As a consultant you can have all the right qualifications, knowledge, and know-how, but without certain behavioural competencies you’ll likely still find yourself struggling to understand and positively influence your clients.
I’ve developed a consulting framework based on over 20 years’ experience to guide you through the key competencies you need to be developing and honing in order to make a real impact.
These are the Consulting Skills & behaviours you need to master, over and above your technical expertise.
1) Analysis and Planning
Analysis and planning work hand-in-hand: without carefully considering relevant information and data, your plans will simply be a stab in the dark. Do your initial research well, and planning becomes more relevant, unambiguous, and constructive.
2) Build relationships and collaborations
Not only will mastering relationships enable you to better understand specific projects, the ability to do so will also lead to future projects and on-going collaborations. A win-win for both your clients and your business.
3) Develop Strategic Partnerships
On-going collaborations are helpful for both you and your client, as they allow greater insight into businesses - resulting in more strategic partnerships. After all, if you work with a client for five years, you’re far more likely to understand not only what makes them tick, but key strategies to help them achieve results.
4) Decision making and Problem Solving
If you deliberate over decisions, clients will - at best - feel that you’re wasting their time (read: money), and at worst, not understand the value of your expertise to their business goals. Timely, informed decisions that account for facts, goals, constraints, and risks showcase your knowledge, ability, and confidence, as well as validate your value to clients.
Finding creative solutions to problems means embracing innovation. Take a long-standing issue and find a solution for it. Discover a simpler way of working and implement it. Identify an area for improvement, and make it happen. Don’t take things at face value and simply go with the status quo. Innovation is key to making a real, valuable, tangible impact for your clients.
6) Drive for Excellence
No-one wants to give or receive a half-hearted effort so having a drive for excellence is a highly valued behaviour in consulting. This means the ability to identify areas for improvement, but equal desire and passion to make the changes happen via on-going enthusiasm and willingness to encourage the change of systems, workflows, procedures, and more.
7) Effective Communication
I can’t over-emphasise how important clear communication is as a consultant. You can have the best ideas in the world but, without the ability to effectively communicate them with your clients, they will fall flat. Taking your clients on the journey with you - making sure they understand your thoughts, ideas, and methodology - will help keep them invested.
8) Impact and Influence
In addition to communication skills, we must master the ability to persuade others into following a proposed course of action. You’ve been hired for a reason, and it’s not to follow blindly, but to share your subject knowledge and expertise in order to bring a positive impact. Speak up, using both emotional and rational reasoning.
9) Initiative and Ownership
Coming up with new ideas and solutions takes initiative, seeing changes through takes ownership. There’s no point in one without the other. To act as a responsible and reliable consultant you must take accountability for tasks and actions.
10) Emotional Resilience
Projects don’t always run smoothly; I know I’ve had hiccups on my road to success. If you can acknowledge that setbacks do happen (and that they happen to everyone), take them in your stride, and learn something from them - you’ll be able to remain focussed and determined to complete assignments.
11) Flexibility and Adaptability
Similar to the above, as consultants we need to be flexible. Adapting behaviours, processes and plans as projects - and clients - develop and grow. I would actually argue that changes should happen as we progress through projects, and that if nothing is changing, we should be identifying areas where it can.
As Steve Jobs often said: Stay Curious. And it worked out well for him. Curiosity is the key to learning and developing; as consultants we need a micro and a macro approach to this. Micro: learn about your clients, what works for them and what doesn’t. Macro: take the time to learn about your wider industry via white papers, attending conferences, and, well, reading newsletters like this one!
The key behaviours mentioned above are all well and good, but really amount to nothing if you don’t have the self-confidence to speak up, make a stand, and see your ideas through: from conception to implementation. To achieve a feeling of self-confidence and self-assurance it’s vital that you understand your own abilities and qualities. Thinking of everything you’ve achieved in your career so far is a good starting point.
Likewise, without being able to manage your time, priorities, and resources, it will be difficult to get projects off the ground. Invest in project management skills to better understand effective ways of working.
Last but not least: professionalism. With all the technical expertise and will in the world, if you don’t conduct yourself with professionalism, you’ll find doors closing around you, not opening. Being professional is simply the way you represent yourself in business and will likely mean something different for all clients. It could be anything from dressing well, turning up to meetings on-time, keeping calm in stressful situations, and being reliable.
I hope this list has shed some light on important areas for you to assess and develop, in order to help achieve your HR consultancy goals.
We have developed a 360-degree feedback questionnaire around these behaviours so that you too can get feedback as an independent consultant and for you to continue to develop in the role.
This also comes with the option of 1 x 1 coaching.
As always, if you’d like more information about how you can improve in any - or all of them, I have various ways in which I can help.
- To start your 360 Feedback:
- Buy my book: Leap into HR Consulting
- Join our HR Bootcamps
- Contact me today for a Discovery Call
Until next time, onwards and upwards!
Sarah Hamilton-Gill FCIPD
In the past two years, my team and I have supported over 100 new start up consultants. We know what it takes to succeed and have helped many people - just like you - to achieve their goals.