Qualities of a Good Consultant

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Qualities of a Good Consultant

The qualities of a good consultant are important to keep in mind, as a leader looks for the best fit for their business.

The qualities of a good consultant include both soft skills and industry or functional expertise. Companies hire consultants because they expect the consultant to have more knowledge or experience than their company’s internal teams or individuals, or because they do not have the bandwidth necessary to solve the problems they are facing.

As management assesses when to hire a consultant, they may also take into consideration the difference between a traditional consultancy and a systemic consultancy like Open Eye. These two types of consultancies are covered in the article titled, “What is The Traditional Consultancy Model and Why Does It So Often Fail?”

The qualities of a good consultant are important to keep in mind, as a leader looks for the best fit for their business.

1. Demonstrable Depth of Experience

A good consultant’s depth of experience should be evident from the first conversation they have with a prospective client. Ideally, their credibility surfaces naturally without the consultant having to articulate their accomplishments, hand over their resume, or name-drop past clients. With Open Eye, our depth of experience is apparent in our strategy sessions.

A consultant’s effortless confidence inspires trust from the client; whereas, any indication of arrogance is a sure way to turn away business. Quality consultants respond to questions with certainty borne of their first-hand knowledge or experience, not a superficial need to be seen as enlightened.

When a consultant’s credibility is an unstated component of their demeanor, they speak with authority, calms the client’s nerves, and lays the foundation for a trusting relationship.

2. Client-first Mindset

Quality consultants recognize that they are playing a supporting role in a cast in which the client is the star; they do not try to ‘steal the spotlight’ from the client.

Quality consultants are role players, not soloists. They are natural collaborators who understand that linking arms with their client and making their own success dependent upon the client’s satisfaction, is the only way to build a sustainable book of business.

3. Analytical Problem Solver

A good consultant has the ability to analyze large amounts of data, ask relevant, powerful, open-ended questions that reveal new insights, and deliver tangible results.

Asking powerful questions 1) demonstrates sound listening skills, 2) strengthens the consultant-client relationship, 3) moves projects forward faster, and 4) helps detect the root cause of a problem.

A good consultant can deliver pragmatic solutions, while striking a balance between strategy and tactics. Through their strong communication skills, they are able to draw connections between the big picture and the here and now, providing an action plan that is not merely timely today, but also sustainable tomorrow.

4. Reliable in Word and Deed

A good consultant sets out to meet or exceed the client’s objectives, and positions the project for success by under-promising and over-delivering. They bring a “whatever it takes” mindset to engagements, and are laser-focused on delivering on expectations.

Being dependable is key, so they will communicate early and often, should a project be met with unforeseen obstacles. A good consultant adapts to changing expectations and shifting priorities.

5. Professional

Experienced consultants know that they must strike a balance between being professional and relatable. People skills are as important as technical skills or industry knowledge, when it comes to consulting. They must be personable enough to maintain a natural rapport with a client, while also being professional enough to become the client’s trusted business advisor.

They will further gain the client’s trust by demonstrating an ability to interface seamlessly with diverse teams within the client’s organization. As a natural collaborator and inclusive problem solver, a good consultant can bring harmony to groups that are in opposition to one another. They can facilitate conversations with people of varying generations and demographics with ease.

6. Excellent Listener

One of the most important qualities of a good consultant is the ability to listen deeply. The consultant must listen without interrupting, digest and process large amounts of information, organize their thoughts quickly, and respond thoughtfully.

A good consultant has a discerning ear: what does the client say their needs are? How does the client foresee overcoming the challenge before them? Consultants must be mindful not to assume that they know everything about the client’s obstacles or business despite their research or past client work.

The ability to effectively lead change at the client level is dependent upon having adequately listened to the client, and being able to confidently outline the steps to move forward. Without this as a foundation, the client will not be receptive to the consultant’s guidance.

7. Lifelong Learner

Many of the best consultants joined the industry for one simple reason: they love to learn. A good consultant doesn’t just believe in continuous improvement as a best management practice - they embody it in their personal lives as well.

A good consultant is a joyful learner who displays a genuine curiosity about the world around them. They know that in order to remain competitive, their education must be ongoing, and their network must be continuously cultivated. Their studiousness and conscientious nature supports them, as they must constantly think on their feet.

They are receptive to feedback and are willing and able to pivot to a new approach that better suits the client.

8. Driven

Another critical quality of a good consultant is the constant, disciplined drive towards excellence. A good consultant demands productivity from themselves, so that measurable results are delivered in a short amount of time. They view the reward for their work not as a factor of billable hours, but rather in their continuous ability to execute beyond the deliverable and thus exceed their client’s expectations.

A common quality amongst good consultants is that they are rarely satisfied, a bit skeptical, and take pleasure in challenging and improving upon the status quo.

9. Natural Influencer

A good consultant has the ability to persistently move a project or initiative forward, without being disruptive or damaging relationships. Amiable and reasonable, good consultants lead with authenticity, and are humble enough to admit their shortcomings. They maintain a positive attitude, and demonstrate energy and passion that matches or exceeds the client’s.

Good consultants are action-takers - they both inspire and lead action. They bring life into stalled projects and lead by example.

10. Intuitive Communicator

A good consultant is an intuitive, skilled communicator with an expansive vocabulary. They know when and how to bring a complementary tone to a client setting, and can communicate their expertise through a variety of means.

As oral communicators, they are effective presenters capable of making clear and concise points. In written communication, they thoughtfully convey a message in an easy-to-absorb manner that is grammatically correct. As colleagues and relationship managers, they know which medium to use to most effectively make their point.

11. Detail-oriented

A good consultant must produce a work product that is consistently flawless. They meet deliverable deadlines, stay within budget, produce written materials and supporting media (such as presentation decks) that are free of typos and grammatical errors.

A sloppy work product, no matter the format or function, has no place in consulting.

12. Emotional Intelligence

Managing a client’s expectations, deadlines, and deliverables can be stressful. A good consultant must be in touch with their emotions and have the capacity to quiet their nerves when under pressure.

They demonstrate humility in offering guidance, as they are mindful that they have been invited into the client’s work. They understand the invisible forces in the room, such as ego and pride, and handle these forces appropriately.

A good consultant is drawn to this line of work because they love helping clients succeed. The qualities covered in this article support them, as they aim to serve their clients well.

Anne Shoemaker
  • Strategy and Consulting

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