Signs That You May Be an Internal Consultant

You’re a what? A consultant! The word conjures many thoughts – most of them negative. I’ve heard the jokes, seen the cartoons, and watched the movies.

I never thought of myself as a consultant. I was a director of training for engineering, not a consultant. The people who worked for me were technicians and engineers not consultants. The people I worked with were engineering managers, not clients.

Over the years, as I trained people in Flawless Consulting skills, I heard that comment over and over, “I never thought of myself as a consultant.”

To help people discover their role, I offer the following nine signs that you may be in an internal consulting role. (When you read “others,” I am referring to people outside your area.)

1. You have a professional area of expertise.

2. You work in an area that provides support to other departments or divisions, i.e. Administrative services, business process improvement, communications, engineering, finance, human resources, it, law, learning and development, OD, project management, purchasing, recruiting, or training.

3. You have words like advisor, analyst, business partner, HR, improvement, IT, performance, process, productivity, relationship, research, safety, specialist, strategist, or training in your job title.

4. You refer to the others you serve as business partners, line managers, customers, and clients.

5. You work to help others solve their problems with sustainable solutions.

6. You find that others often come to you for assistance “at the last moment.”

7. You find that others’ expectations are often not clear and hard to understand.

8. You feel that others sometimes don’t see your value or credibility.

9. You find it hard to “sell” your recommendations to others.

Now if you answered “Yes” to at least four of these questions, you are probably an internal consultant.

Don’t fret, consulting can be a great life if you change your thinking. That’s what happened to me when I attended a Flawless Consulting skills workshop years ago. During that first workshop, my thinking began to change. I realized that much of what I did was internal consulting and that I needed to develop some new skills to be successful.

For example, I started listening more than I talked, I asked questions instead of making statements, and I slowed down to understand my client’s emotional reactions instead of getting frustrated or angry. In a short time, I built trust and credibility in my relationships that I had not had before.

After a few months of practicing Flawless Consulting skills, relationships at work changed for the better. I became a partner to my clients, not just someone to arrange training events. After a year, Engineering became more open, more cooperative, more productive. Within two years I enjoyed working with all departments of the company and several of their external customers. I developed an internal consulting practice and became a trusted advisor to a few key leaders. I thrived not just survived.

– This article was written by Charles L. Fields, a proponent and practitioner of Designed Learning, for many years.  He was a gifted facilitator, mentor, and coach to participants and fellow affiliate consultants of Designed Learning.  We lost Charlie several years ago to cancer, but his spirit and inspiration live on in our lives and in his writing.