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8 Qualities of an Effective Consultant

What is Consulting?

Consulting is a helping profession that provides services to organizations and individuals. An organization might reach out to a consultant if it needs outside assistance for solving problems, navigating transitions, or training/evaluating its staff. Individuals typically look to consultants for guidance about how to effectively run a business, increase its productivity, or explore new fields of interest. Ultimately, the consultant’s main goal is to become “redundant” by helping individuals and organizations to develop independence in the way they address new challenges and manage change.[1]

Individuals typically look to consultants for guidance about how to effectively run a business, increase productivity, or explore new fields of interest.

But what does it take to be an effective consultant? In this post, I will briefly look at eight qualities which are bedrock for that role.

1. Values Relationships

This point seems like a no-brainer but it deserves mention because consulting is not simply about making money – though that is a main objective. The best consultants actually enjoy the teamwork and comradery involved in helping their customers, and they are energized by the hard work of fostering understanding, consensus and growth in others.

2. Models Entrepreneurship

Effective consultants know how to turn their ideas into reality and help clients to do the same. They thrive on being independent, tenacious, and courageous in taking calculated risks to pursue their dreams. In other words, they model entrepreneurship to clients who themselves are entrepreneurs.

3. Demonstrates Competency

Consultants need to prove their competence to clients. This means obtaining the requisite certifications, gaining relevant work and volunteer experience, attending professional development workshops, and having portfolio documents available for clients to review upon request.

4. Communicates Clearly

The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is essential for all of the following consulting roles: (a) marketing products to customers; (b) explaining how services can meet clients’ needs; (c) securing buy-in and negotiating the cost of services; (d) finalizing contracts and writing client curriculum in straight-forward prose; (e) facilitating training groups using active listening skills; (f) leading focus groups to gauge public opinion about a product or service; and all the while making a good impression!

5. Networks Constantly

The skill of networking is absolutely essential for consultants as a means of marketing their brand and detecting opportunities for their clients. Networking means sharing and exchanging information with consulting professionals, business owners, and other key players for the purpose of mutual benefit. It’s about creating and maintaining ‘weak ties’ with people you can trust.

Competent consultants use networking skills to share and gather information for their clients.

6. Prioritizes Research

Effective consultants regularly check for new trends in regional and global economies. They have a knack for gathering labour market information for their clients, as well as for interpreting current trends in supply and demand, politics, the environment, social issues, demographics, etc. Up-to-date information from both the private and public sector is critical for consultations to provide sound advice.

Consultants should provide clients with advice that is informed by current market trends.

7. Exhibits Ethical Awareness

Consultants need to be ethically aware because they are privy to confidential information which, if leaked, could be detrimental to their clients. To maintain high standards of service, consultants often join professional associations that provide accountability and assistance with the resolution of ethical conflicts.

8. Sets Healthy Boundaries

Consultants need to exercise self-restraint and set boundaries with clients, especially with those who are overly demanding. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to lose precious time and resources trying to please everyone, but that’s a recipe for burnout. However, there is a better way. Effective consultants define limits with clients who are demanding too much. They are eager to please, no doubt, but not at the expense of their personal health. As in other areas of life, self-care is paramount.


[1] Career consulting is a species of this more general kind if consulting. It aims at raising clients’ awareness of themselves, their career options, the barriers they may face, and the strategies they can implement to succeed in today’s economy – whether individually or as an organization.

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