Having been a consultant for over a decade myself, I was curious to find out what were generally considered the top qualities consultants need to succeed. So, I looked into the literature and spoke with some consultants who work exclusively in the industry. My focus was on management consultants. I wasn’t greatly surprised by what I learned. Some things stuck out, however. One such thing is that technical knowledge and industry-specific experience, while important, were rarely cited as the most important. The quality most often cited was that of commitment to the client(s). Given the intangible nature of consulting, a consultant’s worth is only as great as the satisfaction of the clients he or she has served. One common is that a consultant is ‘only a good as his or her last assignment’. While only a figure of speech, it contains more than just a grain of truth. A few failed assignments in a row can be the death knell of a consultant's career, especially if he or she is specialized in a niche industry where word travels fast. Another critical quality is that of getting along well with clients. Good consultants must be both committed and liked by the clients they serve. This is important as a means of increasing the scale and scope of an initial consulting assignment, or getting repeat assignments from the same client. A third quality is that of structured thinking. Consultants solve problems, and applying an analytical framework to problem solving is seen as an important way to identify solutions that work. This is evident in the way most of the top consulting firms use a case method to interview prospective employees, which shows them how prospective employees approach a problem analytically. Good communication skills are also critical. Excellent oral and written communication skills are required to communicate opinions effectively, and convince clients of the validity of ideas and proposed solutions. Good time management, professionalism, and working as a team player were other oft-mentioned qualities of a good consultant. Finally, let’s not totally forget subject matter and industry expertise. These are very valuable, just not as critical as some –notably this author and consultant –thought before doing the research for this piece.
Andrew Kaiser, Business Consulting Community Leader.