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All You Need to Know About Managing Consultants Effectively

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Published:
September 25, 2020
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9 minutes
Leo Saini
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

If you’re determined to take your business to the next level, it’s likely that at some point, you’ll need to hire the right consultant to help you navigate through unknown waters.

But hiring a top consultant is the easiest part—thanks to freelance consulting platforms that can connect you with hundreds of consultants.

However, managing a consultant can be difficult. You see, they’re not your employee, so you can’t manage them like one. But they technically work for you, so you need to give them some direction. Well, all this sounds very confusing, doesn’t it?

That’s why in this article, we’ll discuss how to manage consultants effectively and ensure that your relationship stays positive throughout the engagement.

Be Aware of the Leader-Follower Dynamic

Working with consultants can be completely different from working with permanent employees. The most important thing to remember here is that consultants are usually not a part of your company’s organizational hierarchy. For this reason, a company’s representatives, who regularly work with the consultant, shouldn’t make it seem like they are ‘managing’ the consultant.

Also, when you hire the right consultant using an online consulting platform, you don’t need to lead them. Top consultants are self-motivated problem solvers and are capable of taking decisions themselves. But at the same time, it’s your company and their decision will affect your future. That’s why you need to understand the leader-follower dynamic carefully.

This means that sometimes, you should do what the consultant says, and sometimes, you might have to take the role of a leader and ‘manage’ them without appearing like a manager.

Remember, if you try to control everything a consultant does, you might ruin your relationship with them. And if you don’t intervene when you should, the consultant’s decisions might be detrimental to your business.


Get Them Well-Acquainted With the Company’s Internal Culture


Remember that movie Up in the Air in which George Clooney goes from company to company and fires people? Well, that’s one reason why the arrival of consultants in a company can stir discomfort among existing employees. It looks funny when you watch it in a movie. But when it happens in real life, it can be challenging to witness.

Not all consultants are downsizing consultants, however. But still, when an outside ‘expert’ shows up out of nowhere and your employees’ normal routine change, there can be some power struggles. So it’s your responsibility to make sure that the consultant is aware of your company’s internal culture. This will help them settle in with your staff easily.

If your company has a flat structure and employees bring their dogs to work, then that’s a part of your culture. And if pets are strictly prohibited, and employees are forbidden from adding each other on social media platforms (other than LinkedIn), then that’s a part of your company’s culture too and this should be communicated to the consultant.

"A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better." - Jim Rohn

Keep the Project Scope in Check

When you hire the right consultant through an online consulting platform , they’ll create a precise statement of work in which you’ll find details such as, deliverables, project members involved, budget, length of various phases of the project, etc. In short, you’ll know what you are going to get for the price you pay right from the get-go. However, things aren’t as simple as they seem. Even when you hire the best consultants, the project scope might sometimes increase which may raise your company’s overall expenditure, not to mention delays in project completion.

When a consultant proposes to increase the project scope, you should have a private discussion with your internal team and decide whether you want to go forward or not. If the answer is ‘no’, then this should be communicated in a way that doesn’t affect your relationship with the consultant. Let’s consider an example. Suppose you hire a marketing consultant to improve your company’s brand image. Now in the middle of the project, they recommend that you should hire an SEO consultant to improve your local search rankings. In this case, it’s up to you to analyze whether this addition to the project is viable or not.

Offer Any Professional Support They Need

It’s true that if you hire the right consultant, you might learn more from them than they will from you. However, regardless of how talented they are, they cannot conduct your company’s break-even analysis if you don’t provide them all the relevant stats, nor can they increase your sign-ups if you don’t let them interview your existing clients. The point is: if you want to make the most out of the opportunity of working with a top consultant, you should offer them all the assistance they require from your side.

hire the right consultants, All You Need to Know About Managing Consultants Effectively

Oftentimes, due to internal politics and lack of collaboration, a consultant’s job becomes harder than it needs to be. For example, if a senior executive isn’t fully on board with the idea of hiring a consultant, they might unknowingly make the consulting engagement difficult by not replying to emails, showing up late for meetings, or not providing relevant information to the consultant. It’s your duty, as a business owner, to ensure that this behavior doesn’t affect the consultant’s motivation.

Remember, the overall quality of a consultant’s recommendations, and the implementation that follows, will depend on how they’re treated and the quality of support from the internal team. So offer them all the help they might need during the engagement, just like you would do for your permanent employees.

Deeply Examine Their Recommendations, Ask Questions, and Learn From Your Consultant

Communicate more, not less. After a consultant is done gathering and analyzing data, they’ll offer you their recommendations. Simply put, expect something like: “This is what the analysis says, and this is what I recommend.” When this happens, you have every right to ask them questions and challenge their advice professionally. Even if companies hire the best consultants, it’s not uncommon for them to ask their consultants to collect more data and revise the analysis and recommendations.

The consultant that you hire won’t stay with you forever. In fact, the engagement will probably last for a few months in most cases. That’s why it’s necessary to keep the shortness of this timeframe in mind and squeeze as much knowledge as you can from the consultant. When you do this, you’ll be self-sufficient after the consultant moves on to their new project with a different company. Of course, you can easily hire new consultants using an online consulting platform if you need to. But when you already have one working with you, maximize the opportunity.


Conclusion


Managing consultants is not the same as managing an intern. Consultants come on board with certain expertise and a seniority level which makes them a bit different from other employees. When you hire the right consultant, you’ll realize this immediately. Sometimes, you have to play the role of the leader, and sometimes, it’s the consultant who tells everyone what the next step is. Keep this shifting leader-follower dynamic in mind and offer consultants all the support they need. And at the same time, feel free to raise questions if you don’t agree with them.