Working With External Consultants: A Tip for Internal Employees
If you’ve ever worked for a company that’s brought in external consultants to solve a business problem, or if you’ve ever done any reading about consulting as an occupation, you might be aware that consultants tend to get a bit of a bad rap, particularly among internal employees. Oftentimes that’s because staff feel threatened and simply aren’t aware of what drives consultants to do what they do.
It’s a commonly held misconception that external consultants make easy money by “taking your watch and telling you what time it is”.
However, as Rob O’Byrne will happily tell you, the reality is that reputable consultants choose their career out of a genuine desire to help people grow and improve their businesses.
An Employee’s Anecdote
I remember when I was working as an employee on a large business-change program and the executive sponsor announced that an external consulting firm would be taking over the reins of the project.
One particular comment in the executive’s briefing made me bristle (along with a number of my colleagues). He said:
“These consultants are coming in because they have the knowledge and expertise that you guys don’t, so you will do what they ask of you and that’s not negotiable.“
While I will never give that executive ten-out-of-ten for tact, at least I have learned enough to understand where he was coming from. To paraphrase what I believe he intended to make clear; consultants in your industry have a high degree of knowledge, spread across a number of specialities, gained through working with many different companies on many different projects.
Conversely, you as an employee, have a high degree of knowledge about your company’s operation. Consultants want your knowledge, to help them understand your company’s problem, so they can apply their knowledge to solving it.
The takeaway I urge you to remember is this …
If you ever find yourself working alongside external consultants, welcome the experience and take advantage of the chance to learn. We can all use a little help sometimes and consultants make their living providing expert assistance.
Your company is paying for consulting expertise because its leaders recognize the value to be had. As an employee, the benefits you get from tapping into external consultants’ knowledge come free of charge. That’s one very good reason to look upon their presence as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
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