Why Does Everyone Think They Can Consult?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Probably the greatest number of people who think they can consult are those who have never done it. It seems that consulting might have gone the way of teaching—“If you can’t do it, you consult!”

Unfortunately, there is a long string of failed consulting projects and frustrated clients who can attest that consulting is a skill that deserves separate study. Not every expert can consult.  Rather, a good consultant must be trained in the tools and processes of consulting itself in order to guide internal or external clients to successful action and results.

Indeed, sharpening one’s skill and expanding one’s “bag of consulting” tools is essential. That’s the bread and butter of any “good” consulting workshop. But I think the hallmark of an “exceptional” consulting course is one that helps consultants reach a higher level interpersonal interactions—that nurture change, demonstrate measurable results, and promote continuous learning for all parties involved.

Why embrace the study of consulting?

Corporate America and many government agencies have adopted the notion of “Centers of Excellence” and “Service Centers” for many internal functions. This has given rise to the “internal consulting professional” who navigates the organization, engaging managers and employees in consulting-like interactions.


Add to this population the multitude of practicing external consultants, and the consulting field finds itself well-established with its own literature, associations, workshops, chat rooms, mentorships, and resources.

But when we look more closely at what consulting actually is—and the set of sophisticated tools and behaviors needed to foster both a successful consulting relationship AND a profitable business result—the worth of a masterful consultant becomes readily evident.


When I teach the ATD Consulting Skills Certificate course, I find that most participants come with a desire to learn the basic steps of consulting (contracting, data collection, feedback, project management, and so forth). But they tend to underestimate the powerful interpersonal skills necessary to form strong partnerships and obtain strategic results.

I am not talking about selling, telling people what to do, providing another set of hands, or delivering a training course or new organizational structure. Rather, real consultants have learned to speak an entirely different language—a language that can navigate conflict, create comfort and ease, negotiate resistance, influence towards needed action, build trust, manage ambiguity,  put real issues on the table, gain commitment, state and confront hidden agendas, and frame feelings into words.

That’s a tall order. And it requires that the consultant “knows thyself” and is able to balance his/her own self with the needs of clients and organizations.

If you think such learning might help you get to a higher level of practice, join me in an upcoming Consulting Skills Certificate course on October 16-17 in Philadelphia, November 3-4 in Alexandria, Virginia, or online October 9 – November 13.

About the Author

With more than 25 years of experience and a doctorate in human resource and organization development, Dr. Virginia Bianco-Mathis is considered a leader in her field. Her background includes a core set of industry positions, extensive consulting with corporate and agency executives, and publications and presentations in the areas of organizational change, leadership development, consulting skills, executive team building and facilitation, coaching, career management, conflict and dialogue, and strategic planning.  Dr. Bianco-Mathis has held positions in human resources, strategy, and organization development at C&P Telephone, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, and The Artery Organization. Presently, she is a Professor in the School of Business, Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing, at Marymount University.  She teaches courses in organization development, team and group dynamics, leadership, consulting skills, executive coaching, and strategy. She also is a partner with the Strategic Performance Group. Her present consulting engagements include leadership development, executive coaching, strategic planning, team building, and organizational change. Current clients include AARP, Department of Agriculture, Seyfarth Law, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Phillips Corporation, MSRB, and Next Century Computing.  Dr. Bianco-Mathis has given major presentations at several international conferences, and has written numerous articles for the Washington Business Journal and a blog (“On Success”) for The Washington Post.  

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.