Having spent over 25 years of my professional career working with consultants and representing consulting services to a Fortune 500 clientele, I have come to recognize and truly appreciate top-tier consultants.

Below are four key attributes that I have been able to identify that are consistent with these top-tier consultants. Top-tier consultants possess all of the key attributes. So how do you stack up?

  1. Masters of their craft: The top tier consultants are masters of their craft and are firmly rooted in the philosophies and methodologies that govern their industry. Within the learning space this would include formal grounding in adult learning theory, instructional design, organization development/effectiveness, and performance improvement. They are dedicated students of their craft with a commitment to remain ahead of the bleeding edge. They typically are active in professional societies and associations, attend and present at industry conferences or write for industry publications. They have built a social and professional network where they are recognized for their knowledge and the quality of their deliverables.
  2. They are true business partners: Top tier consultants have rock solid business and performance consulting skills. They are able to understand and uncover business goals, breakdowns, challenges, and objectives. All solutions are designed to support the client in meeting their underlying business challenges. They are viewed by clients as a business partner, not as an outside resource. Their opinions are valued and respected and in most cases their engagements lead to other engagements. They are resale machines.
  3. They are extraordinary communicators: These consultants have an uncanny ability to communicate with people at all levels of the organization. In times of conflict and stress they are able to work with clients to resolve any issues that pose a threat to the success of the engagement. They are keenly focused on the ultimate objective of the engagement which can often get blurred when times get tough. They have the extraordinary ability to blend with clients to resolve disagreements. These consultants speak honestly and directly and their commitment to excellence is never questioned.
  4. They are hard-wired to serve clients: Everyone knows the importance of satisfying clients but I have found that the top-tier consultants are almost genetically inclined to serve and satisfy clients. When you speak with them about the jobs that they held when they were beginning their careers, serving customers is a consistent theme. Serving clients is not a concept but a mantra. Top tier consultants recognize that while their assessments are valid, the assessments of their clients are most important. They are finely tuned to the satisfaction of their clients and are sure to consistently check in on their satisfaction. Difficult conversations are had the moment they arise, communication is proactive and engagements end positively.

Top-tier consultants are in high demand by clients and greatly minimize risks associated with a consulting engagement. For organizations like KnowledgeStaff that provide consulting services, top-tier consultants offer us a sense of comfort and peace of mind. We just know that the job is going to get done.