The Difference a Leader Can Make

Leadership Excellence

vector Goal conceptEffective leaders make things happen through other people, but they do it in a way that instills confidence not fear, pride not humiliation, and a sense of worth.  I have compiled a list of a few things effective leaders do to achieve results

Leaders instill confidence in their teams. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to instill confidence.  In his book “The Eighth Habit” Stephen Covey defined leadership as:  “Communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”  Leaders know that people can achieve much more when they realize their potential and have confidence in themselves.  It is the leaders’ job to help their people realize the potential they have and the value they can deliver.  No wonder many leaders see themselves as cheerleaders.

Leaders have the courage to challenge existing processes.  All too often people see existing processes and procedures as constraints.  Many projects have been abandoned because the project team felt they were limited by processes and regulations that limited their ability to reach a goal.  Effective leaders are willing to challenge the processes if and when they feel the processes are not appropriate or have become outdated.  A leader can embolden a team simply by having the courage to challenge these limiting processes.

Leaders take the time to educate and empower their team.  There is nothing that discourages a team faster than to be given a goal but not be given the authority or the knowledge needed to overcome the obstacles standing between them and the attainment of the goal.  Ineffective leaders are more concerned about retaining control than they are in achieving results.  They are afraid to give their people too much power or too much information for fear that they will lose control of the project.  Effective leaders empower their teams and then get out of the way.

Leaders provide the tools their people need to be successful.  The good leaders see their job as removing obstacles that prevent their people from reaching goals.  They see themselves as serving their people by making sure that they have the resources necessary to reach the goals that have been set for them.

Leaders take the time to listen to their people.  Effective leaders listen to their people before acting as opposed to ordering them to take on responsibility for something they don’t believe in.  By simply taking the time to listen to their people, leaders automatically communicate to them that they think their ideas are valuable.  By incorporating their ideas into the plan/vision, the leader solidifies belief in the value of their people, and encourages them to take another step in the direction of achieving their goals.

Leaders motivate their people by recognizing them for their contributions. Exceptional leaders take the time to ensure that they are recognizing the right people for the right reasons.  They understand that their people will work harder and will be more dedicated if they feel that their efforts are appreciated and others are made aware of their contributions.  Strong leaders also understand that recognizing the wrong people for the wrong reasons can be very demoralizing for a team.  When people see others who are undeserving receive recognition, they become demoralized and no longer trust that their leader knows what is going on.

Leaders keep their team focused on their goal despite setbacks.  Setbacks and detours are inevitable in the achievement of any goal.  These setbacks can demoralize an organization and result in the loss of momentum.  Effective leaders are good at helping their team learn from the setbacks, get back on track, and regain momentum.

Extraordinary Demands on Consultants

Leadership Excellence

There is no doubt that the technical skills of in-house IT staff are roughly equivalent to those of the consultants hired to develop some of their larger or more complex systems companies require.  The skills that differentiate consultants from in-house staff are the soft skills.  What follows is a discussion of why external consultants need to possess a different set of skills in order to be successful.

Multitude and complexity of personalities:
Consultants will typically have to deal with a larger number of people and a more varied group of personalities than in-house staff.  In-house staff usually find themselves assigned to a single manager and a single functional area, consultants will move from client to client and will frequently find themselves working for a variety of different managers.  Having to deal with a large number of different personalities requires a more versatile set of communication skills.

Consultants are a Catalyst for Change:
Companies are more apt to hire consultants when they are dealing with more complex issues and a higher degree of change.  Given they are dealing with change more often, consultants’ change management skills need to be more finely tuned.  Dealing with change also requires more courage as it takes courage to challenge existing processes and fight through the resistance which typically accompanies change initiatives.  Businesses hire consultants to get a fresh perspective and insights into their industry.  In-house staff cannot provide this perspective.

Large fees accompany most consulting projects:
Given that consultants charge fees much higher than the per hour charges of in-house staff, the consultants find themselves being more closely scrutinized.  Despite the many reasons to justify the higher per hour cost charged by consultants, most consultants find themselves working shoulder to shoulder with people who are questioning the additional value they bring.  As a result, consultants need to find ways to differentiate themselves to justify the fees they charge.  Expectations for consultants are high, as a result consulting firms need to invest in developing skills and coaching their staff to meet the higher expectations.

Responsibilities Change Rapidly:
Consulting firms have the habit of conducting field promotions.  Although it is not unusual for a consultant to be promoted in the middle of a project, it is common practice to increase a consultant’s responsibilities as they move from one project to another.  The increase in responsibilities usually includes adding more leadership responsibilities, expanding the consultant’s span of control or responsibility to interact with clients.  Although natural leaders do exist, most people are not born with leadership skills.  Throwing them into leadership roles without adequate training or coaching can be a formula for disaster.

Consulting firms have a greater obligation to train their people in the softer skills.