Many people who go into independent consulting have a background where, at some point, they taught others how to do something, even if they were the main instruments for getting things done. Consultants often go into situations where they have to make critical change decisions or recommendations, and sometimes are tasked with implementation of those ideas.
There’s an interesting correlation between being a consultant and being a leader. Whereas not all consultants are put into positions of leadership on an interim basis when working with clients, often their word is seen to be as good as gold and people in need will acquiesce to a lot of, if not all of, what they’re being told. That’s usually a big part of what leaders have to do.
It’s in this vein that we realize just how tenuous the duties of a consultant can be. While we’re tasked with offering our opinions for others to improve, whether they be companies or individuals, we also have to maintain certain standards that good leaders maintain while doing so.
For instance, true leaders work on making others better, not sitting around waiting to take the credit for everything. Sure, the consultants want to do good work and want someone to give them proper accolades when they’re finished; who doesn’t want that letter of recommendation to use in their marketing later on? And yet, how much stronger would that letter be if the people who remain to carry through your ideas and actions feel as if they were an integral part of it all, even if they weren’t?
I have been in situations where I was an interim leader as well as a highly paid “fixer of problems”, and in each situation I worked hard to not only take care of problems but to elevate the beliefs of those who would be remaining in their own abilities. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to educate people on how to do their job, sometimes from scratch, and sit with them to make sure they learned it well. Then I’ve let them handle their business while monitoring, making sure to tell them when they’re doing a great job and, hopefully, only tweaking when necessary.
At the same time I’ve seen consultants who show up and work hard to keep themselves around. They talk about all the good they’ve done and how they can do more. They talk about their qualifications and how many other potential gigs they have down the line, with the intention on scaring the present client into action to keep them on hand. Frankly, that’s a lousy leadership lesson, lousy consulting, and definitely a lack of professional ethics as it’s not supposed to be about the consultant or consulting company but the clients needs.
Then again, it’s possible I’m wrong. I had an independent insurance agent once say to me that if a consultant is actually doing any real work that they’re not really a consultant at all, just a high paid manager. Well, isn’t a manager seen as a person in a leadership position? Even if you’re contracted to do a project for someone where you’re working by yourself, aren’t you hoping you’re seen as a leader in some fashion, hopefully providing something that the client can’t provide for themselves, or needs help in?
Think about yourself as a consultant; how do you see yourself and how would you like others to see you and the work you do?