It’s fair to say everyone gets asked the question, “What do you do?” regularly. The answer can transform and grow, as we do. Close to a year ago I shared a snapshot of life as a “sophomore” consultant. Here’s the updated playbook – still exhilarating, hyper-intense, and critically, evermore rewarding.
5:30am – Mind the Gaps
A moment to blink, a glass of water, and you’re propped up at the hotel room desk. Here could be the time to get ahead of the day or week, and to catchup on residuals. More importantly though, it’s a chance to reflect on potential misses. If one blind spot can be illuminated, the day starts with a win.
Note: this isn’t quiet time – your tracks of the week are blaring. Full tilt. Sorry neighbours.
Testing and communications, updates and creation. Technical issues, process docs. Time flies by and you make sure to squeeze every bit of isolated screen time count. The real fun begins soon!
7:30am – People, Technology, Business
Grab coffee in the lobby, game-face-nod to the team, and you’re off to the client’s office. Once onsite, you complete the setup initiated the previous evening. Training the project’s solution to the business is about far more than technology, although that is the framework of the change being implemented.
“…my favorite aspect of consulting is striving to get to a place where each personality in the room knows and understands we’re working towards the same goal, with genuine care.”
People care a great deal about their day-to-day, understandably, and your approach must reflect that. Sharing system and process knowledge is one thing, but two other components are also must haves: industry specific awareness, and an appetite for two-way conversation. I can say with absolute certainty, my favorite aspect of consulting is striving to get to a place where each personality in the room knows and understands we’re working towards the same goal, with genuine care.
11:30am – Lunch
Jam packed days on the road tend to push gym time down the queue (excuses, I know!), so make your choice wisely. Fruit or salad usually do the trick.
11:45am – Partners
You connect with those you need to on the greater project team. They could be onsite as well or at any number of locations across the business. Better yet, they could be in their PJs at home. They could also vary in workstream and area of expertise.
This is your chance to work through issues and ambiguities raised in earlier sessions, and that too with people in the know. The best meetings are a blend of trust and challenge, and you make sure to play information conduit, keeping in mind your frequent and direct access to end-users.
1:00pm – Round-Two
Back in session, you shift to supporting a team member as they deliver. What matters more, a goal or an assist? Doing the right things in a supporting role goes a long way. It’s also a chance to both learn from and mentor your colleague.
Some common tasks include documenting technical and process questions, providing one-on-one support to participants, or stepping into discussions or walkthroughs as needed. If really on your game though, you chase down the answers to outstanding questions and bring them back in-session.
5:30pm – Time to Get Silly
The team assembles to share what worked, what didn’t, and what is outstanding. It could be a long evening, or night, if the latter is more than a few tasks. Planning and executing ahead of time is great but this phase of the project demands day-by-day and hour-by-hour. You head back to the hotel and it’s quickly apparent who is doing what, and this hasn’t changed much from a year earlier:
Dinner or an outing with local flavor – fancy or otherwise. At our most recent deployment, the team developed a love-hate relationship with the pub next door, which we endearingly called “The OC.” Nobody ever got sick from the tilapia, I swear.
A working dinner in the lobby. If you can recall staying up far too late as a kid, delirious and laughing at everything…that’s what these sessions are like. Perfect chance to land some low blows on your favorite colleague.
Slink away for well-earned solitude, decompression, and check-in with your life back home. Remember, there’s a whole other mode and pace when not on the road, but that’s for another time.
If you’re still reading, here’s the number one lesson consulting has imparted so far: any outcome can be reality with trust in an incremental process.
The trust part is in yourself and very much in others too. Incremental translates to iterations inclusive of success and failure, and the courage to carry on being comfortable with these two components of progress. Being part of work and project culture that understands this is seriously motivating, and utterly transferrable to the rest of life.