I started helping clients as a consultant 19 years ago. It’s not always been easy. I’ve been consistently good, although there have been a few times when I’ve been mediocre. My goal is to be a great consultant – and there is nothing more rewarding when that happens. I’ve worked with other consultants, some of whom have been constantly good, some great, and some not so much. I have taught consulting to others. I’ve seen their struggles and their successes, and just how challenging it is to do great work for their clients.
Define Good & Great
As I aspire to be consistently great, it is helpful to differentiate good from great. Here is how I define the difference. There are times your client needs something done but just doesn’t have the time or resources. Perhaps to facilitate a meeting or configure a new software system or manage a project. A good consultant will do.
There are times your client needs an expert for a tricky situation that they don’t have the skill to do. Perhaps to design a curriculum, assess IT security vulnerabilities, or analyze data. A good consultant will do.
And there are times when your client has a big problem or a tough situation. Perhaps to attract and retain talent, to take the organization to a new level, or to resolve a problem that appears to be intractable. A good consultant will not do. They need a great consultant.
Great consultants are more than just someone hired to do a job. They become trusted advisors and are highly sought after. A great consultant becomes the one person the client wants to do business with. They work together over time on multiple and varied projects.
As a consultant, how do you move from good to great?
- Both good and great consultants bring stellar expertise to the task at hand. Great consultants bring their deep expertise but are not bound by it; they have a broader view and realize the complexity of the situation. While they have a hammer and they are good at hammering, they know other tools might be required.
- Both good and great consultants deliver what they promise. No questions asked. Great consultants deliver more than promised. Unasked. They just do.
- Both good and great consultants learn quickly. They immerse themselves in the situation, problem, and organization. They stay abreast of new trends in their field. Great consultants help others in the organization learn as well. They share knowledge freely. They mentor. They coach. When they leave, others are more capable.
- Both good and great consultants hope to do more work with for this client. Great consultants make another engagement an outcome of the client’s satisfaction with their current work. Their energy is spent on doing this work right now, not developing business for the future.
- Both good and great consultants are skilled at analyzing the situation and making solid recommendations for action. Great consultants are able to uncover the underlying dynamics. They know that the presenting problem may not be the real problem. And so they dig deep and get to the root of the situation.
- Both good and great consultants analyze and provide an objective view of the situation. Great consultants are courageous enough to provide an unvarnished view of the underlying dynamics impacting the situation. It is not always easy feedback to give or receive, but vital to understanding and clarity. Even more important, they present a solution that really solves the problem over the long term.
- Both good and great consultants care deeply about their work. Great consultants care just as deeply about the client and their organization.
- Both good and great consultants want to look good in the eyes of their clients. Great consultants strive to make the client look good and are willing to play a supporting role, rather than a leading role.
Become a Trusted Advisor
Becoming a trusted advisor takes time, courage, intelligence, and caring. When that shift occurs you have the honor of being a sounding board and the chance to stand by your client’s side on the toughest most intractable problems. You might be called late at night or on weekends. And that is when you know you’ve moved from a good consultant to a great one. I’m always humbled and honored when that happens.
Joe Indiano and I founded Apeiron with the core belief that as independent consultants, we can consistently provide great consulting to our clients by working together. Apeiron consultants bring a growth mindset and are continually helping each other improve their consulting skills. Given our range in our individual areas of expertise, we tackle problems with a cross-functional, holistic approach. The network provides a professional space where we can seek guidance and insights on the most challenging of situations.
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About the Author: Kris Taylor
Fueled by their shared passion for people-centric organizations that achieve business results, Kris Taylor joined Joe Indiano to found Apeiron, where professionals join together in an abundant, entrepreneurial community to grow sustainable businesses by collaborating together. Bringing together highly skilled consultants across functions, Apeiron is creating the “workplace of the future”, where talented professionals come together to service clients with an agile, collaborative approach to tough business problems.
Kris is also the founder of Evergreen Leadership in 2004 and has worked with over 80 companies across the US to develop customized leadership development programs focused on 21st-century skills. Evergreen Leadership is known for its high-impact retreats, coaching, and learning programs, specializing in fostering agility, collaboration, relationship building, accountability, creativity, and innovation.
Kris writes, speaks, teaches, and coaches leaders at all levels, from the C-suite to high-potential emerging leaders. She is committed to giving back in meaningful ways, most visibly with Evergreen’s Annual Community Builder Award. Since 2015, fifteen leaders across the mid-west have come together for the Connect and Create Retreat.
Her many years of work experience are rich in variety – beginning in education and non-profit for ten years before making a career change with RR Donnelley. In this Fortune 200 company, she fulfilled many roles from Human Resources to Operations to a corporate role in Learning and Development over fourteen years.
On the faculty of Purdue’s Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation for seven years, Kris developed and taught a course on consulting, as well as a course entitled Your Entrepreneurial Career. Kris is also the author of author of Owning It: Take Control of Your Life, Work and Career and The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times: a practical, easy-to-use guide to leading in today’s times. She holds a Master’s Degree from Krannert Business School at Purdue University and did her undergraduate work at West Virginia University.