Consulting as an Art and a Profession
The June 13 electronic issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy contained an interesting blog by Bernard Ross and Sudeshna Mukherjee that summarized their recent interviews of consultants at a recent AFP conference.
When I was a music student at Wichita State University, I studied, among other things, composition and conducting. I never imagined myself as a world class conductor, but I used to direct the occasional high school band. And so for years I’ve kept a copy of The Grammar of Conducting on my bookshelf and my old baton, which actually did belong to a real conductor, in my desk. Why? Because they remind me that my work as a consultant is not that different from what I learned in my studies of conducting. It’s both an art and a profession.
As I see it, these attributes make up the art of the consulting profession:
- Listening. A great consultant is always aware of the client’s needs and culture, sector trends and community, national and world news that may affect the client.
- Being a catalyst for change. Similar to the careful direction a conductor provides during rehearsal, a consultant facilitates change by recommending a plan and suggesting adjustments to fit changing situations.
- Applying creativity. A great consultant identifies organizational challenges and recommends creative approaches that make organizations shine just like a well-conducted orchestra.
- Setting the pace. Conductors once kept time by pounding the floor with a big stick, probably controlling unruly musicians in the front row at the same time! Great consultants also set the pace and keep everyone working together toward the end goal.
- Acknowledging one’s knowledge (or lack thereof). A choral conductor may not be very comfortable directing a high school marching band. While many skills are transferable, most consultants have special interests, skills and geographic limitations. Great consultants admit they aren’t experts at everything and recommend others who can help.
- Giving credit where credit is due. A great conductor acknowledges the musicians first. A great consultant works in the background with the reward being the client’s success.
What do you think makes a great consultant? We’d love to hear and learn from you.
You can access the blog of Bernard Ross and Sudeshna Mukherjee here.