Regardless of your current position, you likely began your consulting career with a low level of experience and have gone through a unique journey to get to where you are today. How did you navigate this journey? Were you fortunate enough to have a mentor, or were you left to your own devices? Irrespective of your unique path, there almost always comes a time when junior consultants are required to take on greater responsibility at their firm. Admittedly, this can be an awkward juncture in a consultant’s career, but it is a critical time as it relates to professional development and how their capabilities can be leveraged.
In preparation for assuming more responsibility, strides should be taken to deploy the concepts of leverage and leveraging to ensure junior consultants are set up for success. Leverage is how an individual is deployed on projects, which allows the junior consultant to enhance their spectrum of experiences in a professional setting. Leveraging is the act of empowering an individual to excel in the role(s) that they have been assigned. When combined, these concepts are utilized to enable junior consultants so that they can naturally grow into a greater role that provides increasing benefit to your firm. As is true of all concepts, specific actions must be taken to ensure they are deployed effectively and efficiently. So, how can this be done?
It is imperative that leverage and leveraging be deployed with oversight from a mentor that can advocate on behalf of the junior consultant. Whether you establish a formal mentorship program or do something more ad-hoc, mentoring is the key to unlocking a junior consultant’s ability to successfully take on more responsibility. As a mentor, you are tasked with empowering (leveraging) your mentees to operate individually, while also providing adequate support to their developmental needs. Striking the right balance can be a challenge, so we will provide some insight into how that can be achieved.
The first step in striking the right balance between empowerment and support is through enablement. Enabling implies that individuals already possess certain qualities and attributes that simply need to be unleashed and nurtured in a controlled setting. It can be applied in several ways, but it is your job as a mentor to determine how to align developmental needs with leverage. This creates a space for learning, while also challenging the junior consultant to apply what they have learned to the projects they have been assigned to. In this dynamic, you are tasked with guiding their growth, while also acting as a safety net to ensure they do not become overwhelmed. You must remember, failure is okay, but it must be accompanied by success. By controlling the level of stress put onto the junior consultant you can facilitate growth, while empowering (leveraging) them to take on more as their capabilities increase. Once you have established a structure around enablement, you will need to establish a feedback loop that proliferates the leverage you can get from your mentee.
Coaching is an informal way to foster open conversations between yourself and your mentee. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to leveraging your consultants, coaching sessions should be used to establish a personal rapport, which will allow you to discuss the developmental needs and motivators of your mentee. Further, they create a safe space for the junior consultant to advocate for themselves, while also serving as a feedback mechanism for the mentoring and enablement frameworks that have been utilized. It is a touchpoint for both parties to reflect upon what is going well, and what should be amended. This is how you can develop a uniquely tailored plan to empower (leveraging) your mentee, while also setting goals for how they will be leveraged in the near, medium, and long-term. These sessions might be conducted weekly, or monthly, but they should be based on the specific needs of the individual. Above all, you must remember that as a mentor, you are there to provide support, and it’s essential for your consultants to understand this too. It won’t shield them from discomfort, but they’ll find solace in knowing that have a safe space to go when things become difficult.
Applying Leverage & Leveraging to Clients
Interestingly, as you find success in applying mentoring, enablement, and coaching with your junior consultants, you should consider applying these same concepts with your clients. It’s easy to assume that because you were hired, your clients will take ownership of the project. Most of the time, this is not true. Your clients will likely require as much guidance and mentorship as your junior consultants and therefore you must enable and empower them to fulfill their project-related responsibilities. Just like with your consultants, this starts with understanding their goals, needs, and concerns through open communication. When applied effectively, you can provide the support your clients need to thrive and therefore enable them to reach their full potential.
In conclusion, the journey of a junior consultant is often marked by a pivotal moment when they are required to take on greater responsibility within their firm. To ensure success during this critical time, the concepts of leverage and leveraging play a crucial role. By deploying these concepts with your oversight as a mentor, junior consultants can be empowered to excel in their assigned roles. As a mentor you are a guide, who must strike a balance between empowerment and support through enablement and coaching. Enablement unleashes and nurtures the qualities and attributes already possessed by the junior consultant, creating a space for learning and growth while providing a safety net. Coaching fosters open conversations, establishing a personal rapport and serves as a feedback mechanism for the junior consultant. These strategies can also be applied to clients, enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities and reach their full potential. By embracing the principles of leverage and leveraging, you can pave the way for the professional development of your junior consultants so that they can contribute significantly to the success of their firm and clients alike.
Written by: Dean McMann
About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services. He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization. In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.