I just completed my second year in consulting. I joined the institute of workforce development (IWDev) on the 1st of April 2013, IWDev is one of Nigeria’s leading consulting firm in policy development, research, governance performance system, organizational re-Invention/transformation and governance, public sector leadership capacity building and implementation of cutting edge strategy.
It has been an awesome experience of progressive learning and problem solving. I have learned how to do so many things, I also learned how not to do quite a lot. All these acquired lessons has helped to crystallize my consulting skill and further reveal a far better part of my skills and capabilities.
In a way of commemorating my second year anniversary, I want to share four lessons I have so far learned in consulting. These lessons are valuable, you can apply them to your personal life and career. So are you ready? here we go!
1. A consultant is a problem solver or he is nothing: From my first day in consulting, I was introduced to several rigorous exercises. I had to develop my skill set in a wide array of areas, some of which include harnessing my presentation skills, sharpening my writing skill, solving case studies etc. I was being drilled to be the “best in world” as we refer to it here in IWDev. I was exploring the un-mined precious skills encapsulated within me. Up on till today, IWDev still make us undergo this process but in graduated intensity. I have had the opportunity to display some of this skill in several project such as HR Audit, facilitating and coordinating training sessions, brainstorming session and execution of strategy retreat for corporate organizations. I have learned to be a solution where ever I find myself.
2.When you stop learning you start dying:1 year in core consulting is equivalent to 2 years in any other management profession in the banking sector. No offenses but as the consultant manages a multi-layered task of prospecting, managing relationships and project execution, he is also saddled with the responsibility of going the extra mile to broaden his scope of knowledge in his field. I learned from robin sharma that to double your earning, you must triple your learning. As the 10,000 hour principle implies, whatever you spend an accumulated time of 10,000 hours doing, you eventually become a master at it. A consultant who must be seen as “best-in-world” must be given to continuous improvement.
A personal experience I had with my executive director was this certain time I wrote a proposal, he just looked at the letter and requested that I go back and write a letter from a consultant. I had to go back to my desk, I pulled out all the proposals in our database I could lay my hands on, I studied the writing pattern, I researched online. Not until after submitting a fourth draft that I was asked to print and take to the client. If you must excel as a great consultant, you have to posses great skills that will aid you in delivering great results in life. This skill come by studying and practice. If you consider all I have said too long, here is the summary, an experienced consultant is equivalent to his time spent studying and acquiring skills relevant to his growth.
3. Dress for the occasion: A good outfit might not be the right outfit. On a beautiful day I walked into the office in my black suit, a light pink shirt and another deeper shade of pink tie. Now the light pink shirt was okay but not with the deeper shade of pink. I looked like an MC in a circus. I was obvious! That day after work, I went to church for the mid week service and a lady commended my outfit though she asked if I had just attended a wedding. Really, it was that bad. In all honestly, I could not wait for the day to be over. Now that outfit might be the right one for a wedding occasion but not for the office, not even for a consultant. I learned one of my first practical lessons about dressing. A good outfit might not necessarily be the right outfit.
There was another occasion when I went to see the Special Adviser to one of the Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Only this time, I had learned my lesson about dressing. I had acquired dull-shaded suits with some bright shirt and complimenting tie. I was looking like harvey in the abc series “Suit”. So here I was with about ten people in the waiting room of the Special Adviser to this Honorable Minister. As soon as the Special Adviser stepped out of his office, he approached a lady whom I believe was related to her in some way. As soon as he concluded his one minute conversation with her, I was the next person he approached. He asked what I wanted so I quickly elaborated my intention for the visit and we scheduled a meeting. I do not mean to pride but I was like wow! is this how it works? I was glad. Because I was looking smart and sharp I stood out. My point is this, the way you dress is the way you will be addressed. There were over 10 people in the room, some of them were even there before me, but my appearance and comportment called out to his attention.
4. Know when to narrow your drill: There was a time IWDev facilitated a two-day strategic plan development retreat. The retreat was for one of our client in the investment sector and I was privileged to be on the team that ran the project. We were in the room with some other great minds in the consulting industry. We had consultants from InfoSoft Ltd, an IT company in Nigeria. Casers, a branding company under BBDO group, Deloite Nigeria, Folusho Philips -the principal consultant of Philips Consulting and Leke Acha from McKinsey Africa. For me it was really an engaging moment. During lunch, I took the liberty of having a four minutes interaction with Mr leke Acha. I asked what things/specific practices he engaged in that brought him up to the position he was holding in his firm. Mr Leke uttered a momenet of silence and then he proceeded to speak. he said to me that “study as much as you can, broaden your knowledge and develop your skill”. Secondly, he said “know when to narrow your drill when it comes to specialization”. It is not enough to be a general knowledge consultant. In consulting there are several knowledge areas which one will have to eventually choose to specialize in. You must know when to focus and what area(s) to focus on.
I am still here in IWDev, a prestigious firm that helps organisations translate strategy into measurable impact. I hope you find this article inspiring. What are some lessons you have learned in your field that has brought you this far? I will like to share in your knowledge.
You can write them in the comment box below.
Thanks for reading.