Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Can Senior Executives Benefit from a Consultant’s Help?

When you have led an organization to lofty goals, surpassed expectations and charted new successful paths, it can seem contradictory to think that you might benefit from the guidance and advice of a consultant. Especially when your next challenge requires the expertise and experience of a person such as, well, yourself!

Perhaps the future goal is clear (expand into a new market, outperform a competitor, lead a new division). Perhaps you even have a plan in mind. But others are encouraging you to seek the help of a consultant.

Even if you’re open to the idea, how can a consultant know as much as you do about your business? How can they offer you assistance when you have intimate knowledge of the business, the players and its influences?

This is the challenge of an expert professional seeking a professional consultant.

The challenge is this: You are not going to find someone who has the same exclusive knowledge that you have. You are the expert in the day-to-day needs and long-range strategic planning efforts of your organization. Here are three attributes to look for in a consultant:
Three Things to Look for in an Executive Consultant 

1.  Expertise That Will Leverage Your Success
Think about it. If you are a doctor, lawyer or expert in countless other specifically-trained-for-careers, you’d never expect a consultant to give you a tip on a better way to tie off a suture or reference a landmark case. Instead, you want to seek out a consultant that recognizes you have unique abilities and talents that they should leverage in the engagement. Too often consultants spend hours trying to demonstrate an affinity for what you do. Beyond establishing rapport and being able to stay on track with the scope of work, this kind of effort is a waste. For instance, Koliso might spend some time talking about interesting trends in the legal profession with our clients, but we’re not cracking open volumes of legal precedents to be savvy fonts of legal knowledge.

Takeaway: The consultant you choose should build on your successes and your talents. They understand your business well enough to demonstrate how their expertise will leverage your success.

2. Custom-Tailored Solutions

Consultants working with senior executives must establish a custom-tailored solution for their clients. Chances are your career mirrors the case studies of top-selling business tomes. You are the subject of best-practice discussions. So, if the consultant you explore working with wants to produce a battery of tests and saccharine analysis that categorizes you into a quadrant of similar types, you have probably found a great consultant for the early-career types in your junior management team; they are not for you. You need a consultant who works intensely to understand the present situation and desired state or outcome.

You don’t need to be sold on the value of a consultant; you need to see value from the consultant. In fact, the scope of work is often elusive in this type of engagement and will evolve as the problem is addressed and steps are taken. You want to locate a consultant to become part of the team. So look for someone who can focus on clearly defining the problem in a way that demonstrates they understand it. They need to see the unique nature of what could become of the process.

Takeaway: Seek a consultant that can deliver future problem-solving skill—not canned solutions from the past.

3. A Partnership Committed to Your Objectives

While the consultant’s business expertise won’t match yours exactly, they do need to be steeped in senior-level business. Ask yourself: “Do I respect them?” “Will I learn from them?” “Do their ideas reflect senior-level thinking?” When you hire a consultant, you are bringing in talent that will contribute to your success. You don’t want someone who lacks the confidence to tell you when you are heading in a wrong direction. Frankly, it is hard for co-workers to tell you when things don’t sound right. A consultant can offer perspective and a wealth of expertise across all businesses. They will be experienced in their own way.

Takeaway: Think about hiring a consultant who’s willing to be a sparring partner—happy to trade ideas and have you succeed more effectively as an outcome.

So, if you are a senior executive who sees the future full of opportunities and you want to be challenged to explore them, you will probably benefit from a different level of involvement from a consultant: 

1.      Expertise that will leverage your successes
2.      Tailored solutions that are customized for your situation
3.      A partnership committed to your objectives 

Do you want to discuss this in greater detail? Contact Koliso.  

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