As a consultant-type (of sorts), I'm often seen as someone who is clever, knowledgeable, experienced, etc. Most other consultants you see will probably present themselves as being these things as part of assuring you that they're worth your spending your money on them.
But I've often wondered how far these things really matter when businesses, co-ops, charities, social enterprises, universities, government bodies, and others who invite me to work with them, are really wanting and valuing these attributes.
And my wondering about this has, over the years, seen me introduce some unusual practices (such as asking people what they think my superpower is, and not being overt about the various qualifications I've come to hold ), and subsequently also make changes to how I work as a result of what I learn about how I'm seen, and how people value what it is I'm able to do with/for them.
So why am I sharing this with you here? If you're someone who's kindly offered me feedback about my working practices in the past, you'll know this already. If you're someone else, you may be thinking that this may be sound vaguely interesting, but it's all very personal, and are struggling to see the relevance of why I'm reflecting on it so openly?
Well - wonder no more, because I now have an empirical data set (of sorts) to help me validate these ideas!
I recently came across Google's Ngram viewer, which is a nifty little site that allows you to track how frequently any given words have been used across all books published. So I thought I'd pop in a few keywords about how as consultants we think we're supposed to portray ourselves, and a few about how people seem to value the way that I work with them (click on the image to open the original google page and graph):
All those words about how the support consultants and advisers are supposed to 'be' and the attributes they're valued for, all pale against the approach to how we work with you.
Fortunately, kindness is one of the KPIs that I track within my annual impact report (listed as 'grace' and 'pro bono'), along with knowledge; so I know that I'm making sure I try and keep this at the forefront of how I work with people (following the adage that "we manage what we measure").
As consultants or advisers we're often initially commissioned on the basis of expertise or specific skill, but as the Ngram and my experience suggest, those things become far less important in the working relationship that we subsequently form when delivering on the agreed project.
But I wonder how far others might agree with this?