After all those years as a woman hearing 'not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,' almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, 'I'm enough.'--Anna Quindlen
How am I Doing? There are many positive aspects to being a consultant: having diverse and interesting work, getting to know a variety of people, and balancing my time so I can make a 5pm yoga class are just a few. But one of the downsides is that I don’t always get feedback on how well I am doing in my job of helping organizations grow and succeed in their missions.
What makes a great consultant? I used my network of colleagues and clients to answer this question, and came up with this Top 10 List:
- Be as good at delivering bad news as good news. There’s inevitably going to be a time when you have to state a harsh truth to your clients. A great consultant is able to do this with honesty and sensitivity.
- Be able to turn your experiences into examples. A great consultant has theoretical and practical knowledge, and can communicate both.
- Be able to use your skills in a variety of ways. What works for one client may not work for another. A great consultant uses their skill set to come up with practical and innovative strategies that work.
- Be able to simplify and explain a problem. A great consultant can provide understanding and insight into a problem by using examples, graphics or metaphor.
- Be able to provide more than one solution to a problem. A great consultant can provide multiple problem-solving possibilities, and can be relied upon to think creatively.
- Be self-confident. A great consultant projects a sense of confidence in their abilities and knowledge.
- Be a good listener. A great consultant asks enough questions to get the full story from their client before offering a response.
- Be a team player. A great consultant leaves their own personal goals at the door, and focuses only on their clients’ goals.
- Be your client’s most trusted asset. A great consultant develops strong relationships with their clients. Tell them the truth, using sensitivity and empathy, and work hard at ensuring they know you have their back.
- Make it about them, not you. A great consultant always puts their clients at the center of everything they do. You’re going to help your clients succeed. But you need to be humble and remember that the client is always the star.
What other attributes make for a great consultant? Email me your thoughts!
Early on in my career, when I described what I did in my various jobs, people would often say, “Oh, so you’re a fundraiser.” I would vehemently deny this (not that there’s anything wrong with fundraising!) because it just wasn’t the way I saw myself. I didn’t actually ASK people for money- oh, no- but it was my responsibility to plan and execute a program, and it was necessary to have the funding for the program as well….so I went out and “found” the money. How did I do this without asking? The answer is: I created relationships. I went out and met with people. I schmoozed. I drank a lot of coffee. I spent time getting to know them and together we figured out how they could best participate in supporting the organizations and programs I was working with. Many of these relationships have lasted 20 years or more, and have traveled with me through my career, sustaining me and my work.
In their new book, The Generosity Network, Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey Walker showcase this perspective in transformational fundraising. By operating with the assumption that people want to make a difference, you can tap into their lives, listen to their stories, and channel them towards the worthwhile causes that they want to support, by creating connections.
What’s the best way to facilitate these kinds of connections? How can you open up the process and allow the generosity inherent in people to flow? A few suggestions from McCrea and Walker:
- Ask the right questions: Get into a deeper, more meaningful conversation by asking questions that enable the other person to tell you about who they are, how they think, and what their values are. Ask a lot of “why” questions to keep the conversation flowing.
- Leave your ego behind: The conversation should not be about you and your organization. And if you are meeting with a BIG NAME or celebrity, know that you can hold your own with them and that your story is as important as theirs in developing a relationship.
- Be awake and aware: I hesitate to use the term “mindfulness” but that is indeed what McCrea and Walker use in the book. What this means is be open to all of the possibilities and new experiences that meeting new people presents to you. Don’t have any preconceived notions or set yourself up for failure (or success). Just let it happen and allow the relationship to take hold and grow.
This can have far-reaching effects on your organization, helping you to access the right board members, reach your target audience and, yes, improve your bottom line.
Good luck on your journey!