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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#336: Focus on Your Strengths

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 28, 2010
Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010
As consultants, we spend a lot of time focusing on areas of weakness that require strengthening. We work diligently on becoming a stronger public speaker, being more technologically savvy, improving our listening skills, etc. Although often necessary, working exclusively to improve our weak points might not be the best use of our time!

From an early age, many of us are conditioned to focus on improving our weak points. As many school children can attest, parents often spend far more effort and concern over a student's struggle with a challenging subject then towards one grasped effortlessly and passed easily.

This tendency often flows all the way through to the workplace. Much more effort is placed on improving an employee's weaker areas of performance than towards leveraging one's existing strengths in the performance of their work, or helping to make one's strongest areas of performance even more formidable. This is unfortunate, because building on an existing strength tends to require far less effort than that of improving weaknesses and the negativity surrounding the process is significantly diminished. If standing out from your consulting peers is your goal, then enhancing your already notable strengths is a good use of your limited resources.

Tip: All people possess strengths to leverage and weaknesses to contend with. Instead of spending all of your time trying to fix your weaknesses, use the classic "hammer and pivot" strategy principle: hold on your weaknesses and press forward with a singular strength. Concentrate on leveraging your strengths wherever possible and place a focus on making them even stronger, which should apply to your clients as well as yourself.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  practice management  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#335: How Not To Be a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 25, 2010
Updated: Friday, June 25, 2010
I am proud of my consulting career and invest a lot of time into professional development, research, and pro bono work using my expertise. However, I commonly run into people who disparage the management consulting profession. Why do consultants have this reputation?

All professions have their supporters and detractors, but consulting may be a special case. Given the range of disciplines, skills and behaviors needed to be an effective consultant, no state or national licensure is required for consulting as it is for fields like engineering, medicine, or architecture. The only credential offered is certification of experience, skills, knowledge, ethics and client satisfaction.

This lack of licensing, combined with easy entry into the profession, where anyone can call themselves a consultant, fosters an environment where many clients are disappointed. Consultants can assert capabilities and experience without verification. Clients shortchanged by the consultant they selected are often reluctant to reveal the full extent of their disappointment. However, several authors have written high profile books over the past few years highlighting some of the spectacular consulting failures.

This is not to imply that all, or even most, consultants are not capable, honest and committed to their clients. The source of client dissatisfaction comes from large and small firms, in all regions and industry specializations. However, it is important for every consultant to be aware of the often unspoken climate in which they provide services. We should all know what is on our clients' minds as possible risks of using our services. For example, the reuse of one well-known large consulting firm's client report for another client (neglecting to change all the client names from the original report) was a widely discussed embarrassment that affects us all, as were recent allegations of insider trading of high-end consultants, and involvement in the design of Wall Street financial scams.

Tip: We would all be wise to read one or more of the following "consulting kiss and tell" books written over the past few years:
  • Dangerous Company: Management Consultants and the Businesses They Save and Ruin
  • The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus
  • House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time
It is even useful to consider how you would have avoided or responded to situations in which some high profile consulting firms found themselves as described in these books. Be prepared to discuss with prospective clients.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  ethics  goodwill  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#334: Even Expert Consultants Need Mentors

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 24, 2010
Updated: Thursday, June 24, 2010
Coaching has been getting high marks from successful executives for several years. I've been very successful in my consulting career and just don't see any benefit in it for me. What am I missing, if anything?

There are two issues here. First, would someone as accomplished as you benefit from a coach or mentor? As good as we think we are in a particular discipline, we can see things from only one perspective. All of us go to a spouse, colleague or friend for a second opinion on many issues. Why wouldn't we do the same on our profession? Even Tiger Woods, inarguably one of the best golfers in the world, has at least one golf coach to help him tweak or completely rebuild his swing. Just because you are good doesn't mean you can't improve.

Second, what kind of coach or mentor is best for you? Would you best benefit from a consulting mentor, perhaps a senior colleague whose professionalism and experience you admire? Would a life coach, whose expertise integrates your attitudes, skills and approach to your profession and life, provide a more sustained beneficial change? Or maybe a coach known for developing your capability in a specific discipline such as marketing, public speaking or negotiation?

Tip: Just because you are a good consultant doesn't mean you can self-diagnose where a coach would best help. Take your own best advice (leave diagnosis to the experts) and spend some time with a coach or two to see in what areas you could most benefit.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  learning  practice management  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#333: How Well Do You Really Know Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I learned something recently from a colleague that I think your readers would benefit from. It is a great way to demonstrate that you really understand the full context of your work for a client.

Most consulting engagements run along a variation of a standard path: scoping, internal/external scans, diagnosis, refinement, recommendations, implementation, evaluation. Depending on how well we know the client or industry and the scope of our work, this is pretty much how it goes (notwithstanding the howls of protest from purists that each engagement is unique and that they use a "proven" technique that differs from the above).

However, how can you know from initial discussions, especially with a new client, that you "get" where they are coming from and where they are going? One way is for you to prepare a one page business plan for your client to confirm or refute your understanding of his or her business.

This does not mean that you sit down with the corporate strategic planning documents and create your own version of their plan. It does mean that you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and, based on only your acquired knowledge of the client, lay out a brief vision, mission, objectives (5-10), strategies (also 5-10), major implementation steps in the coming year or two, and up to 5 key performance metrics. Try to do this in less than 15 minutes.

Your client may be surprised by how much you know about the organization. They may also be thrilled by your objectives or strategies they had not thought of. The downside, of course, is that you may demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about your client.

Tip: Draft your one page plan in private and vet it with client documents and staff before presenting it to your client. The advantage of having such a discussion is that it makes unambiguous your common understanding of the concepts and language of where the organization is going and how it will get there.

P.S. Consider using an existing powerful and proven methodology for this one page planning developed by longtime IMC member Jim Horan. His One Page Business Plan approach creates the ability to develop a simple, easy to understand and transparent plan that any manager can use to deliver results for a company, division or project.  See www.onepagebusinessplan.com.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  learning  presentations 

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#332: Using a Mind Map to Prepare Your Elevator Speech

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
For all the discussion about having a perfect elevator speech, I consider them worthless. Each person you talk to has a different perspective and warrants a customized view of your services. Why have a stock speech?

Let's consider what the "elevator speech" is intended to do. It is a way to focus on the vital few elements of your value proposition so that you can quickly express them. It does not mean that this is the only content you can or should have to describe who you are or what you can do. It certainly does not mean that you expect the conversation to end once the elevator speech is over. In fact, you want the conversation to expand, and this is where people who only prepare a single elevator speech lose out.

Are you ready for the (hopefully) inevitable question from a prospect? Are you prepared to address any aspect of your speech? One way to prepare is to create a mindmap of your elevator speech. For each element (e.g., geography, discipline, industry, client type, pricing, consulting philosophy, past clients, expected outcomes, contract terms, work style, proposed services) map out how you might react to a range of the prospect's follow up questions. The map can get quite big, and you will likely uncover areas you didn't expect. Now you are ready to give the elevator speech, recognizing that it is only the opening act.

Tip: Show the mindmap to your colleagues or current clients. Does it resonate with them? Do they recognize you and your firm's services? How would they follow up if you were giving them the elevator speech? What did you discover?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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