the profession force consultants to exercise these ‘
muscles’! From their first day in consulting to their last, tenacity and resourcefulness is required in activities from
data collection to business development, and consultants must have the mental and physical stamina to keep
this going. Resilience is important too. Consultants get
knocked-back constantly—by uncooperative subjects
and even data, and they lose competitive bids more often than they’d like. To survive, they must pick themselves up and keep going. As the saying goes: “What
doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
5. CONTINUOUS SELF-IMPROVEMENT
Skill and knowledge acquisition are important in the
medium to long term. Consultants are paid for this, and
they need to be half a step ahead if they are going to be
advising their clients. Long-term consultants not only keep
their learning, but also reinvent themselves periodically,
in response to market conditions and trends. Reflecting on
my own experience. I’ve moved from focusing on mining,
to government and more recently telecommunications.
And like most consultants now—I’m focusing on the rapidly evolving digital landscape and technologies. Being
contemporary and on top of what’s happening is vital.
6. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, EMPATHY & LIKEABILITY
These attributes tend to be much stronger in change
and people consultants than, say technology or strategy
consultants—who tend to be valued for other attributes
early in their career. But ultimately, a long career demands it of all consultants. There are several reasons for
this. First—consultants are always dealing with clients
and working in teams. “Could you survive three months
in a coal mine with this candidate?” was actually a recruitment criteria we applied at one firm. Second—the
biggest issues to successful implementation tend to be
people-oriented. As the Head of DevOps at a large telecommunications company recently told me: “It amazes
me how people still believe that successful technology
implementation has to do with the technology itself”.
Finally—account management and business development require building strong rapport and trust, only possible via strong EQ and empathy skills.
7. TEAM PLAYING
This is clearly associated with people skills but is im-
portant enough to call out separately. Consultants work
in project teams, account teams, sales teams and later
leadership teams, and often under tight deadlines and
pressure. Non-team players cause friction and drag per-
formance down. They tend to be culled quickly, or if
they are senior—isolated; which is not a recipe for hap-
piness or success.
8. DELIVERY MANAGEMENT
Ultimately, consultants are measured on their output
and outcomes. This means delivering high quality work
on time and budget. Things rarely go to plan on any project. The client changes his mind part-way through the
project, team members fall ill and need to be substituted,
the promised client resources and data aren’t delivered
… or the duration could suddenly be shortened (“Can we
bring the deadlines forward to accommodate the CEO’s
holiday plans?” Answer, “Of course!”). Good consultants
will have contingency plans, but will inevitably need to
adapt mid-course and still deliver the expected goods.
9. POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Each consultant needs to be famous for something, and
this requirement increases with seniority. Clients want to
be provided the best people, and the expertise of senior
consultants must be demonstrable. This then translates to
the requirement within firms. Client demand begets further opportunities as colleagues then want such individuals on their teams. Industry knowledge tends to be most
valued by clients unless a competency is ‘hot’—block
chain or RPA (robotic process automation) expertise.
Then, there’s judgement. It’s probably the hardest to test
for until you observe it. Good judgement requires the attributes of 1-9 combined with good decision-making. Successful consultants have good judgement in abundance.
Finally, for the three aspiring consultants whom I
saw at in that office, I hope you nailed the interviews
and achieve your goal of being a strategy consultant.
You’ll be in for one hell of a ride, but it will be fun.
And maybe one day you can tell me if I’ve got these
ten attributes right.
Mithran Doraisamy is a long-time consultant and a
corporate executive. A co-founder and senior Partner of
EY’s consulting practice in Australia and the Asia-Pacific,
he is now an independent advisor.