Little known workarounds for keeping your consulting mindset strong

change consultant confidence consulting May 19, 2024
Lata in blue and white top smiling; text: keeping your consulting mindset strong

When you’re going into a new client or project as a Change Management Consultant, your consulting mindset is the #1 thing that you have to keep strong. You’re showing up in a different way, providing a different type of service, and positioning yourself as a different type of expert. One of the things that can trip up even the best of Change Consultants is making the switch to staying high level rather than getting into the detail as a Subject Matter Expert like you might have done as a Change employee or contractor. So here’s some tips for making sure you get great outcomes while keeping that consulting mindset strong:

#1 It’s more about timing than about detail

When I’m going into a project, I actually like going into the detail. Not everyone is like that. Some people like to stay high level, but personally I like to understand everything that's going on and get a good grasp of the detail to understand what that's going to mean and then what we need to look out for. However, I think that there's a question here around the timing of it. Because often if you’re joining a project as a consultant, you’ll (hopefully!) be engaged in the really early days, maybe even before Project Kick Off, when there actually isn’t a lot of detail there! So you might want to try and get onto regular project meetings (like stand ups or working group meetings) to absorb information, detail, stakeholder names etc. This is pretty normal if you’re a Change employee or contractor, but as a consultant I actually try to keep myself off regular project meetings. Saying that: it’s your decision to see how you want to use your capacity and how you want to work with your client. If that's what you need in order to feel you've got a good grasp of it and to be able to provide the service of a Change Consultant, then it is about asking for it, asking to be on those forums, asking to be on those meetings.

#2 Request all the materials

Instead of sitting on endless project meetings, it might be better when you start with a client or on a project (especially if it’s midway through) to ask them to send you everything for background. I’ll usually build this into my consulting timeline - a week or two to get all the materials and digest them. And then you can put in meetings with people to get more information (which may be necessary if there aren’t any materials at all) and you can spend a couple of weeks just meeting people. Sometimes there's a level of asking and exploring and getting the information just so that you've got it in the back of your head, and this might be different for different personality types (which we step through in my Leading Successful Change program). 



#3 Understand the difference between a SME and role of Change Management

There is a difference between being a Subject Matter Expert and playing the service or the role of a Change Manager. Being a Subject Matter Expert means that you are in the business and you are doing that stuff day in, day out. You need to know about the change regardless of who you are, what you're doing, who you're working with. As a Change Consultant, there will always be a level of having to learn some of the subject matter expertise, but you don't need to know it all and you don’t need to know it upfront. It can unfold on the journey and you can use that as a way of building relationships over time. If you try to get in too deep too quick, sometimes people may feel you’re stepping on their toes or trying to take over parts of their role. It’s about finding the balance - getting the detail you need (for example, this may fill your Detailed Change Risk Register) but positioning yourself with the project at that higher level (where you only share the top 5 Change Risks at SteerCo). You can still have all that information in the back of your head, to be called on whenever you need. 

#4 Find a detail-oriented partner

If you’re somebody who is happy with ambiguity and comfortable with figuring things out on the fly or taking in content as you go, that's absolutely okay as well. Just make sure there's somebody who you can partner with who has more of a grasp on that detail. If you’ve got a Change Analyst or if your Project Manager's got a good grasp on all of the detail, because not all of us have the personality where we enjoy or even have the capacity or capability to go down into the detail. I’m somebody who can absorb mountains and mountains and mountains of information and distill it. But I know from having worked with other Change Managers and just other professionals that not everybody has the inclination, desire, capacity or capability to do that. And that's absolutely okay. So it's just about making sure that there's somebody who does it. You want somebody to have the answers, and then you can focus more on asking the right questions. And that can be just as powerful to highlight what the project or business is missing and still needs to make the change a success.

#5 Own that your expertise is Change Management, not Subject Matter

If you’re a Change Manager regardless of whether you're working in projects or with clients, it is about positioning yourself less as a Subject Matter Expert and more as an expert in the Change process. Usually, not having Subject Matter expertise works in your favour as you can look at a new industry, company or type of change with fresh eyes and ask all the dumb questions, openly sharing with people that you don’t have experience in that industry/company/type of change and will be relying on them with the expertise and experience. You’re an expert in Change Management and that’s what you bring to the table and the gap that you fill. Take it in your stride and use it to your advantage.

I’ll be going deeper into the consulting mindset and the difference between employment, contracting and consulting in my free Change Advisor Bootcamp tomorrow Wednesday 22 May at 6.00pm-8.00pm AEST (Sydney time). If you'd like to learn more about becoming a trusted change advisor with influence and impact and all my consulting secrets to get a seat at the table, build strong relationships, and lead complex change to success, register ASAP to join us on the free bootcamp. A replay will be provided for a limited time - and only to registered attendees!


CLICK HERE to register ASAP for my free Change Advisor Bootcamp tomorrow


All my belief,

Lata xx

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