Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Consultants

 Alik Levin    I was reading The Practice of Leadership blog that briefly reviewed Steven Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I like Steven Covey's approach. In fact, I massively use Steven's Urgent/Important quadrants to prioritize my daily work (as outlined here - Prioritize What You Do – Steven Covey Way [The Way That Works]).

I thought it'd be interesting to test myself as a consultant for effectiveness according to Steven Covey.

Seven Habits

  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win-win.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  6. Synergize.
  7. Sharpen the saw.

All these habits should serve some sort of goal or objectives. Being proactive or thinking win-win won't make a trick without having clear goals. What are you goals? What are your objectives? Here are mine:

  • Make my family happy by maintaining healthy Work/Life Balance (WLB).
  • Make my managers happy by accomplishing what I am supposed to and a bit beyond.
  • Make my customers happy by solving their problems effectively, offering them first class professional service.
  • Make myself happy by doing interesting work with proper impact.

If your goals are similar to mine then the following practices might help you hitting them.

Habit 1 - Be proactive

Proactively manage your time. Consultant live and breathe time. Utilization (or billable time) is consultant's main product. Spending time for non-billable time activities will hurt your WLB. Proactively allocate time for billable (actual consulting), non-billable (training, biz dev), and personal activities. Here is how I manage my time annually, monthly, weekly, and daily:

Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind

What do you want to accomplish? What's your definition for success? Imagining the end results can help achieving it. See it through, deliver it, exceed it. Become a super hero.

Habit 3 - Put first things first

You have more to do than there are hours. How do you prioritize what's important and what is not? I found Steven Covey's technique is very practical:

Habit 4 - Think win/win

Establish right communication channels with your manager, customers, and the family. Speak their language. Do not get mad when failed. Practice emotional intelligent. Win the Heart, the Mind Follows.

Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood

When the communication channels established you are ready to understand the other party. You are ready to understand what matters the most to your manager, to your customers, to your family. When understood you can better help the other party understand yourself. When your manager pushes you to another gig you understand that it is because of the deficit in the team's budget. You could close another deal for better price while dealing with better technology. Win/win. When your customer is calling your every hour it is because she wants to be in control of project progress. You could send progress reports proactively and save the head aches. Win/win. Fulfill their dreams and they will do the same to you.

Habit 6 - Sinergize

Consultant is a field warrior. A Peaceful Warrior. A loner. Nevertheless, he is part of a larger team. The team of sales, marketing, support, operations, and other specialists. Build trust within the team and the team will support you when you are all alone in the field.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the saw

This one is fundamental in order to survive. Better consultant is the one with deeper skills. Become a SME (subject matter expert), but do not pigeon hole your self into too narrow area of expertise. It might become obsolete tomorrow. Stay tuned with what happens in industry and adjust accordingly. I adopted Abraham Lincoln's:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe"


What are your practices that make you better consultant?


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