9 Steps to International Consulting Success
There was a time when being tall and white and English speaking were the key characteristics of an international work.
Today, English is still a core competency but everything else has changed and that's no bad thing. So, what is important?
Here are the steps to success we've learned from the many years of varied consulting experiences:
Consulting is not a passive activity. Sitting and listening only lasts for a very short time. The consultant was not invited to be inert.
The expectation is that fairly quickly, there will be evidence of insight, action and direction. Do your home work before you arrive. Brash pushing is a thing of the past but projecting a sense of confidence and comfort with your own space is crucial.
Understanding a culture often does not help you, but not understanding basic elements of the culture can really hurt you.
There are very few countries where age is not equated with wisdom and not given respect. So, forget about dying that white hair. Looks good in the international consulting world. Dyed hair is a give away of insecurity. Not what people are looking for in a consultant.
A bit of cut and thrust with the young people you're working with sometimes goes down well. But any hint of ignoring the gray power behind them will probably be punished in diminishing support for you. The younger the consultant, the more important the basic show of respect.
Remote foreign models and examples are not very helpful. Finding local models to support a chosen direction or recommendation is crucial.
Let the locals tell their stories. Get varied stories, too. I remembered the first time we went to work in Cambodia. The government people then were not comfortable in us visiting the villages. So, we asked the hotel cleaners to bring us to their villages.
As a regular practice, villagers introduced us to the head of the village who helped in organizing our focus discussions. After visiting several villages with our driver interpreting for us, we managed to design a project that surprised the government.
Now, the voucher skills training project that resulted from those focus groups is alive and well and reaching across the whole country.
Care about what you’re doing. When the locals see this, you will have their respect.
Help wherever it is needed. It will often speed up your own work.