Adapting to Change: 6 Essential Traits for Project Consultants

Change is inevitable in the world of project management consulting. As client needs evolve and projects shift in new directions, adaptability is a crucial skill for consultants to embrace. Consultants who can adapt to change and help guide their clients through uncertainty will be better equipped to deliver successful project outcomes.

In this article, we will explore key traits that allow consultants to remain agile, flexible, and responsive when navigating change.


Embracing a Growth Mindset

Consultants with a growth mindset view change as an opportunity for learning and development rather than a threat. They are open to feedback, eager to acquire new skills, and willing to step outside their comfort zones.

A consultant with a fixed mindset will resist change and insist on using familiar tools and processes, even when they are no longer working.

Consultants who embrace growth see setbacks during project changes as chances to get better. They remain open-minded about trying new approaches to solve problems. This skill allows them to adapt solutions to fit evolving project needs.

Comfort with Ambiguity

Project changes often create uncertainty about the next steps. Consultants who can tolerate ambiguity can operate effectively even with unknowns. Rather than getting paralyzed by incomplete information, they view ambiguity as a chance to uncover creative solutions.

They ask probing questions, run small experiments, and leverage agile frameworks to iteratively clarify needs. As changes arise, they guide stakeholders through the uncertainty, using their ability to think critically when details are fuzzy. Their high tolerance for ambiguity helps projects remain on track through turbulent shifts.

Flexible Communication Style

Communication style should flex to match the needs of different audiences and situations. For example, when changes cause confusion between team members, a consultant should host collaborative working sessions to align everyone. If a change requires resetting executive expectations, the consultant needs to communicate credibly with senior leadership.

Adaptable communication leverages the right medium, tone, and message for the circumstances at hand. Consultants with versatile communication skills can tailor their interactions to whatever changes come their way.

Resilience and Tenacity

Change brings stress. Consultants need resilience and tenacity to push through the challenges. They exhibit emotional intelligence to encourage others through periods of uncertainty.

When setbacks occur, they take time to recover, regroup, and refocus energy on finding solutions. Consultants with grit don't get derailed when having to rework plans or take a different approach. They draw on reserves of determination to proactively problem-solve vs. getting stalled by the disruption of changing course. Their resilience allows them to stay engaged in getting projects successfully to the finish line.

Willingness to Wear Multiple Hats

Project changes often require consultants to flex into varied roles outside their primary responsibilities. Consultants who adapt well have a willingness to wear multiple hats as needed. For example, a change in project scope may necessitate a consultant serving as a communicator, trainer, coordinator, and technologist at different times. Rather than resisting stretching beyond their typical function, adaptable consultants embrace bringing a diversity of skills to bear.

Their versatility in morphing through various roles helps them fill gaps and keep projects moving forward through tumultuous changes.

Agility with Tools and Processes

When projects change direction, tools, and processes may need to change too. Consultants should continuously evaluate if current ways of working still fit and be ready to implement different approaches. For example, a shift to remote work may require adopting new collaboration platforms or reconfiguring workflows.

Consultants who can smoothly transition tools and processes based on changing needs avoid productivity dips. They bring an agile mindset to selecting and configuring tools to support how people now need to work. Their resourcefulness keeps teams effective when project changes demand new ways of operating.

FAQs on characteristics of a successful consultant:

What are the qualities of a good consultant?

Some key qualities of a good consultant include strong communication skills, analytical abilities, flexibility, leadership, collaboration, and organizational skills. Good consultants are responsive, empathetic, open-minded, and able to adapt to change. They have deep expertise in their field but also operate as versatile generalists.

How can I be a good project consultant?

To be a good project consultant, develop a growth mindset, comfort with ambiguity, resilience, versatility, and agility. Hone your skills in areas like critical thinking, change management, stakeholder engagement, and team leadership. Build proficiency across various project management tools and methodologies. Be sure to read our article about the foundation of a successful project management consultant.

Which of the following is a trait of a good consultant?

All of the following are traits of good consultants:

  • Willingness to learn and grow
  • Ability to work independently
  • Strong work ethic and time management
  • Confidence and decisiveness
  • Innovation and creativity

What personality types are best for consultants?

Some personality types well-suited for consulting include ENTJ, ESTJ, ENFJ, ENTP, and ENFP personalities**. Common traits among these types, like boldness, curiosity, ambition, and adaptability, align well with the dynamic nature of consulting work. Ultimately, any personality type can thrive in consulting by developing key skills.

What are some challenges of working as a consultant?

Common challenges consultants face include ambiguity, frequent changes, tight deadlines, politics, travel, and a lack of work-life balance. Managing diverse client expectations across projects can also be demanding.

How important is subject matter expertise for a consultant?

Deep subject matter expertise is very important for consultants to be seen as credible by clients. However, consultants also need broad generalist skills since projects span a variety of domains. Strong research skills help consultants get up to speed quickly in new areas.

What types of projects do consultants work on?

Consultants work on wide-ranging projects like IT implementations, strategy development, operational excellence, change management, and organization design. Projects can be internal initiatives at the consultant's firm or client-driven engagements.

How much travel is expected of consultants?

Many consultants travel frequently to be onsite with clients for projects. However, remote work is also common, especially post-COVID. The amount of travel depends on the firm and project needs, but expect 25-75% travel.

What is the career path for a consultant?

The career path typically goes from analyst to consultant to project/engagement manager, senior manager, principal, or partner. Some consultants move into internal firm leadership roles or exit into industry positions.

What skills are most important for consultants to develop?

Critical skills for consultants include communication, strategic thinking, project management, leading teams, technical capabilities, and executive presence. Soft skills like empathy, curiosity, and emotional intelligence also differentiate strong consultants.

Key Takeaways: Traits for Embracing Change

  • Growth mindset and learning orientation
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Flexible communication style
  • Resilience and tenacity
  • Willingness to take on varied roles
  • Agility with tools and processes

Change is the new normal in consulting. Cultivating these essential traits will allow consultants to flex through times of uncertainty. With an adaptable approach, consultants can keep projects on track and continue driving results, even when the plan shifts or the path forward is unclear.

What change management skills have you found most critical in consulting? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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