Ask @SageFlow:

What is the biggest challenge in client engagement from your experience?

Client engagement is the most critical aspect of consulting. As you are not in a position of authority, the only real leverage you have is the level of engagement you and the client's key stakeholders are able to provide.
Engagement at different levels of the organisation is critical and you will need to figure out early on who your supporters and possible adversaries will be, so you can deal with this as early as possible.
Relate your results back to them, ideally individualised so people see what it means to them, as well as for their team and the rest of the organisation.
Gaining engagement from top leadership is winning half the battle in a lot of cases, but this also depends on the organisational structure so unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question.

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Hi Dave, I was wondering what you thought were the biggest challenges you faced as a consultant and how you managed them. Did you ever discuss these with your mentors or managers?

As a consultant, you will face numerous challenges, especially during critical implementations. The biggest challenge for me, especially in the beginning of my career, was influencing without authority. As a consultant, you are mostly hired to change something that is broken or that is not working as well as they would like. They look at you as the expert and there is a tendency on the client side to take a hands-off approach. We call this the 'do it to us' mindset where they would tell you what they like to see fixed and then sit back and wait to hear back from you with the news that you have been able to fix it. One of the greatest challenges for consultants is not to fall into this pitfall. As a consultant, you can only go a certain distance to reach the desired result. The client needs to be an equal partner in realising the change. This is not always easy as most of the people you are working with in order to achieve the change have not been part of the initial conversations on what is needed, nor do they believe that the change will benefit them, sometimes. The list of challenges is long but these are the most important ones in my opinion. Whenever these came up, I would either discuss it with my direct manager or experienced consulting colleague

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Hi Dave. What, according to you, are the top 5 skills (hard and soft) that a fantastic management consultant should have?

Excellent interpersonal skills - ability to easily connect with others
Cognitive versatility - ability to think things through in a highly agile way
Empathy - ability to put yourself in their shoes. Some of the people in the organisation will consider you as a threat due to a number of different fears, one of the most powerful ones: being fired.
Analytical - ability to focus on the interconnectivity between every element of the organisation. The butterfly effect is very real in organisations.
Communication - the ability to relate your message to the listener in such a way that is easy for them to understand and buy into what you are saying

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