There are many attributes that make good consultants good, but one of my favourites is curiosity. A good consultant is genuinely curious about their client's business, and they to understand not only what is being done by the business but why.
Note: In this post I am referring to software consulting (both functional and technical) but this applies equally to any situation where you're learning about somebody and their work.
When you're engaged as a consultant to a business you're typically there to help them solve a problem. Sure, your job title or employer might determine the tools you use for the solution1 but first and foremost you're being paid to solve a problem. The challenge for newcomers is that the problem isn't always clear to the business.
This is where your innate curiosity shines. By being truly interested in the workings of your client, you can begin to see challenges and issues that they themselves were not entirely clear on. Only then can you decide the best way to use your chosen tool to solve that problem.
So how do you harness your curiosity? One more formal approach is the Humble Inquiry approach, documented in the well-received book by the same name by author Edgar H Schein2. With this approach you use carefully crafted questions to build rapore with somebody and learn about their needs. For a more casual approach, thinking about the task as if you were trying to understand it as a new employee of the company works well for me.
The consultants I have worked with who were best at their job were genuinely curious about our clients. Those who lacked the interest or desire to be curious didn't lead to happy clients.
Stay curious! Your peers and clients will appreciate it.
"Salesforce Consultant" probably suggests you'll be using Salesforce to solve a problem, working for a Microsoft partner probably suggests you'll use one of their tools. That your deliverable uses a particular product or service doesn't mean you aren't using that tool to solve a problem. ↩
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This post is part 1 of the Good Consulting series:
- Why curiosity and inquisitiveness make for a good consultant
- Why compassion is non-negotiable for good consultants
- We need to change our mind more readily.