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October 25, 2008

Peter Petrelli and the Art of Consulting Well

Okay, so I'm a big fan of Heroes. It's part of my generation, we grew up with Marvel comics and the like, so Heroes was a great discovery to make.

When you work as part of a consulting team it is tempting to think that it is like the ensemble from Heroes. Each has their own specific "power" such as speaking publicly, relationship management, technical prowess, sales and so forth. And when we work together we are a formidable team.

But it's not like that is it. If you want to be truly successful as a consultant, then you can't just be one of the team with niche capabilities - you need to be Peter Petrelli!

That means that you need to be able to mimic the "powers" of all other consultants that you meet. 

As a consultant you are the coach, subject matter expert, technical guru, public speaker, sales guy and the marketer. You need to be able to turn your hand to all facets of our discipline at a moments notice - and to be able to do so convincingly. 

This means you need to be able to learn. The ability to find good mentors, copy them, perfect their talents and then add your own specific twist to them is a very understated area of consulting expertise. 

Equally, you need to be able to cover a range of consulting areas. Business Process design is great while there is a demand for it - but if it dries up what are you going to do?

I spent years in asset reliability when it wasn't fashionable, I think the only thing that saved me was the ability to turn my hand to speaking and ERP issues at the same time. 

Their are plenty of people out there telling you that to specialize is wise. And to a degree they are right - you do need a couple of areas of deep capabilities. But if that is all you are able to do then you are only good in a very narrow and niche area. 

Who are your mentors? Are there people near you who have undeniable talents that you could learn from? Can you get onto a couple of the lead sales guys meetings? What about attending a few presentations from the firms leading speakers or trainers?

This is yet another reason why the level of consulting education out there is inadequate, it's far too narrow in most cases.