In a previous article, I made an assertion that people should focus on building habits instead of focusing on achieving goals. I personally like the concept of creating and developing habits because of the shelf life. Habits are hardwired into your brain and become part of your everyday life, while goals might be achieved but they can be short term.
How you spend your free time, who you decide to be around, and what type of information you consume can mean the difference between promotions, raises, or sponsorship if you are an employee. If you are an entrepreneur, success habits could mean the difference between winning and losing business, profitably succeeding, or scaling your business to the next level.
Here are 10 habits that every consultant should develop and own in order to take their skills as well as the breadth and depth of experiences to the next level.
· Be a team player. The world is small. I have seen former teammates become someone’s boss or client. Simply put, don’t be a jerk. If you worked with a challenging colleague, let it go. Allow the universe take care of it.
· Have manners and etiquette. This one is super easy (or at least it should be). Stop and take a moment to thank those around you that are working hard to make you successful. Put the phone down and look people in the eye. Don’t bark orders at anyone. Be patient.
· Become business savvy and learn the language of business. There are tons of online resources available. As a consultant, you should be regularly consuming quality information that makes you better understand the business world around you. Know how to interpret charts and graphs. Understand how the financials flow within an organization. Learn how to dissect the impacts of an organizational structure. Watch interviews with industry leaders to obtain various perspectives. And where possible, join the conversation.
· Learn the difference between perfection and excellence. Begin to create an eye for creating something that is excellent versus striving to create something that is perfect. Depending on contextual situations, the standard varies. Always ask questions to manage expectations and work towards excellence, not perfection.
· Walk the halls and talk to humans. You should not walk into an office, team room, or client building to only then put on your headphones and not look up again until it is time to head out for the day. Every time you tune people out, you miss valuable connectivity time. Missed opportunistic moments accumulated over the course of a career can cost you dearly. If you truly need down time to do deep work, arrange to work remote. But when you are in the workplace with others, stop people in the hallway and say hi. See how people are doing. Walk to the conference room across campus instead of taking the call at your desk.
How you show up. Don’t wait until you think you are close to becoming an executive to develop executive presence. Developing executive presence early on help you speed through the middle management layer, which many people get stuck in and never leave. Make sure you look put together at all times (however “put together” is defined in your culture). Grow your confidence and ability to convey messages. Practice having good posture, pausing, and smiling.
· Have intellectual curiosity. Consultants at any level should always be playing sponge. At all times. Everyday. When you are asked to do research, find out why. When asked to complete a deliverable, understand the challenge. Ask a lot of questions. Do research and ask again. Your new perspective maybe just the fresh air and innovation a project or clients’ needs.
· Have at least one breakfast, lunch or dinner meetup at least twice a month. Don’t isolate yourself on an island. Build relationships early and often. With all types of people, young and old, senior and new, clients and colleagues. Two meetups a month means 24 meetups a year. Repeated and accelerated over a 30 year career, that can be 1000s of strong relationships you have made.
· Be prepared to interview any day of the week, at any time. This applies for the rest of your career in consulting. Because of the temporary nature of the work, consultants are constantly having to update their resume, portfolio, website, or obtaining referrals/recommendations. You are constantly at a crossroads searching for your next opportunity while completing the one you are currently working on. Being able to become an amazing interviewee is critical. This means having multiple elevator pitches designed for different stakeholders. It means always being well read and well versed on a wide variety of topics.
· Getting out of your own way. Despite the political noise or posturing around you, the only thing that really matters in consulting is value creation. Your age, gender, who you love, your educational or socioeconomic background, upbringing, etc.…does not matter. Do not let those things get in the way of doing what really matters – creating value for your team, clients, and ultimately the marketplace.