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Sinking and Swimming
In consulting, everyone has a shot at partner, principal, director, or whatever your firm's jargon labels the zenith of success. But this also means it is an enormously competitive field in which to succeed. Whereas you view your performance as on par or even exceeding that of your peers, management might disagree. There are so many concurrent projects that you cannot keep track of everyone else's progress. This means doing "a good job" for the client or the firm is often not good enough. Not good enough translates to sinking. And even if you are swimming, you might be swimming behind the pack.
A Gap Analysis of a Different Kind
"Take initiative," "step up to the plate," and "take the ball and run with it" are familiar phrases to every consultant. As tired as we get of hearing these phrases in our daily meetings, we should also take heed. These cliches exist for a reason: their results prove powerful when activated effectively.
Taking initiative means identifying a void and deciding to fill that void. Stepping up to the plate means being the one to fill that void. And taking the ball and running with it means actually filling that void. I call the person who executes all three steps successfully the "Eye Opener." As an Eye Opener you are capable of:
When to Take Action
The best consultants anticipate a need or recognize when a need exists. They also know how to answer these needs with ideas that improve a policy, process, concept, production, profits, etc. When you begin to generate ideas to meet these needs, you begin "taking initiative."
~The best Eye Openers recognize the most opportune times to take initiative:
By taking initiative at the right moment, you can surprise your target audience and substantially raise your value in their eyes. (This is assuming you do not drop the ball or run in the wrong direction.) So consider whose eyes you want to open as you start identifying needs and formulating solutions.
Another consideration is when to get your audience's support or involvement - at inception (as you step up to the plate) or at solution roll-out (as you take the ball and start to run). Your decision depends on how comfortable you are with your target audience at present. Also think about how comfortable you want to be with your target audience throughout the process and at the end.
Forms of Action
Only you know the exact details of what form your results will take. General results can include:
~Risks and Rewards
Also ponder what kind of impact you want to make. Start by projecting a best case scenario, a worst case scenario, and a status quo scenario. Contemplate which scenario you are most prepared to accept by weighing your risks against your potential rewards.
Generally, risks tend to be considerable. Some common risks include:
Simultaneously, the rewards can be equally compelling. Common rewards include the opportunity to:
~Assess your risks against your rewards in terms of time and cost. But also include invaluable factors, like reputation, and their impact on your bottom line. For example, if you your reputation rises, you might earn a promotion, raise, and new office, on top of the increased responsibilities. If you your reputation suffers, you might lose out on choice assignments and will have to build from a lower starting point.
Either way, be certain you are prepared for both the risks and rewards. Otherwise, you will second-guess yourself, which will inevitably hinder your success one way or another. Above all, realize your success hinges on your ability to assess, act, and reap.
Hannah Im has been a consultant throughout her career. She specializes in businessoperations, specifically process improvement/reengineering and risk management. Herclients tend to be in the financial services or media and are entrepreneurial orundergoing major transitions. She graduated with a dual Bachelor of Arts from MountHolyoke College.
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