Key traits of a good management consultant
Anyone can put up a website these days and advertise their services as a consultant. But to be a good management consultant who gets regular work and many referrals requires the right blend of skills.
Management consultants do, after all, hold the success of a business in their hands.
They need to have the right combination of skills and experience to know what they’re doing and to achieve beneficial results for clients.
Whether you’re keen to start a new career as a management consultant, or need to hire one for your organisation, it’s important to understand the types of characteristics which make a big difference.
But first, let’s look at what management consultants are and why businesses employ them.
What is a management consultant?
A management consultant is engaged by a business seeking external expertise to help improve performance and build greater efficiency into their operations.
Organisations may seek the assistance of a management consultant in almost any area of business, where they might be tasked with suggesting more effective systems and processes, finding ways to reduce costs or even developing new products and services.
Like many business consultants, various specialisations and skills are offered by different management consultants, and so business owners must select carefully when choosing a management consultant to work with.
But there are some key traits that all management consultants should share. Here are the top four.
1. Business acumen and knowledge
Management consultants need to have a thorough understanding of how businesses work, and the various areas within an operation that must be concentrated on to achieve commercial success.
But more than that, management consultants also require in-depth knowledge of the particular types of businesses they work with.
While there are many things that are standard across all industries and niches, the fact is that different styles of companies do have varying factors to take into consideration when it comes to decision-making and organisation.
This includes things like laws and other regulations, staffing needs, operating processes, finance requirements, timelines and more.
By specialising in one or a few areas, good management consultants can bring more to the table and offer specific, helpful advice to business owners.
2. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
In addition to having a clear understanding of a situation and of best practices, top management consultants must properly convey the information and advice they want business owners to know.
There’s no point in their coming in to assist, if their communication is so lacking that they can’t actually share their expertise, or complex ideas, adequately.
Active listening is another vital part of having the right communication skills.
Management consultants need to be able to really listen to entrepreneurs to understand what results they’re looking for and where some of their prime challenges to date have stemmed from.
After all, no matter how knowledgeable a consultant may be, they can’t understand a business like those who have been ‘in the trenches’ and working on it for many months or years.
In addition, for consultants to be successful they need honed interpersonal skills that enable them to be a team player and get along well with those they’re advising and working with.
In their line of work, management consultants interact with people with all sorts of personalities, as well as people who come from a variety of backgrounds.
3. Patience and curiosity
Consultants should not just come in and immediately tell business owners what to change.
Instead, they need to listen, investigate, and perform a thorough examination before offering a pragmatic diagnosis.
Effective management consultants are patient. They know that if a business isn’t performing at its best, there are likely numerous issues to be discovered and addressed.
It takes time and persistence to find these and to unravel the mess which an organisation may be in.
Curiosity is a big part of working all of this out.
Plus, if an initial solution falls short, consultants must be curious and proactive enough to investigate.
This will enable them to come up with a Plan B (and Plan C, D, E, F and G, as required!).
4. Constant learning
To stay at the top of their game and really provide excellent value for money, good management consultants must be constant learners.
They have to keep up-to-date on new trends in the industries they specialise in.
They must also learn about new technologies as they become available, and know how to use relevant programs, whether it’s top online accounting software or the latest project management apps or other productivity tools.
Consultants have to continually learn about pertinent laws, accountancy regulations, and financial updates, too.
And, since businesses and the teams within them have changing needs, it pays for management consultants to stay abreast of new management strategies and ideas.