New Consultants, Learn as You Consult

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Every new consultant, new manager, or freelancer has faced this situation – walking into a new client, job, or team and having to show confidence and expertise while also being in “learning mode.” What an asset this article would have been to me as a new consultant 30+ years ago.

After studying consulting projects for two years and interviewing 79 successful consultants this team found three tactics successful consultants use to build confidence in their work, retain client respect, and learn new knowledge as they worked in new areas

HBR Weekly Hotlist, article by Alaric Bourgoin, et. al.

Take Aways

  • It is critical that you maintain confidence in your ability to learn quickly and develop solutions while working with stakeholders.
  • You can build professional respect even as you build your knowledge and competence in new domains.
  • Learning these tactics is essential to consultants, managers, and freelancers who frequently work with different teams and tasks.

Action Items

Crafting Relevance to Seem Competent While Learning

  • You can’t know it all when you begin, but you must know enough to be “taken seriously and appear competent.”
  • Research and prepare ahead of time by creating a mental map of the knowledge and highlighting critical aspects relevant to the client situation. (Outlining or Mind Maps are great for this.)
  • Describe relevant experiences from other projects or fields that are parallel or analogous. (Be careful of over using this.)

Crafting Resonance by Recycling Insider Knowledge

  • You must be accepted as a fellow professional while not knowing all the insider knowledge.
  • Begin by interviewing stakeholders and learning key objectives, problems, and language. 
  • Use these insights during conversations with others to learn which points have acceptance and other points of view.

Crafting Substance by Creating Knowledge Objects

  • Knowledge Objects are physical “force multipliers” that you can leverage to spread your knowledge, processes, and tactics through the organization - create flow charts, checklists, cheat sheets, animated models, etc.
  • Create Excel templates with standardized financial, analytics, or production models that can be used by other managers and employees.
  • Create PowerPoint presentations and templates that can be used by other managers to communicate key objectives, goals, and tactical steps.
  • Use checklists and cheat sheets to make it easy to reproduce your standardized techniques or processes.
  •  Teach people how to use your knowledge objects. Put your professional brand on them to scale your brand. (It helps you sell by getting the word out that you are making an impact. This should be part of your business development.)

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