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Let’s talk about consulting

So you have this job that needs doing and you’re thinking about hiring a consultant. Before you do, stop and think, just for a moment.

Not every job is one for a consultant, and if you are not clear about what you want to achieve by the time the invoice gets paid, it could end less than satisfactory for all concerned.

My 10 years as a consultant have taught me that you – the client – should NOT appoint a consultant when:

You have a full-time position to fill but don’t want to make the commitment. Another pair of hands is all you need, right? Wrong.

You are not willing and able to implement the necessary internal actions. A consultant cannot make staff decisions on your behalf; neither can she set up meetings with your colleagues or send internal memos to your boss. That’s your job.

You need someone to manage your team. That is also your job.

I have also learned that there are three clear instances when consulting is a good option:

When you have a short-term capacity issue.

When you need a specific skills set that is not internally available.

When something in your organisation or environment needs to be shifted and you want to do something different to achieve results.

The third reason is, to my mind, the best one for going the consulting route, simply because a good consultant always introduces an outside perspective. He or she brings exposure and experiences that are not rooted in your company’s internal culture. This, more than anything else, has the potential to bring about change.

Feedback from DevCom’s clients is that the value we add is more in the form of an energy shift and alternative thought patterns than actual hands on deck to get something done.

But a consultant can only perform to the best of her ability when the client plays her role. Simply put: a good consultant needs a good client.

In DevCom’s experience, this entails three things:

Do the internal introductions. Too often consultants are left to introduce themselves or forever remain nameless as they float in and out of the building. Please don’t do this. Introduce your consultant properly and make it clear for which of the three reasons he or she was brought in. This is especially important when reason 3 is in play. Also make sure that your team understands why the consultant is there to prevent them from experiencing the appointment as a criticism of their skills or abilities.

Invest the time you have to. No consultant knows what to do on the first day. We need your input and cooperation, and this means that you will have to invest quite a bit of your precious time at the start of the relationship. Consultants cannot and do not add value when you leave them to function in isolation.

Verbalise and clarify your expectations. The sentence I always ask my clients to complete is “This will be successful if…” To answer this, think about your intent and the strategic outcome of the work. When the answer is not clear right from the start our research invariably helps to clarify the strategic intent. The process we have developed over the years is designed to help us and our client to articulate what needs to be achieved.

Consulting is a wonderfully enriching journey, provided the relationship is entered into for the right reasons and is managed professionally.