As CEO, part of my job is to look for ways to help our employees grow professionally. For technical staff, there are many ways to grow and develop skills- it is a process of focusing or narrowing the field of possibilities. For consulting staff, the challenge is greater. While there are lots of seminars and webinars that claim to turn someone into a better consultant, my experience has been that it really takes two things – temperament and experience. This got me thinking about where I first learned some of my consulting skills. Interestingly enough, it was not from past clients- my learning and experience curve started much further back.
One of the characteristics that makes a consultant successful is the ability to stand up in the middle of chaos and indecision and present a path forward and then lead. My first experiences with this were as a Cadet Girl Scout in middle school. There were several occasions where the council threw all the cadet troops together in a meeting to plan out activities for younger scouts for the council wide camp out. Imagine if you can, 20-40 middle school girls ( ages 11-13) in a room turned loose to collaborate and plan. Although there were girls with marvelous ideas who worked with their little clique to plan activities, I learned fast that the scouts who were able to pitch an idea and then collaborate across groups to create excitement ( we did not call it “buy in” back then) were the ones who were most successful and ended up having the most fun. I continued with scouts into college and consider my experiences formative ones, thanks to amazing leaders and adult volunteers.
There were a lot of events- some chosen, some not- in my life that put me into situations where listening carefully, designing a solution and being willing to be accountable for setting a direction were critical for success. Over time and through analyzing mistakes I got more and more comfortable with that role. At Thavron, we pair less experienced consultants with field honed employees and use a process of ongoing analysis and discussion to help everyone -even the most experienced consultants learn something from every project. But as I mentor folks informally, I tell them to find volunteer activities that put them into a zone of uncertainty, where leadership and accountability are key to success. No matter your passion, there will be an organization you love or believe in who is trying something new where the path is not known. Step up and take leadership on those projects. It is on projects where there is disagreement, dissension and a new path forward to be planned that the skills of great consultants are honed.