Adventures In Consulting

By: Dr. Darla Calvet, CEO, Blue Tiger Inc.

There is a certain mystique to being a consultant.  Technically, consultants are hired because they are experts within a professional field.   While this is a Google-style definition of consulting, our real-life experience has shown that consulting requires a renaissance man or woman type of personality. For years, people have poked fun at consultants by claiming that we make money off other people’s insecurities. Perhaps some real-life examples from the field will provide evidence to the contrary.

  • Consultants provide immediate emotional support during crisis. My team has been honored to work along- side of high level officials ranging from Admirals to College Presidents to CEOs.  These folks put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.  Want to see the most human side of someone?  How about convincing them that they don’t look like a burned lobster before they deliver a commencement speech to 5,000 people?  Some of our finest bonding moments with clients come when they are in a pinch and we need to deliver assurance.
  • Consultants will stand next to you when everyone else deserts you. One of our clients made a very unpopular decision that prompted her college leadership to fire her.  She was barely given enough time to pack up her things and leave while security huffed by the door.  During these times, it helps to have a level-headed person at your side to take care of logistics and post-mortem clean up.  We extended pro-bono services to this former Dean even after she lost her position while she waiting to land at her next job.  She told us in retrospect that our support meant the world to her during a very difficult time.
  • Consultants will tell you the trutheven when it hurts. As CEO, I spend a lot of time mentoring our younger consultants with the need to be honest with clients.  In bureaucracies and political work arenas, there can be an “emperor’s new clothes” effect around people with tremendous amounts of power.  One Chancellor boasted to us in a private conversation that he could tell his staff the world was flat and they would agree with him.  This creates a dangers cult of personality that has no place in a healthy organization.  Consultants, when they are honest, bring a fresh approach and will often address the elephant in the room since they have the luxury of a fixed-term assignment.     When our team was working for a highly-ranked female Admiral, she asked us why people were not following her directives.  After some client meetings, it became apparent to us that her superiors had no intention of keeping her in her role beyond the first year.  Although she was upset at learning this information, it allowed her to plan accordingly and to deal emotionally with her succession plan.

Do you think you have what it takes to become a consultant?   If you can be honest, direct and loyal, the answer is most likely a “yes.”  If you have difficulty with those attributes, it might be best to keep your day job.

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