It’s true that most anyone can become a consultant in a certain niche, providing they have sufficient depth of technical knowledge to advise and solve problems in that niche. Enjoying long-term success in management consulting is another matter though.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that there’s a set of skills you need to have or acquire, such as marketing, customer relationship management and others that I’ve discussed in previous posts. Further to that requirement, there are also particular traits and characteristics that you should possess if you really want to take up a consulting career.
The Most Important Qualities for Management Consulting
Before you commit to taking the leap and walking away from your current career, it’s worth performing an honest self-appraisal and asking yourself if you possess the following important qualities for management consulting.
Flexibility: You’ll need the flexibility to adapt to the cultures, people, and projects that you will encounter as a consultant. Acclimatisation is something you won’t have the luxury of, so you’ll need to fit in fast with each new project you embark upon.
An inquisitive nature: A hunger for knowledge is a particularly important quality for management consultants. You should be inquisitive and possess a deep curiosity about your customers’ business operations. Questions should be constantly in your mind and on the tip of your tongue. This is the only way you will gain sufficient understanding of each customer’s problems, challenges, or issues to be able to resolve them effectively.
Confidence: this doesn’t just mean having enough knowledge and experience in your chosen niche to feel confident of successfully helping your customers, although that in itself is really important. You also need to have a confident and outgoing personality.
You must able to communicate in a way that exudes self-confidence and puts your clients at ease. At the same time, you must be able to stop short of overselling yourself and appearing arrogant.
Resilience: Another of the key qualities of management consulting is resilience. You will suffer your share of knocks and setbacks. There will even be times when you receive negative feedback from your customers. You need to be resilient enough to get through these tough times, learn from the setbacks, and keep striving to meet project objectives.
An Affinity for Building Relationships: If you’re the introverted, shy and retiring type, you might want to think twice about becoming a consultant. Your income and business growth will depend on your ability to engage people and develop strong working relationships with customers.
This is a quality for management consulting which matters not only from a customer-relationship perspective, but also for networking and collaborating with other consultants (which you may need to do if you need help finding the answer to your client company’s problem—sometimes you’ll need to call on the expertise of consultants with different specialities to your own).
Do You Have the Qualities to Match Your Skills?
Unlike technical skills and knowledge, traits and qualities can be hard to develop (because they are part of your makeup), but not impossible.
If you can be honest with yourself and recognise the qualities you need to work on, get out there and start consulting. Experience alone will help you develop some of these qualities to a certain degree.
Beyond that, there are ways of getting help with character development—like working with a coach or mentor for example. The most important thing of all is to be totally sure that management consulting is for you before you make the big leap.
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