Kevin Eikenberry

Article Summary:

Once you understand you are a consultant (inside or outside the organization) you can be more successful by understanding how the consulting process works, and what role you can play within it. Learn to have greater influence, be more persuasive and hone your consulting role.

You ARE a Consultant

In our business lives we wear many hats. We often think of our job title as the way to describe our work. In fact, in any social situation, the question, "So what do you do?" will come up early in any conversation with a new person. How do we respond to this question? Invariably, we respond with our job title and the name of our organization. "I'm the Finance Manager at ABC Corp. Sometimes the conversation progresses beyond that, but often, that is all we have to say to describe our work.

And that is often how we think about it as well. Finance Manager. Chef. Staff Pharmacist. Marketing Director. Salesperson. Clerk. Janitor. Principal. Supervisor. Welder. Seldom though is any job as simple as a job title might suggest. We play a variety of roles, and do a variety of things within the scope of that job - whatever that job is.

Some people will answer that "So what do you do?" question with, "I'm a consultant." I remember when my grandmother asked me about my new job at Chevron, and I answered with "I'm a training consultant." Grandma wasn"t satisfied with that answer, so she probed further, "but what do you do?" she asked.

After a few minutes of discussion and explanation, she said, "Oh, you teach adults!" That was, in part what I did then, and happily, nearly twelve years later that is still what I do. I am a trainer, speaker, leader, writer and more. But most of all, I am a consultant. It may seem logical that I am a consultant, but you might not realize that it is very likely that in at least part of your work, or in other areas of your life, you are too.

Consulting is a big word - not in letters or syllables - but in scope. Consultants can play many valid roles, and therefore many roles that people play at work can be looked at as consulting.

Some of the Roles of a Consultant

  • Technical expert
  • Mentor
  • Coach
  • Lecturer
  • Trainer
  • Facilitator
  • Advisor
  • Subject Matter expert

Any role where you have (or want to have) influence, but don't necessarily have authority, is a consulting role. If you have an expertise that your organization needs, you have an opportunity to leverage that expertise to greater value by thinking of yourself as a consultant.

Why it Matters
Why does it make sense for many of us to think of ourselves as consultants, and not just by our job title? There are several reasons, and they all relate to your viewpoint, your contribution and your future.

If you see yourself as "just a insert-your-job title" you might grow bored with your work, or undervalue what you bring to it. So if you re-think of your work (or part of your work) as being a consultant it might re-invigorate you, stretch you and help you enjoy your work life more.

When people think of themselves as people trying to find ways to use their expertise to reach organizational goals, it helps them think of their role differently, again, more like that of a consultant. Consultants are constantly looking for ways to improve a situation - bringing their experience and expertise to bear on any situation.

So what is the bottom line? Seeing yourself in this way allows you to grow personally and professionally. And, not coincidentally, that growth will make you vastly more valuable to your organization, which is also a very good outcome!

What's Next?
Once you see yourself with a broader role, or begin to think about some of the roles you play in new ways, you have more means to think about your own professional development. Think about it this way - if you only think of yourself by your job title, you may be limiting your view of your own development. When you expand your view of the role you can play, of using your expertise to impact the organization, you suddenly will see new skills that you would like to hone.

Effective consultants use a wide variety of interpersonal skills expertly. Things like listening, conflict resolution, both written and oral communication skills, and more are critical. Beyond that there are intrapersonal skills that have high value when we play a role of a consultant. When we become clearer on our own motives, are flexible and willing to change (and understand change processes), and have greater self knowledge we will be more successful.

On top of these things there are models and processes that we can learn to play of a variety of these consulting roles more effectively.

I challenge you to think of your work and role in new ways. This rethinking may lead you to realize that MOST of the work that you do is some form of consulting, or you may find that you only play those roles someplace outside of work (in the community, as a volunteer, or somewhere else), or you may find yourself somewhere in between those two extremes.

If thinking about this leads you to think of your work in new ways, congratulations! You have taken another step on the road to unleashing your potential.

Kevin Eikenberry is an expert in converting organizational, team and individual potential into desired results, and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He is the two-time best selling author of "Vantagepoints On Learning And Life" and "Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time." Kevin has spent the last 15 years helping organizations all across North America reach their potential. His specialties include: teams and teamwork, creativity, developing organizational and individual potential, facilitation, training trainers, presentation skills, consulting and the consulting process and more. He offers monthly tele-seminars through a program called the Remarkable Leadership Learning System. Kevin can be reached at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER and through his website, www.kevineikenberry.com.

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