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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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#681: Tackle Your Weaknesses One at a Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
There are some things about my skill set and consulting approach that cause me trouble in analysis, client service delivery and practice management. What's the best way to address these weaknesses?

Every one of us has some weaknesses that we should consider opportunities for improvement. Given how busy we are marketing and delivering client services, however, we rarely take the time to address them. Eventually, some of these small problems can grow to seriously hinder or effectiveness and value as consultants. This is Covey's principle of stopping to sharpen the saw.

So what are you doing about those weaknesses today? First, identify what your biggest challenges are (and, yes, we all have them). Are they writing, statistics, presentation skills, finance, creativity, interviewing, public speaking, a technical specialty, or what?

Next, get started improving those skills or attitudes. Go to your favorite online book retailer or search online for articles relating to strategies, products or processes to address your specific weakness. How many books or articles came up? Probably a lot. Read the book reviews and buy one or two or download a few articles. Commit to tackle one of your weaknesses over a week (or two or three, depending on how big a problem it is). Place the books or articles strategically around your office and home, and read them whenever you are so moved. Just don't let them escape to a pile somehwere that you can intentionally avoid or miss seeing.

Tip: The point is to make a commitment to vigorously tackle this weakenss and not avoid it because it is hard and seemingly a low priority compared to billable work. Set some kind of measure so you can know when you are done. You do not have to eliminate a weakness entirely, just improve it to a satisfactory point. Before long you will have to start looking for another weakness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  learning  performance improvement  professional development  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#677: Is Consulting All You Do?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
My consulting career is going pretty well, with a full book of business and a growing staff. It does occupy a lot of time and there are times when I feel like I am giving up on other experiences. Does a successful consulting practice preclude other activities?

Consulting can be time consuming, but doesn't have to overwhelm other aspects of your professional life. In its traditional form, consulting involves building relationships, developing professional skills and technology, and applying them through time spent solving problems. As a professional who brings together experience, skills and perspective, it doesn't have to all be time intensive one-on-one consultation with a client.

There is a range of opportunities to use your expertise in other ways:
  1. Writing - Take on a column, blog, book, white paper, etc. to bring new perspective to your practice, build your visibility and create some lasting value from your expertise.
  2. Speaking - At any level, speak to trade associations, business or consulting conferences, or to community groups about topics related to your area of expertise.
  3. Research - Conduct some data collection, surveys, analysis or other approach to generating new information about your area of expertise or interest.
  4. Volunteering - Give back to your community by offering your management and consulting skills to local nonprofit organizations.
  5. Productizing - Turn your expertise into tangible products such as book or DVD "how to" guides.
  6. Starting Another Business - There is no reason why you can't extend your work into non-consulting businesses related to your area of expertise, as long as you manage conflicts of interest.
  7. Partnering With Other People - Find individuals with whom you have not worked before and who you respect to develop new partnerships with, getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps a new way of practicing your consulting.
Any of these approaches is a way to freshen your consulting business and develop some new perspectives outside of the traditional day to day advice business.

Tip: Perhaps overlooked by many consultants are hobbies. Consider ways to pursue your passion in areas totally outside of consulting. For example, if you are a process consultant, you might enjoy furniture making, where details, procedures and materials combine just as in process reengineering but to produce a tangible object. If you thrive on platform speaking, maybe you could lend your passion to teach acting or storytelling. There are lots of examples but each hobby or other pursuit allows you to use or utilize your skills and interests in something other than consulting.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  coaching  community service  mentor  pro bono  publishing  teaching  teaching/training  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#560: How to Know You're Beginning to Master Your Profession

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 6, 2011
Updated: Friday, May 6, 2011
If business and management are constantly changing and consultants are expected to keep up with or get ahead of these changes, how do we know when we have "mastered our craft"?

I am not sure we ever master our craft, whether the industry we consult to or the disciplines we use to provide client services. That doesn't mean we shouldn't learn as much as we can about business, management and consulting. However, there are two clues that indicate we might be getting close.

First is the frequency with which your professional colleagues seek you out for advice. Do your colleagues come to you (not just once, but second and third times) asking your opinion about how to evaluate a situation or recommend a course of action? Do they ask you for your judgment and benefit of your experience? Do they refer to you as "the person who knows about these things?" If so, then your knowledge and experience have reached a level of peer acceptance.

Second is when you can read the latest business book relating to your discipline or industry and, based on experience and a solid understanding of underlying theory, react confidently to assertions it makes with "Yes, no, no, no, that's interesting, no, yes, NO!, only in certain circumstances, etc." This does not mean your reactions are based on unfounded opinions but are made with a full understanding of how the systems and concepts you read about work.

Tip: A commitment to management consulting is also a commitment to lifelong learning. Although we never master the profession, we can seek the affirmation of our peers and the confidence to critically evaluate best practices as indicators we are improving.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  consulting skills  education  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  performance improvement  professional development  professionalism  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#530: Mind Your Ethics When Creating Case Studies for Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011
My client has asked us to provide case studies to use in training his internal consulting staff. He specifically asked that they be based on my own experience and to include how I handled the situations. Should I be worried about using the situation of my other clients?

Absolutely. Setting aside your client's desire for you to use your prior client experiences, there is a serious ethics issue here. You are obliged to protect data and, in most cases, even inferences, about your client's operations, products and even business strategies or plans. Even with your best attempts to redact facts and "fuzzy up" strategies, someone who knows the market of your client may be able to piece together who you are talking about. And, your clients may even prefer you not divulge the nature of your work with them.

It is better to create cases that don’t relate to your clients - at least don't relate one case to one client. Remember, it is perfectly appropriate to create case studies that are entirely fictional. Think of the standard movie disclaimer "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Tip: You can only use prior client experience if your prior client signs off on your case write-up and its use for training your (specified) current client. You are better off advising your client that professionalism prevents you from the fact or appearance of divulging potentially proprietary information.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  education  ethics  teaching/training 

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#514: Get Critical Business Skills From Gaming

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Generation X and Y have their own approach to work that includes a task orientation, a focus on results and an eagerness for change. These sound like skills that companies value in consultants. Will Gen X and Y workers inherently make good consultants?

Businesses highly value consultants who can "see the big picture," are adaptable, and are enthusiastic about managing change. Gen X and Y, with the same perspectives, do seem like they would make great consultants. But why?

One aspect of this approach is the pervasive impact of video games. John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas write, in The Gamer Disposition in Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas for 2008, that online multiplayer games create the exact skills most desired in today's knowledge workers. These are:
  • They are bottom-line orientation
  • They understand the power of diversity
  • They thrive on change
  • They see learning as fun
  • They marinate on the "edge"
Seely and Brown see these individuals as learning (from these complex, adaptive, interactive systems) a range of skills such as flexibility, resourcefulness, meritocracy focus, and innovativeness. If you are looking for consultants, think about Gen X and Y candidates.

Tip: To develop your skills in systems thinking, adaptability, cooperation, decision making, innovation and stress management, think about participating in role playing and other interactive games.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  demographics  innovation  learning  professional development  teaching/training  trends 

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