Consultant is not only a profession but a real vocation
Working as a consultant is more than just giving advice
At a time of all kinds of uncertainties, many of us are wondering about the best way to follow to ensure the sustainability of our professional careers. These questions have rarely crossed my mind. Imagine yourself in a position which makes your profile an essential element for a large number of companies active in a large market, and which, in addition, forces you to maintain a high stimulation both in terms of the challenges to be met and in terms of lifelong learning.
The business model in which we operate pushes clients to better understand what consulting assignments can accomplish. They must ask more of these advisors, who in turn bear the heavy burden of meeting expanded expectations. This state of affairs has continued to be verified throughout my career as a consultant and project manager. Each new mission generates that almost indescribable feeling where you are called upon to stand on your own feet and walk as if it was the very first time. A kind of propulsion into the unknown with no knowledge of where you will land. In reality, only your fundamentals and your ability to grasp new subjects serve as a parachute.
Consultant is not only a profession but a real vocation
This is where the beauty of this profession lies. As far as I’m concerned, the experience during which this phenomenon was expressed in the most marked way was undoubtedly that of my involvement in a series of projects on behalf of a renowned school specializing in the hotel industry and the culinary arts. A framework definitely totally unusual but above all, objectives which were based on technological aspects far removed from what I have mastered. To cap it all, the context was very specific since the headquarters of the organization in question had to change location and it was up to me to manage its move for all the part related to the technical and digital infrastructure. It was obvious then: my expertise in information systems and integrated management software would be of little use to me. There, I was far from my comfort zone.
On the other hand, project management no longer held much secrets for me. So never mind. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to business.
The first phase was just a repetition of the well-known and essential steps in starting a process of this kind. Know who is in charge of what, what the interactions are and under what communication models. More concretely, it was necessary to understand the issues and the constraints, in order to draw up a plan that took into account the strengths and weaknesses of each of the resources available to guarantee its success.
So, I went in search of the most relevant information that I can collect. Convinced of the idea that when the objective is clear, parties are more likely to manage the process of committing the resources involved satisfactorily. So, it was time to get to the heart of the matter, once the introductions were made. This often requires putting your finger on what is inconvenient, because in every organization there are conflicts of interest, inclinations or even wars often obscured by the highest authorities for fear of confrontation or implosion. However, if we often hear said that the customer is king, I feel confident that the outcome is emperor. Success is therefore the only valid option. To achieve this, the constant search for a balance between firmness and flexibility, conciliation and authority remains essential.
The consultant’s approach should demonstrate that the reason for these sometimes-disturbing interviews is not to find out what is wrong in order to assign blame, but to encourage constructive ideas so that members at all levels of the organization come to see the project as useful, not as an unwanted inquisition.
Convincing also means exposing yourself. The infused science does not belong to anyone. Nothing is more confusing than being surrounded by specialists who debate subjects that are completely beyond you and about which you ultimately have very little clear-cut opinion, because you do not master them. Do not panic. Of course, I had to „do my homework“ to bring myself up to speed and try to understand what it was all about. Above all, I knew that what was required of me was to use my analytical skills for the benefit of the desired objectives, so that each of the people approached worked in good understanding, together, for a common goal.
Whether it is the overhaul of the IT and network infrastructure, the consolidation of the active directory, the establishment of a new data center or a storage system for confidential documents, subjects for the most of which I only had theoretical knowledge, they all ended with a positive outcome. The challenge had been met and the customer completely satisfied.
Of course, there is no formula, but this state of mind will undoubtedly have enabled me to carry out complex projects involving many stakeholders. It is never a given. This requires great efforts very often invisible to those who consider, above all, the costs represented by services of this scale. It is true that the expectations are such that they often leave little room for recognition.
However, what could be more rewarding than hearing your clients‘ staff tell you that the work they have been asked to do has never been coordinated so nicely? That despite the difficulties, the driving seemed so fluid to them that at no time did they feel that the effort required of them was wasted, useless, or even wasted.
An ideal setting for optimal development and ability to progress
Without giving the impression of „butter the employer up” who allows me to support myself and those of my family while carrying out an activity that fully contributes to my development; an attitude that hardly suits me, I have to admit that Antaes is one of the best executives I have ever known.
Indeed, it promotes the personal development of its consultants, on the one hand by leaving them a margin of maneuver revealing a mark of confidence in their completely appreciable capacities, and on the other hand, by pushing them to adopt a pillar mentality.
There is a distinction between “doing the right things” and “doing things the right way”. While the first testifies to our effectiveness, the second rather illustrates our efficiency. Antaes encourages its employees, in direct contact with its clients, to be efficient at all times by offering them the possibility of taking action, despite their fears. Most people fear failure. This is why they promote a posture that helps them to „play it safe“. Pillars, on the other hand, deliberately seek out challenges. This does not mean that they have no doubts. Rather, they are willing to fight as much as possible to avoid failure. A strategy that very often proves to be winning and profitable for the company and the client as well as for the consultant himself.
In my opinion, the key to becoming a popular element lies, first of all, in the constant search to understand others, to become an active listener and to cultivate excellent self-discipline. In addition, the ability to deal with the frequent dilemma of knowing how to recommend what we know to be right versus what we know to be accepted can prove decisive. The goal is not to tell the customer what they want to hear, but to create a vision, to inspire people to follow us and to challenge the status quo as well as certain preconceptions. For my part, the spirit of Antaes perfectly offers me the opportunity to exploit a constructive and innovative approach which is characterized by the force of proposal that it induces in professional exchanges.