Consulting skills have never been more important in the workplace. This is used in efficiently finding a solution to corporate issues, training the employees to optimize their potential through increasing competent leadership, getting feedback before going with a course of action, even in overcoming conflict. This way, the management has to be as much a guide and a mentor as a friend the employees can comfortably talk to. Effective consultants are driven, goal-oriented and inspiring individuals that drive the business to its full potential; and, most importantly, effective consulting can be learned through facilitation training.
The Basic Characteristics of Effective Consultants
Before the more complicated strategies, there are a few basic characteristics that prove to be the foundation of every effective consultant, and a few training exercises to stimulate them.
First, they listen. Consulting requires focus and attention towards a client or a team of individuals with a goal in mind. It is then critical that good communication is present between the parties involved. To exercise this skill, consider listening intently in your next conversation. What is this person’s story? How do you understand it? Mirror their actions, remove distractions and avoid intentions to jump in and interfere. Further, make eye contact and observe their body language.
Another tip that involves this ability lies in pausing. Most people assume that awkward silences are to be filled in with mindless chatter. Successful facilitation firms understand that this is false. Rather than filling in the silence, allow it. Try to pause before responding, and use this time to organize what you have to say, as opposed to formulating them while the person is still speaking. This not only gives the appearance of ignoring what they have to say, it can also lead the conversation somewhere else.
Second, it involves teamwork. Because some projects require employees and clients of different personalities to come together, it is imperative that a facilitator not only knows how to integrate disparate personalities, but to be a part of their team as well.
Third, it requires perspective and smarts. This industry thrives on training the brain and challenging the mind. It involves being able to analyze a situation and transform ideas into solutions. Therefore, they have to possess a perspective that is more advanced than the average manager. This is usually brought on by the experience of living abroad, traveling, or a strong background in a specific industry: the arts, social sciences, airlines, retail, etc.
Fourth, they have to be great public speakers. Being able to present and fulfill the needs of a client through a solution in a crowd or one-on-one presents admirable potential. To exercise this, read up on books regarding how to make good presentations, and practice creating them on your own. Advance by practicing your presentation skills. Not everyone can present ideas coherently and creatively; being someone who is able to can open up unexpected opportunities.
Lastly, be appreciative. Coined by Carl Rogers, the term “unconditional positive regard” approaches each interaction with a positive point of view. Most people have an opinion of others before even having a conversation with them. Successful consultants know how to value the opinions of others and hold the other person in a positive regard. This lets teams and clients value them in the same way and have an affinity for their work.
After the basics, the more complicated characteristics come in. These prepare consultants for the more advanced and business-oriented goals. In this stage, a consulting skills training might now be in order, led by experienced professionals in the industry.