What Interpersonal Skills Are Needed By Consultants?
Consultants require the use of many skills when on a consulting assignment and when working within a client environment. Here are 4 interpersonal skills that the consultant should have. These are important in getting the desired results.
Being able to listen to what people at the client site have to say to uncover the truth about an issue. Many people will either give you, the consultant, too much or too little of the information that you require. A good consultant will ask the right probing questions and keep on asking them until he is satisfied that the person that he is interviewing has given up all they know. Knowing what to ask and having been prepared well prior to every meeting and interview with client personnel is the key.
Patience is something that all consultants soon learn to have a lot of. Consultants are often seen as a bother by client organization personnel. They see the consultant as taking up too much of their precious time. They promise to fit you in but are normally distracted by their work loads, telephone calls and other interruptions when you finally get them to sit down with you. This run around is pretty normal. Often details have been left out and a revisit with a client employee that you have already interviewed is required.
Try and be as objective as possible at all times. Remember why you are at the client site and what is expected of you as the consultant. Many people will give you the “inside scoop” on other employees or tell you about the company’s “dirty linen”. They themselves have a lot of preconceived notions about other people and departments, as well as experiences and run-ins they have had and cannot wait to tell you about them. Often this is just distracting noise, which has very little factual basis. It is counterproductive to play favorites, just because of what you may have heard second hand about someone or some other department within the client organization. Objectivity and keeping an open mind must be maintained at all times.
Being engaging and nonthreatening
Many client personnel view you as an outsider. You come in and disturb them, and ask lots of questions. The employees become suspicious and start to question the motivation behind you being at the client’s offices. They see you as a threat to either their jobs or that you may bring changes they may not like. Being able to put people at ease and not view you as a threat is almost always necessary, until they get used to seeing you around the client’s offices. It is a good idea to have a prepared opening statement when you initially meet client employees, explaining the reasons for you being there and what you are expected to deliver at the end of the process or project. Naturally one can only release the facts that the client sponsor that employed you allows to divulge. Also assure the client employees of your discretion.