Consulting musings #1, Don’t Panic

Firstly, a very happy new year to all. All the best for your 2012, wherever you are!

I have been working as a consultant for around 9 years, and I have experienced a fair amount in that time. From my first client assignment (where I was almost too nervous to get out of my car in their parking lot!), right up to now where I have the pleasure of leading a consulting team… It’s interesting that the memories that stand out are those of the people I have been able to work with over the years. Some that were fantastic, and some that were less than fantastic (!)… I have been able to learn heaps from them all.

So, I wanted to begin this new year with a short series of lessons I’ve learnt from others, and I hope they will be a little amusing and maybe even helpful too…

So, let me begin with my consulting musing #1, whatever you do, “Don’t Panic”!
This really summarises my shuffles and changes through various roles. Every time that I would get comfortable in a certain scenario, like actually being able to get out of my car at client sites; another challenge would appear which would always seem slightly beyond my current skills.
Like the day I was asked to visit a client to assist with a particular MDX issue they were experiencing. Truthfully, at the time I could only spell MDX, never mind consult on it… But I had at least mastered the art of getting out of the car, so I bravely stepped into their offices and was led directly into a small room with about 10 people, and one chair and computer (which was for me)… Talk about the hot seat!!
An hour later, I had solved their issue, they were grateful, and I was relieved. Two key lessons from this one:
1. Listen. Yes, the basics, just listen. I sat for half an hour and just let them explain their issue, ask leading questions to clarify, and keep listening.
2. Remember that no man is an island. Once I understood the issue, I jumped on the phone to a senior colleague, distilled the issue to him, and was able to then convey his answer to the client. (which fortunately worked!!) This one gets tough, as it forces us to occasionally swallow our pride, and make use of the network around us. However, everyone wins in these types of situations. I learnt, my senior colleague was able to apply his own troubleshooting skills, and above all, the client got a good result.

So, relax, don’t panic, and have a little fun while you’re about it 🙂


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