As a project manager you often have a lot in common with a consultant. Understanding how consultants contribute to organizational change and use influence to lead teams is valuable to us as project managers. I talked about this a while back in “Split Personality” because I often fill both roles on different projects at the same time. Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” post today brings me back to the topic.
I think there are two primary reasons a project manager should also be a skilled consultant. First, as a project often changes its organization, a skilled consultant will find ways to engage people and build on their strengths to help bring about the change. Consulting skills help us see opportunities beyond the stated scope of the project, and balance the strong project management focus on the triple constraints and risk mitigation, in order to achieve project objectives. In “Split Personality” I covered this aspect of the project manager consultant overlap and offered some consulting approaches that can help project managers achieve a balance.
The second reason a project manager should have an understanding of consulting skills is that both roles often lead from behind. As a project manager, you may have limited influence over your organization; or even over your team. Your success depends more on your ability to influence than on your positional authority. No other role depends more on the need to influence than that of consultant. As consultants, we want to bring about positive change, but by definition we have to do so without authority. Consultants have to influence their teams and their organizations because they can’t control them. So, project managers and consultants share leadership challenges and depend on their ability to influence. What skills help us get better at influence?
I’ve found Peter Block’s book “Flawless Consulting” to be very helpful in understanding the consultant’s role and what is required to gain influence in the role of consultant. As I am often in both roles, understanding the consulting process and skills helps me have a greater impact and deliver results more successfully as a project manager. Peter’s book is the best resource I’ve found to understand the philosophy, process, and meaning in the consultant’s role.
While Peter’s book is an easy read and should be on all our lists, Dan Rockwell’s post today, “The 10 Ways to Gain Influence,” tidily sums up how a consultant or a project manager can more effectively lead their team and organization. It recognizes that applying leadership and influence is more important, effective, and realistic in our project management role than expecting to have control.
So, we are project managers, consultants, and leaders. And, we need influence more than we need control. It’s a good thing. After all, how often is anyone ever in control of things?
Thanks for reading.
Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2012