Why Consultants are Sometimes Viewed as Arrogant

Let’s be honest – many consulting projects are arranged at the executive level with little input from the operational staff in finance and procurement that will be tasked with executing the initiative.

In other words, the people directly involved didn’t ask for a team of outsiders to come in and start asking questions and diverting them away from their day jobs. Not to mention that the experience isn’t improved by consultants who come across as arrogant and dismissive of established practices and dictating how you should be doing things.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Having some experience from both the client and consultant perspective, here are some observations that can make the process a more positive experience all around.

For the client side:

  • Recognize that the consultant may have some valuable insights to offer. The consultant team specializes year-round and continually focuses on a particular activity across many different scenarios (contract renewals, for example) that you might only touch once a year.
  • Having additional insight can get you results faster and can meet the needs of your business more effectively.
  • Stay involved in the project beyond the bare minimum. The traditional approach of, “Here’s the data you wanted, now leave me alone” helps no one.

For the consultant side:

  • Don’t allow the attitude of “I’m the consultant and I’m the expert” cloud your vision and the project.
  • Be respectful and appreciative of the client’s time and experience. The project you’re working on is in addition to, not instead of, their day jobs.
  • Ask questions rather than deliver statements.
  • Start small. If you come in and dictate to the client how they’re doing everything wrong, the natural response will be to defensively push back. However, suggesting incremental tweaks that make a positive impact will garner appreciation and build trust.

For both sides:

  • Make a sincere effort to connect. For many of us, most of our work interactions take place via conference calls that are scheduled back to back from early morning until late afternoon. While finding time to connect on a personal level could be difficult, the payoff can be huge in building a sense of teamwork.

Basically a few subtle things can contribute to higher outcomes for success, and can help to develop a partnership that adds real value.

About the author

Michele Wang has over 10 years of IT strategic sourcing, implementation, purchasing and service management experience.