What 'Actually' is Consulting?
June 22, 2023

What 'Actually' is Consulting?

Q&A with Holly McCone, Consultant in the Bristol team

This one is essential reading for anyone considering a career in consulting. Holly McCone, a Consultant in the Bristol team, demystifies the work of the consultant and shares more about what we do, and how we enable our clients to solve their biggest challenges.

That's Holly rocking the stripes in the photo above.

Q: What is the role of the consultant?

A: I often giggle when I’m asked what I do for work… I’ll respond, “I work for a global management consultancy” and will be met with the head tilt, eye squint, slow nod and a reply of, “ahh ok and what actually is consulting?”

Honestly, I can understand that consulting can be a slightly ambiguous profession for some people to fully understand; it comes in all shapes, sizes & sectors.

I think in the simplest terms, consulting is about solving problems.

As consultants, we provide expert advice to organisations who face challenges they do not understand how to overcome alone. Often organisations can get caught in the detail of what these challenges are, rather than understanding why they have come to face them – perhaps it can become difficult to ‘see the wood for the trees.’ As an external party we seek to provide unbiased, fresh perspectives and offer clarity around the potential solution paths.

Q: What do you think is the common or stereotypical perception of the consultant? The misconceptions surrounding consulting?

A: ‘Give me your watch and I’ll tell you the time!’

The first thing that comes to mind is that we tell our clients what they already know, and sometimes this is true. But what we offer is the opportunity to think in a different way. We provide various solutions that could be implemented to resolve the issue.

Another misconception is that we jump into an organisation, review their current way of working or processes, then leave without providing anything tangible. However, many of our projects at Lancia require that we provide our clients with both the roadmap, specific knowledge and the tools to resolve these issues, and to also imbed the change, toolset or technology into the business, while supporting them through the end-to-end process.

Q: Okay then, your favourite question. Whatactually is consulting?

A: At the core consulting is about people. In my experience so far, I think it’s about listening, learning and analysing, on the path to truly understanding both the problems these people face and the people themselves – what is important to them and why? By building great relationships with our clients, (which I have really enjoyed) we hope to be able to better understand their needs and ideally, quickly understand them.

It's also about being practical and pragmatic – being confident in advising your client, designing the work programs, training and project plans to deliver what you believe to be realistic and achievable, for them or for their business. This is key to successfully implementing the right solution.  

Depending on where your client or project team is based, consulting may require travel and coordinating your day across multiple time zones. This can mean early morning or late evening meetings, jumping on a red eye flight or train but it also means getting the chance to travel across the globe to experience something new – exciting!

Q: What is a typical day in the life of a consultant?

A: The pace of consulting often varies depending on our project workload and complexity. This can be tricky to get comfortable with. Necessarily, some of the critical capabilities in the daily life of a consultant are great time and project management skills and making sure to create the right work-life balance that fits around your client or project needs and your own.

Specifically in Lancia, I think we are lucky to be immediately awarded the trust and flexibility to make our day our own.

At Lancia we have parents and carers who are consultants – they can fit in the school run in the mornings and afternoons around client calls and work. Where we have early calls with clients, we’re able to head to the gym over lunch to ensure our minds in the right place for calls in the afternoon (if that’s what works for you). Or maybe you’ve been travelling and want to work from home for the day - you can!

I guess, there is no ‘typical day’ as honestly no day is the same – it’s up to us to shape the best day for us and our clients!

Q: What do you think are the key personality attributes for being a successful consultant?

A: You’ve got to want to talk!

Being a good listener, curious to learn more, intrigued to ask questions, dive deeper into problems and get to know your clients better.

Being measured and willing to take risks. Being dynamic, being resilient – things don’t always go to plan.

Wanting to go the extra mile – to delight your client – an ethos our Managing Director, Ned Nicol has taught us the importance of!

Q: What are the main challenges to life as a consultant?

A: The nature of consulting can require that our projects and roles frequently change and so you must learn to upskill, quick!  

This involves lots of reading, research, maybe new qualifications and absorbing as much as you can from the other consultants and leadership team around you and the abundance of skills they offer.  And of course, learning about new people, ways of working, organisations, technologies, and industries. It’s interesting and fun to have a career that allows you to get to do a little bit of everything - but of course, it can be challenging!

Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What most excites you about what you are doing?

The first thing that springs to mind is the office vibe! We have a great team here at Lancia and an amazing office space to work in – the people and surroundings genuinely motivate you to want to work and to learn from those sitting around you.  

I would also say, seeing the value you add or the difference you make for your clients. Working on a project from start to finish is a rewarding process.  

I have worked in Lancia for about a year and a half and when I look back, I can’t believe what I’ve learnt in this short time, the inspiring people I have met and the cool companies I get to be a part of when on different projects.

Oh, and I couldn’t not mention the permanently well stocked biscuit and sweetie tin, thanks to Summer (our Talent & Office Assistant) – it’s the small things.

Want to kick off your career in consulting? Learn about how you can join LanciaConsult today.

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