The Thick Skin of a Consultant

Thick Skin
The Thick Skin of a Consultant

Suppose you hire a local landscaping firm to care for your lawn.  During a backyard party, if a guest comments that your bushes are overgrown and the grass is cut unevenly, you might respond that it’s that darn service you contracted with.

If the same guest commented how beautiful your lawn looks, you might be just as likely to say “Thank you” and avoid the confusion of explaining to him that you hire a firm to handle it.  You were, after all, responsible for hiring the landscapers, right?

Thick skin in consulting

The same situation applies in the consulting and professional services industry.  The client tends to hold the consultant responsible when things wrong.  But they’re willing to claim the credit when things go well.

A good executive knows how to manage risks.  When she leads up a major initiative, she will transfer some of that risk by hiring a consulting firm to provide advice, project management and any other expertise needed to insure success for the project.

Moreover, the executive is paying a premium for consultants and expects an equally high level of competence.  When things go wrong, regardless of whose fault it is, clients will hold the consultants accountable.  This can range from being as subtle as asking them what their plan is to correct it, to a screaming fit of outrage .

If it occurs too often, the consultant may decide that they won’t work with such an abusive client.  But often times, all a consultant can do is take it.  Scapegoating comes along with the territory.

See my related post: Consulting Skill: Dealing with Criticism

If consultants want to make those high salaries they’re famous for, they need to have a thick enough skin to be able to take the heat that clients are capable of.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

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