Getting Naked”, a great read about being authentic with clients.
Consulting is a profession just like accounting or banking or plant operations with its own set of training, expectations and business models. It can be a very fulfilling profession for those that pursue it.