Consulting is an abstract term and open to interpretation. My interpretation is that, at its core, consulting is about listening, identifying options, identifying tradeoffs, and making a recommendation.
Five Steps to Being a More Valuable Consultant
A good consultant identifies a problem and helps resolve it. A great consultant listens to a problem and identifies options, but ultimately yields decision-making power.
Put simply, a great consultant:
- Listens – Great listening skills lead to a deep understanding of the problem.
- Processes – Pause. Think. Allow the problem to settle in. Resist the temptation to react immediately. Make time & space, replenish energy, and the next step will be a lot easier.
- Identifies options and tradeoffs – Almost every problem has multiple ways to solve it. Each solution comes with different tradeoffs. Cost is usually the most important. Avoid providing an option without at least attaching a cost.
- Recommends – Given a deep understanding, options, and costs, recommend what you believe is the most balanced solution.
- Waits, but follows up – Give the other person time and space to decide on a solution. But follow up within a reasonable timeframe to provide some accountability and ensure that things don’t become blocked.
Other Thoughts on Consulting
My colleague Mike has written on this subject as well. His posts are sharp, articulate, and worth a look :
- How to Formally Frame a Problem – Here, you can see Mike’s perspective on this topic. I think it’s an important enough concept that it warrants another post several years later.
- Developers: Are You a True Consultant, or Just a Programmer? – In this post, Mike reviews two other characteristics of great consultants.