Do you consider yourself to be resourceful? Do you thrive in a climate of uncertainty, fear and doubt? Do you know when and how to take calculated risks? Are you an information source or an information sink? Consultants must excel at information gathering and decision making in order to become a trusted advisor.
Communication is the most important asset
I believe that outstanding communication is the most important asset in business today, particularly when consulting. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Robert Buckman speak on “How to Communicate so People Listen.” He pointed out that doctors had once been considered wonderful communicators, a contrast with technologists who were relegated to dark, damp rooms to spare the huddled masses from the torment of their stuttering, incoherent ramblings. He went on to clarify that the tables have turned; many workers in the IT industry have become wonderful bilingualists who are equally able to talk shop in the server room and gracefully translate into common terms for the boardroom. I see this all around me and I agree completely.
Resourcefulness is the biggest challenge
I believe this is the next biggest challenge facing IT consultants today. I believe it is a common occurrence to throw up our hands and say we’re all out of information. I believe it happens far too often and far too soon. I have asked myself why this might be, and while I surely do not know, I wonder if it’s driven by a fear of failure. This leads to a fear of taking calculated risks, which in turn leads to a tendency to ask for direction rather than infer direction from the information at hand.
I believe that we owe it to ourselves and our clients to learn to be more resourceful. With more and better information comes more confidence in our decisions and eventually the fear subsides. Here are some ways to do that.
Expand your Toolbox
The proverb about the hammer and the nail is as true as it ever was. If you’ve got more techniques at the ready to handle a problem, it’s easier to identify the right one, or the better one. It’s about being prepared.
Don’t paint yourself in a corner. A permanent solution may not be the best for a temporary problem. Think in stages. Provide a solution then iteratively improve your solution later if necessary. Put on the spare tire to get home, then take your flat to the shop to be repaired another day. At least you get to drive your car in the meantime.
Sometimes it’s a prizefight. Not every fight will be a knockout. Outlast your opponent. Try again and again; maybe it takes a dozen tries. Not succeeding right away does not constitute failure – it’s practice. Learn from it.
For some of us, pressure is a motivator; but for many, it adds an edge that doesn’t help. Don’t let it control you. Your team will understand that providing a solution takes time, and so will your client. Manage expectations, gather information, define the problem, identify what resources are available to you, and continue doing that throughout the process of finding the solution. Communicate your process. Remaining calm and making calculated decisions will inspire confidence.
Resources come in many forms
Have you considered and investigated all options? People, communications, information, money, objects, intangibles, time – any or all of these may be part of the desirable solution.
Do your research
Even though I lived it, it’s hard for me to imagine now a time before Google. Use it extensively. Take some time to learn how to leverage it more effectively. Now, don’t stop there! Join peer groups like the Association of Computing Machinery for access to huge libraries of magazines, books, journals and forums. Research organizations such as Forrester and Gartner provide insightful and thoughtful opinions to be considered. Cast a wide net.
Ask important questions
- Is there another way to get what I want?
- Is the desired result really the best result?
- Who else has information that might help me?
- What is something very similar to what I need that might also work?
- Who is the expert in this area?
- What is one more thing I can try?
- What would someone I admire do in this same situation?
- Do we need to do anything at all?
- Do we REALLY need to do anything at all?
Resourceful people are team players. They are open to possibilities. They look for efficiency by mentally considering effort and reward for any action. Resourcefulness means leveraging past successes for current problems. Go forth and be resourceful!