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What it Takes to be Don Cheadle


What it Takes to be Don Cheadle

I recently answered this question on Quora:

Is it possible for someone in their mid-30s with no consulting background to get a job in management consulting? If yes, where and how should they approach this?

After posting my comments, I thought about it more. So I really hope that the person who originally posed the question on Quora will one day see this post.

It occurred to me that Management Consultants, while a seemingly glamorous role, has had a bad rep over the years. The Netflix series House of Lies has really helped to both glamourize and falsify the integrity (or lack of it), of management consultants worldwide.

Smartly dressed suits, they parachute into an organization claiming to “help.” But all they’re doing are looking for ways where they can bill crazy hours at crazy rates and keep their utilization high. They don’t really care about solving a problem. On the contrary, they’re interested in leeching off a client like as long as possible. Thanks guys, for putting such a bad taste in people’s mouths around the world about management consultants.

Don’t get me wrong, House of Lies, I’m sure, doesn’t completely sway completely from reality. In every profession, there is a segment of dirt-bags that poison the well for the rest of us. It certainly doesn’t mean that consultants, management or otherwise, are all a bunch of lying, scheming crooks that look to leech off their client host as much as they can. The vast majority of us act with integrity and, believe it or not, actually bring a lot of value to our clients.

What is a Management Consultant Anyway?

What is a management consultant anyway? A management consultant is one that gives advice and helps an

organization’s leadership better the company, some way, somehow. Ok. What does that mean? According to Guardian, “Management consultants help businesses improve their performance and grow by solving problems and finding new and better ways of doing things.”

So Can you be a Management Consultant without Any Experience?

I mean really, there’s a first time for everything. Every master was once a newbie. Every expert was once green. If

consulting is something you feel calls to you, why not pursue it, assuming you have something of value to contribute.

To the inquirer on Quora, I would have to ask you first, why did you choose to pursue ‘Management’ Consultant? I

think that in order to effectively answer the question, it is best to know what your intentions in trying for a job in management consulting? Is it that you want to work for yourself eventually? Or do you want to get out of an operational role, and into a consulting role? It also depends on what your professional experience has been to date, including the industry in which you have worked.

A consultant, management or other, is a perceived expert in a particular field. When an organization has a need to

implement a new thing, be it a financial system, line of business, or business process, they will draw upon their internal resources first. If they don’t see the skillset in house required to bring their project to fruition, they will reach out for external help. This is where consultants come into play.

My message is that you don’t have to be a ‘management’ consultant in order to have a career in consulting. As long as you have ample expertise in your field, and there is a need for an organization to seek outside help, you can consult.

How I Got into it

I left operational accounting back in 1999, and joined a small consulting group. I’d never been a consultant

before. They immediately contracted me back to the very organization that I left, albeit a different department. At the time, I was by no means a power user of Peoplesoft, but I had operational experience in it. I had trained in it, and I trained other departments in the AR and Billings modules. That made me a perceived expert. If you know it enough to teach it, you know the technology, or at least the part that you taught. But that didn’t exempt me from the growing pains of a newbie. I remember in my first few years of consulting, there wasn’t a single day that I went home feeling like a fraud, like someone would eventually figure it out that I had no clue what I was doing. I envied my colleagues who had years of project experience under their belt.

Act as a Leader, not as a Travel Agent

Consulting is much more than telling management what they need to do. Holistically, the art of consulting happens

when you can see gap in the organization and fill it. Not only do you fill it, but you leave it better than it was before. You either streamline the process, or you automate it, or you teach someone to use it better, more efficiently.

Related: How Sir Richard Branson Kickstarted My 2018

That is what I love about consulting. We are in a position where we can affect change almost immediately. And people will listen because the organization has embarked on this change. We are change agents. Ultimately, organizations are made of people. Our job as consultants is to make the change palatable and make the

lives of the people in the organization better. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you work with a bunch of executives and make top down directives that filter throughout the organization. Don Cheadle does, but that is in the fictional world.

In reality, the magic that consultants do is in the gears. We work in the guts of the operation. We gain understanding of the client’s business, analyzing current systems and their pain points. If we’re in a field like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or any systems implementation, we need to either create the system, or set it up in a manner that not only meets, but exceeds what the business needs. We need to set them up well for the future. This can translate to roles such as business analysis, solutions architecture, technical implementers, report developers. The vast majority of us work as consultants in the guts of the operation.

However, the people who soar above everyone else in this profession are the ones who are leaders. It’s not that there is any indication of leadership in the job title, or in the organizational address book, it’s that they act as a leader, as an owner of the organization. This mindset exudes in the way they guide their client colleagues through a project. They can be a contributing business analyst, developer, project administrator. But you know they are leaders because of their behaviour. They act like they give a damn. They proverbially eat with the troops. As John Maxwell so eloquently put it, if you’re only telling people where they ought to go, without having gone yourself you’re less of a leader… and more of a travel agent.

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