In order to ensure that your consultant can meet your needs most effectively, they need clear guidance and support. If you are the main organizational contact for a consultant, you play a critical role. You are the main channel of communication between your organization and the consultant.
Here are 5 tips for managing consultants to foster productive partnerships and deliver results.
- Be clear.
You have hired a consultant based on the skills and experience they add to the project. Providing clear direction for key tasks and deliverables helps focus their efforts towards the results you need. When you are unclear, there is room for misinterpretation and mistakes. These cost time and money – and can undermine project success. Ask your consultant to develop a detailed workplan that reflects a clear understanding of project goals, objectives, tasks, deliverables, timing, and dependencies. Provide templates or examples for deliverables if available, or ask your consultant to share what they have used.
- Be transparent.
The more your consultant understands how the project came to be and what you hope to gain from it, the better they can meet your needs. Share background, motivations, and expectations for the project. In addition, if there are sensitivities or complexities within your team or organization, let your consultant know so they can help you navigate them strategically and productively. For example, if your organization has an extensive review process, it’s important your consultant understand this so they can 1) plan for this in the timeline and 2) provide what is needed at each stage to help facilitate the process.
- Be honest.
Experienced consultants have worked in all types of situations with a range of clients. If there are challenges, tell the consultant. Whether it has to do with the work the consultant is doing or with barriers you are facing within your organization, if they don’t know, they can’t help. For example, if your consultant sends an outline for report that doesn’t include certain components you expected, let them know. Providing that feedback can save time, resources, and ensure that the deliverable meets your needs. Or perhaps organizational priorities have shifted and you are unable to meet the timelines agreed upon in the workplan for deliverable review. Letting your consultant know allows them to adjust the timeline and plan accordingly.
- Be an advocate.
Often consultants are brought in to tackle ongoing issues or complex challenges with fresh eyes. While being an outsider gives them that fresh outlook, it also means they may have limited access and insight into the inner workings of your organization. So, you will likely need to be the organizational champion for this project. This means making sure leadership and stakeholders are kept informed about progress, facilitating timely review and constructive feedback from the project team, and identifying opportunities for moving the project forward.
- Be open to change.
An advantage of hiring a consultant is bringing in an expert with a different perspective. A consultant may suggest a different approach to tackling the project or may recommend changes that stretch your organization’s comfort zone. If the rationale is compelling and you are confident in your consultant’s understanding of your sector, organization, and project goals, then strongly consider their recommendations. If it’s a significant shift from current practice or norms, there may be ways to take incremental steps toward the recommended change and assess how it’s going along the way. Change isn’t always easy, but it is critical for growth.