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Why is important for consultants to periodically attend training courses and seminars?

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Why is important for consultants to periodically attend training courses and seminars?

There are many good reasons for consultants to pay attention to continuing education and periodic training, such as to: 
• Improve skills and learn new things 
• Identify weaknesses and strengths 
• See how others learn, organize subject matter and effectively teach a particular topic 
• Meet new colleagues, clients or referrers 
• Revitalize yourself and increase your enthusiasm for your work

Tip: In order to help consultants gain additional expertise, improve their communication skills, reinforce existing knowledge, help them to get (and stay) current with industry trends, learn to market more effectively, better understand finance, etc., few activities work better than learning new things. Whether taken locally or abroad, at a conference, specialty center, or university - do not forget to make time for this extremely valuable activity.

Whats the secret to finding the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow"?

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Some consultants become extremely successful and some others struggling.

Whats the secret to finding the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow"?

As you might guess, there is no satisfying and complete answer to this question. One suggestion might be to closely observe the key characteristics of both types: those who smoothly surf the "ocean" towards success and those who get knocked over by every wave. What might you see? The most successful consultants are those who know how to: 
• See and seize every opportunity 
• Save and invest wisely 
• Create value for others and translate it into value for themselves. 
• Protect their good ideas and effectively market them. 
• Leverage their work and repackage it into books, seminars, speaking, etc. 
• Leverage the skills of others in order to get something accomplished. 
• Put their clients first and keep a close tab on their customers needs at all times. 
• Effectively promote themselves and become more sought after. 
• Be more effective and proficient than most others in their field. 
• Simply want it more.

How many of these things are being done by the successful consultants you are studying? How about by the struggling consultants you have chosen to observe?

Tip: There are many things that you can do in your practice to help point you in the direction of the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow." One thing is fairly certain: you are in the drivers seat. Make a list of goals, actions, and directions today.

"bottom up" or "top down"

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When working with my clients, I often hear them talk about taking a "bottom up" or "top down" approach to addressing a problem. Which method is most effective?

The terms "top down" and "bottom up" are often used to indicate how decisions are made or how initiatives are driven within an organization.

• A "top down" approach is one in which the top- level management determines the approach to be taken and then disseminates it to the lower levels of the organizational hierarchy.

• A "bottom up" approach usually emanates from people at the lower levels of the organization working together to drive a change or decision throughout the organization.

• A "top down" approach usually ensures compliance.

• A "bottom up" approach usually ensures strong organizational buy-in. 
Although in certain circumstances one approach might be better than another, usually both approaches need to be employed during the life of a project and it is simply a question of balancing them. In fact, it might be better to "mix and match" at appropriate times (employ a "top down" approach in one stage of a project and a "bottom up" approach in another).

Tip: Don be too quick try to adopt a single approach. Recognize that more often than not it is a question of balancing the two methods in an effective manner.

Re-thinking Email

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Re-thinking Email

Where a person is addressed in your e-mail (direct send, "CC" [or carbon copy] or "BCC" [or blind carbon copy]) can make a huge difference on how your message is received and processed.

In todays fast-paced world of information delivery, people can creatively leverage the unique power of e- mail delivery tools such as the "CC" and "BCC". Both tools save you the effort of composing multiple individual emails for every intended recipient. BCC actually helps you to work around some of the issues that can arise when using the "CC" (privacy, discreteness, elimination of a large number of addresses at the head of the emails body, etc.).

But have you ever thought closely about how the recipient views their placement in the address categories? How does Laura view being "CCed" versus directly addressed? Does she pay less attention to the message, feel less important, or is she just happy to receive the information? What about Terrys placement on the "BCC" list? Is he being given access to information that others would not feel is appropriate, or has he been placed there because the sender does not want his name to appear to the other addressees?

On your next e-mail, think about what would occur if the addressees in the "Send to:", "CC" and "BCC" categories were interchanged. Perhaps it will provide you with a new perspective on how and when to use these tools.

Tip: The category an addressee is placed in can make a significant difference in how the message is received or perceived. Leverage your e-mails for maximum impact by using the three categories wisely.

P.S. Don forget to think about the order people are listed in the address line as well. Are they ordered randomly, alphabetically, hierarchically, or in order of perceived relevance towards the matter at hand? Take a moment to think how each recipient will view their selected placement. Always be sensitive to others and be careful not to unintentionally slight someone through careless ordering.

Stay focused on the MISSION

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Stay focused on the MISSION

Why is it that almost every client has at least one manager or senior staff member who seems annoyed with or even hostile toward consultants? Should a consultant deal with such people directly or through the client sponsor?

First, recognize that attitudes toward consultants can vary significantly, Just because an executive retains a consultant does not mean that everyone, or anyone, else in the organization is happy to welcome or support you. Most do because they respect managements decision and they are likely to recognize the solutions a consultant is being retained to create are potentially productive for the organization.

Second, don assume that it is in your, or the organizations, best interest to "deal" with suspicion or opposition of client staff by suppressing it. Consultants are brought in to address change, usually because something is not working or could work better. Change means stress, which means emotion, which means behavior that can be supportive or oppositional. Before you decide to shut off a potentially productive conduit for useful information and emotion, consider the damage that could be done by bottling it up.

Third, remember that it is not your organization. You are free to advise your client that your job may be difficult politically, or even logistically, due to active opposition or hostility. But unless you feel your person or property are in danger, it is not your call to decide whose behavior to manage. However, it is useful to advise your client of the facts, and your opinion about the impact certain behaviors will have on the organizations culture, performance and image.

Tip: Consultants brought in to manage an engagement can, if they are not careful, lose sight of whose organization they are dealing with. Embrace differing attitudes toward you and the likely change assumed to arrive with you. Our true value is our independence and objectivity. Stay focused on the engagement, not the people, brand, strategy or other areas that are the legitimate responsibility of management.

How do I convince the clients that their idea are just hurting them?

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There are times when a client holds an idea that is easily refutable but they won let go of it and their resistance gets in the way of my helping them. They pay the bills but how do I convince them they are just hurting themselves?

Assuming you are right and they are wrong and that all would agree that your job is to provide independent, objective and useful information, then a "mythbusting" exercise is in order.

A myth is defined as a story that is regarded as true, although its origin is unknown and may defy logic or deeper explanation. As analytical and critical as consultants are, every one of us operates based on some myths. So do our clients. Sometimes a myth to our client is a known falsehood to us. Hopefully, the reverse is less true. Finally, some myths are so embedded in our culture, educational system and management lore (or are still being pushed by business schools) that it is hard to convince people to give up, even with data, logic and examples on your side.

It is beneficial to discuss, even before the diagnostic phase of your engagement, what assumptions your client (and you) hold about the situation, your approach to the engagement, and the likely path toward a solution. It is fair that the client be able to see what myths underlie your thinking and vice versa. If you work in an industry or across a discipline for a time, you will begin to see the same assumptions. In many cases, these myths are what may be holding back the industry. Your ability to articulate them may give you highly valuable insight into how to fix them. Possibly the worst thing you can do is to press ahead with your "solution" before you have gotten to the bottom of these myths.

Tip: Consider preparing short discussion briefs or (very short) presentations addressing the 5-10 key myths that affect your industry, your clients position (e.g., finance, marketing, R&D), or your ability to deliver services. Discuss and reconcile these at the beginning of each engagement, Your client may not agree with you but at least you will have surfaced the issues. Refine these with each client, incorporating your clients perspectives and challenges. You will quickly build up a powerful bit of IP (or a book!) of unique value to your consulting profession and your own clients.

PROBLEM OF OVERLY COMPLEX SCHEDULING

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I can be the only independent professional with the problem of overly complex scheduling. I usually carry about five clients at any one time, some of which have more than one location. Juggling appointments and accommodating everyones schedules are burning me out. How do others do this?

Consider the environment you are creating for yourself. It sounds like you are letting your clients schedule your time instead of the other way around.Mutual respect is the first casualty of appearing to be (and being) unwilling to manage your own time. I recognize that you want to serve your clients by accommodating their schedule. However, you may be surprised by how much more respect youll get and, consequently, how much more valuable theyll consider your time if you restrict the times you are available for consultation.

Consider your experience with a doctors office appointment. Their time is tightly scheduled because they need to see many patients each day and the uncertain length of time of each visit. Same with cable and appliance repair services. Now that Ive compared you to service providers that are widely despised for poor scheduling (because of the unpredictability of their work), let me assure you that creative and structured scheduling can work for consultants because you have more control over your time.

What would happen if you established specific times for your office visits each week, other times (or days) for your group meetings, and still other times for your online meetings or webinars? For example, your onsite appointments are Tuesday and Thursday from 10am-2pm, your staff catch-up meetings by video are on Monday and Friday mornings, and your one-on-one calls with client sponsors are on Wednesday or Friday afternoons. Recognizing that there may need to be some exceptions, a predictable schedule will lower your stress and increase the recognition by your clients that your time is valuable.

Tip: There are technologies that may help you schedule your time or at least help you think about some of the issues about managing appointments if you don think tools will help you better manage your time.