You’re a what? A consultant! The word conjures many thoughts – most of them negative. I’ve heard the jokes, seen the cartoons, and watched the movies.
I never thought of myself as a consultant. I was a director of training for engineering, not a consultant. The people who worked for me were technicians and engineers not consultants. The people I worked with were engineering managers, not clients.
Over the years, as I trained people in consulting skills, I heard that comment over and over, “I never thought of myself as a consultant.”
To help people discover their role, I offer the following nine signs that you may be in an internal consulting role. (When you read “others” I am referring to people outside your area.)
1. You have a professional area of expertise.
2. You work in an area that provides support to other departments or divisions, i.e. Administrative services, business process improvement, communications, engineering, finance, human resources, it, law, learning and development, OD, project management, purchasing, recruiting, or training.
3. You have words like advisor, analyst, consultant, HR, improvement, IT, performance, process, productivity, relationship, research, safety, specialist, strategist, or training in your job title.
4. You refer to the others you serve as business partners, line managers, customers, clients.
5. You want to help others solve their problems with stainable solutions.
6. You find that others often come to you for assistance “at the last moment.”
7. You find that others expectations are often not clear and hard to understand.
8. You feel that others sometimes don’t see your value or credibility.
9. You find it hard to “sell” your recommendations to others.
Now if you answered “Yes” to at least four of these questions, you are probably an internal consultant.
Don’t fret, consulting can be a great life if you shift your thinking. That’s what happened to me. As I learned more about consulting, my thinking began to change. I realized that much of what I did was consulting. So, to be successful I needed to act like a consultant and develop my consulting skills.
For example, I had to learn to listen more than I talked, ask questions instead of making statements, and change my approach when conversations weren’t going well instead of getting frustrated or angry. The result was that I built trust and credibility in my relationships which led to partnerships and in some cases, to being a trusted advisor.