Great consultants vs. good consultants

By | February 15, 2014

I interviewed a candidate yesterday for a role on the team. The candidate asked “What are you looking for in a candidate?” No surprise, the answer is “It Depends“.   

As I described in a previous post called Finders, Minders, and Grinders, there are several different roles on a typical consulting project. Each person has their role, and if done correctly, it is a beautiful thing to see. Not only is the team performing well, but people are learning, growing, and having fun.

What does success look like? Everyone has their role, but they are doing such a good job of it, that they are making their boss’ job easier. It is a lean team. No one is sitting around unproductive, and the conversion rate from input to output is high. Things are getting done, the team is getting to bed at a reasonable hour. No one is working on the weekend. The client is happy and there is a good chance for “add-on” work.

There is also a big difference between good and great. In consulting world, there is no average because average means fired. Good = easy to work with, someone who is a reliable  asset to the team. Great is a leader = someone you want to stay in touch long term because that person will be hugely successful in life.

Good Grinder (Analyst, consultant, senior consultant) 

  • Listens well and requires limited direction; hears it once, and does it
  • Data cleaning is thorough and excel calculations are accurate
  • Research is summarized and grouped into topics (not stream of consciousness)
  • Email communications are organized, written well, and easy to understand
  • Personally reliable, writes up meeting minutes, submits expense reports on time
  • Demonstrates maturity and can “hang out” with people 10+ years older

Great Grinder, everything listed above +

  • Strong client presence, ability to answer client’s questions authoritatively
  • Helps other grinders, and is the leader of their group
  • Fast and efficient.  MS Excel and MS PowerPoint gets done in 1/2 the time
  • Diligent.  Goes the extra mile, impresses without being a sycophant
  • So coach-able that people want to be their mentor
  • Reverse mentors older team-mates on technology, apps, and other “new” things

Good Minder (Manager, Senior Manager) 

  • Keeps project rolling, and team mates productive; people know what to do
  • Provides clarity on project scope, reduces the ambiguity for team members
  • Instills confidence in the client and also juniors on the team
  • Creates very good “decks” that are logical, convincing, and interesting
  • Serves as the cultural norm, the standard by which others modify behavior
  • Drafts sales proposals and marketing material to 80% completion
  • Manages project staffing and profitability; no financial surprises on the project

Great Minder, everything listed above +

  • Keeps the client happy, engaged and laughing
  • Able to push back on partners / principals when appropriate
  • Coaches others naturally; others seek his/her opinion
  • Possess business acumen and has point-of-view on the subject matter
  • Thinks strategically about the project – what is next, what the risks are
  • Gets the endorsement of client; able to reference the project in future proposals
  • Finds new business and “add-on” sales at the client site

Good and great finders (principals / partners): These come in so many shapes, sizes and dispositions that it is hard to generalize. If becoming a partner is “winning” in the consulting game, the key take-way is that there are many ways to win.

Great consultant attributes

My recommendation for those who look to truly excel in a corporate work environment – and consulting – you should pick up How to Be a Star At Work, by Robert Kelley here. Was recommended by one of my mentors, and I agree with most all of the book.  Also, there are used copies of the book being sold at amazon for 1 cent + shipping. Grab it.

How to be a Star at Work

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3 thoughts on “Great consultants vs. good consultants

  1. Brandon

    Nice post my friend. I would be particularly interested in a post just on “Finders” since it sounds like there is so much variation there. Come on man. Don’t let me down!

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