Get off to a good start on your projects
When working as an external consultant, it is important that you get off to a good start on new projects. In this article, Allan Leth points to some elements, which are significant when you land in a new organization and want to make a positive impression from day one.
Interview with Allan Leth, Business Consultant with 10+ years of experience as an external consultant, on assignment for ProData Consult
Get to know the organization
When working as an external consultant, it is crucial that you are capable of landing in a new project and can deliver value from the beginning. This requires you quickly understand the tasks and the organization you are facing. According to Allan Leth who has several years of experience as an external consultant, it is necessary to do a solid preparatory work before starting in the organization:
“Before my assignment starts, I thoroughly familiarize myself with the client’s organization. What kind of organization is it, which stakeholders are important, and who should I make sure I have good relations to if I want to succeed. If you have to spend too much time in the beginning to get familiar with things, you will have a problem.”
According to Leth, it is essential to scrutinize the surroundings in the organization before starting. It offers you the opportunity to faster create the right connections and resolve possible problems, and at the same time you get a better insight to how processes and work flows are organized. To get this kind of insight before starting in the organization, it is a matter of using your network.
“If you know someone in your network who has worked in the organization, make sure to have a talk with them. They can give you some knowledge about the organization, which will help you understand where the focus should be and where in the organization the shoe pinches,“ Allan Leth explains.
A thorough preparation gives an obvious head start. But it also becomes evident to the client that you know the organization and how the workflows work beforehand, and this gives the client a basic comfort and trust from the beginning.
Establish good relations
There are high demands for external consultants. More often, you will experience that your introduction consists of getting assigned a computer and a place to sit and then you can just get to work. These are the conditions for external consultants and you have to be able to handle this. It requires the consultant to retain independence and clout. A good start on a project is not only dependent on a thorough preparation, but also how you establish relations when you have started. And, according to Leth, relations are not established from behind a desk. You have to get out from behind the desk and create strong relations to the key stakeholders that are important for your project – by actually meeting and talking to them.
“It can be a challenge to create strong relations in a short period of time. But it is a necessity as an external consultant. I come across many who try to establish the relations through e-mails. But it is not enough. Strong relations are established by getting out in the organization and meeting people face to face.”
As an external consultant, you have to remind yourself that you are not permanently employed in the organization. In some organizations, this can mean that you might have to have a more diplomatic approach when establishing relations.
Comprehend the client’s needs and create value
First and foremost, you need to provide value to the client. You get hired based on the professionalism you can bring to the organization, but you also provide some personal value and it is important that there is balance between the two.
According to Allan Leth, it is basically being independent but without losing the sight of what the client needs. It is all about an awareness of what is most valuable to the client, and as a result you might have to take on other assignments than was originally a part of the job description. Furthermore, you should have a humble approach and make sure not to be too onrushing. If you show openness and listen twice as much as you talk, it will show an engagement that will help establish trust because the organization feels heard and understood:
“If you just come storming in without testing the waters to get an understanding of the client’s needs, it can give a negative impression as it can seem too turbulent,” Allan Leth explains.
Although you should be careful not to be too onrushing, you should still challenge in areas where there is potential for improvement. A premise for this is that you have initially listened to the client and taken the time to get an understanding of the situation. Last, but not least, it is important that you act on the things you say.
”If you are all talk and never follow through on your assignments, the client will quickly lose trust. You should be attentive and honest in your approach while executing at the same time – that will get you a long way,” Allan Leth elaborates.