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What Core Competencies Do Performance Consultants Need?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

There are two requirements for someone to work successfully as a performance consultant:

  • capability to perform the role
  • a work environment and system providing necessary support so people can do this work.

Consider what we all learned in basic math: 1 (x) 0 will always equal 0. For success as a performance consultant both skill and support are needed; having only one is insufficient. In this post, I want to discuss one of these two factors: the capabilities needed to work successfully as a performance consultant.

What Do Performance Consultants Do?

A question I am frequently asked is: ‘What are the competencies required to be successful as a performance consultant?” To answer that question, we first need to clarify the on-the-job outcomes performance consultants are to produce. They must:

  • build and deepen strategic partnerships with leaders
  • analyze business and performance needs, determining what solutions are required to address those needs
  • partner with leaders on projects that address performance and business goals and needs of the organization.

What Core Competencies Do They Need?

In my career I have been privileged to develop and partner with numerous individuals who work as performance consultants. This experience has provided me the opportunity to observe those who are exceptional in the role. Through those observations, I have been able to discern the four categories of competencies that enable their success:

  • content competencies
  • analytical competencies
  • process competencies
  • attributes.

The content, analytical, and process competencies can be developed and enhanced through learning and work experiences. Attributes, however, are different. These are traits or characteristics that are very difficult to develop. Optimally, attributes should be included in the criteria and process used to select someone into the position of performance consultant.


Let’s take a look at each category:

Content Competencies

  • Business Knowledge: Knowledge of how businesses function and achieve success, both in general and for the specific organization(s) that are supported.
  • Talent and Learning Systems Knowledge: Knowledge of multiple talent and learning solutions that can be utilized as solutions when addressing human performance needs relative to business goals.
  • Human Performance Technology (HPT) Understanding: Knowledge of HPT as a discipline including knowledge of those who are its primary thought leaders.
  • Technology Knowledge: Knowledge of optional software solutions to consider when addressing talent, learning, and business issues.

Analytical Competencies

  • Analysis Skill: Obtain, synthesize and report data (both narrative and quantitative
  • Project Management Skill: Plan, organize and monitor work done by others in support of a specific project or assignment.
  • Strategic Thinking Skill: Identify key issues and requirements to create competitive advantage for an organization in achievement of its long range goals.
  • Systemic Thinking Skill: View organizations as a system, recognizing that the success of the whole is dependent upon the integration and alignment of all segments.

Process Competencies

  • Change Management Skill: Guide others to prepare for, support, and adopt actions required to achieve successful outcomes from a performance change initiative.
  • Facilitation Skill: Manage meetings and group processes to ensure that the objectives of the group are achieved.
  • Influencing Skill: Gain acceptance of ideas and proposals though interpersonal skills and persuasion.
  • Questioning Skill: Gather information through the process of interviews and other probing methods.
  • Relationship Building Skill: Establish and maintain collaborative partnerships with individuals across a broad range of people, organizational levels, and groups.


  • Behavioral Flexibility: Readiness to modify approach or performance when the situation requires it.
  • Objectivity: Maintain a bias-free approach to situations and people.
  • Self-Confidence: Manage own performance in an effective manner when placed in new or challenging situations.
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity: Demonstrate comfort in situations where the goal or process to achieve those goals is unclear and difficult to determine.

As noted at the start of this blog, competencies alone are insufficient to ensure success as a performance consultant. They are, however, a key element in that success. Are there any competencies you would add? Any for which you question their need?

Want to learn more? Join me March 15-16 for ATD LearnNow: Moving From Learning to Performance. We will explore the mental model that is integral to a performance consulting approach to work. If you can’t make that learning opportunity, be sure to check out my preconference workshop, Performance Consulting: The What, Why, and How, at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO.

About the Author

Dana Robinson is a recognized thought leader in the areas of performance consulting, strategic partnering, and human performance improvement. She has co-authored seven books with her husband, Jim Robinson. The most recent is the Performance Consulting, 3rd edition, co-authored with Jack and Patti Phillips and Dick Handshaw. Dana is currently lead performance consultant with Handshaw Inc. and can be reached at [email protected].

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Thank you for the great insight. I am a highly experienced teacher and trainer moving into a position as an HPI consultant. Learning as I go using ATD materials and resources as my guide.
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Thank you for the insightful article.
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My intention for 2018 is to focus on developing my skills as a Performance Consultant. Having a clear list of competencies for this role helps me assess my strengths and development areas. Thank you for sharing this content.
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