How can every woman in business become more valuable, create more impact, and be seen as more powerful - no matter her position? By thinking and acting like a consultant. Not only does thinking and acting like a consultant help the organization manage change in topsy-turvy times, it is also personally empowering because you are taking initiative and leading the way.
Here are a few techniques I learned during my ten year career at AOL about being an effective internal consultant:
• Ask good questions, lots of them: Focus on questions that are specific and pertinent to the situation. You will need to ask some close-ended yes or no questions, but your most valuable questions are the open-ended kind that reveal much more information and lead to conversation.
• Listen, listen, listen: The most effective consultants talk less and listen more. You may a content expert, but only the internal client can give you the situational-specific information you need. Also listen to what's not being said. What's being left out? Why? Ask more questions. Keep listening.
• Be clear on what others want: What are their expectations? Often they aren't sure, so help them discover and articulate them. Get clarity, be specific. That way you can more likely satisfy their needs - and they will know it.
• Be honest about how you can or cannot meet their needs: Integrity matters. Don't say you can do something if you really can't deliver. If you need particular expertise or assistance, is there someone you know who can help? It's better to not promise certain outcomes than do a poor job.
• Continuously monitor satisfaction: Regularly ask how others think the work in progress is going. Watch for subtle changes in tone, less frequent communication, exclusion from meetings, or anything that's different from their usual behavior toward you.
• Continuously monitor the landscape: Be aware of what changes are happening in organization. Perhaps a change of events will create new opportunities or you may identify a new challenge that needs to a solution. Either way, show your value by proactively managing change and providing solutions.