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#471: Why "Soft Skills" are Critical to Your Consulting Offering

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 03, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 03, 2011
We know command and control is well on its way out as a trait of a successful executive, but shouldn't this provide an opportunity for consultants to wield these hard skills more effectively?

On the contrary, if soft skills are increasingly recognized as essential for effective leadership and management, then consultants should, as always, be one or two steps ahead of their clients. When executive search firms look for executives, they are more likely to administer a battery of psychometric tests to get a sense of how well they can think expansively, communicate, and influencing behavior. Doesn't this sound a lot like the classical essential skill set for a consultant?

In addition to specific skills, consider the value of expanding your perspective. In other words, develop a better understanding of global cultures, adult learning styles, varieties of cognitive processing and decision making, and languages. If you needed evidence that this trend is real, consider that a few decades ago, instruction in hard sciences such as physics and engineering dominated the military service curriculum. Today, increasing numbers classes are in fields like anthropology, history, sociology, government and languages. Furthermore, Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations research finds that leaders with stronger soft skills deliver superior financial performance to those with command or mechanistic styles.

Tip: Whether you train clients in these soft (i.e., "people") skills or use them to diagnose, design or implement organizational change, these should be an explicit part of your annual professional development plan. This is all the more reason to spend more time with your consulting colleagues and taking advantage of the natural diversity of skills and perspectives the profession has to offer.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  learning  practice management  professional development  trends  your consulting practice 

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