3 Mindsets + 2 Plans to Relieve Your Consulting Firm’s Growth Obstruction
Breaking News: The challenge blocking your firm from the next stage of growth is…
Growing your consulting practice requires you to surrender more and more responsibilities.
Unfortunately, handing off parts of your consulting practice proves increasingly difficult as you graduate from administrative tasks and low-level analytical exercises to high-value work that fits your personal strengths.
You need to improve your willingness and ability to relinquish responsibilities so that you’re no longer an obstruction to your consulting firm’s growth.
Fortunately, I have an effective formula for you.
3 Mindsets + 2 Plans = Obstruction Relief
The first mindset that inhibits many consulting firm leaders—particularly those with very small firms—from delegating more is fear.
Fear that when you hand off what you’re doing now, you won’t succeed at what you’re supposed to be doing with your newfound time.
For instance, if you’re unsure you can effectively win more projects if you’re handed extra business development time on your calendar, then you’re unlikely to invest in an assistant who could create that time for you.
Step beyond your fear. Search for evidence that your worries are unfounded and, regardless of how much evidence you find, take the leap.
If you have to fake your self-confidence for a period of time, so be it.
Ironically, once consultants move past the fear of not being able to create value, the exact opposite mindset shuts down growth: unrealistic self-regard.
Many consulting firm leaders believe they are exceptionally good at what they do. Even uniquely good. They believe anyone else would produce inferior results. That mindset doesn’t support delegation.
You may be very, very good at what you do, but you’re not the only one who’s extraordinarily talented—particularly at general skills such as communicating, clarifying and problem-solving.
You’re probably not even the best (sorry), and you’re definitely not the only one who can produce sufficient quality to delight clients.
Get over yourself. Search for evidence that others can delight clients then grant team members the opportunity to take over the very tasks you hold dearest.
Hindsight compresses time.
That’s why kids grow up in the blink of an eye, even though the night the baby was colicky stretched on forever, and the first time your teenager took your car, you watched each second tick by in terror.
It’s also why you forget how many days and mistakes you waded through on your way to becoming the extraordinary performer you are today.
The people you empower require time to develop. Uncompressed time.
For instance, competent consultants typically require at least two years of ongoing coaching, training and support before they blossom into rainmakers who can win seven figures of business inside a boutique consulting firm.
Reflect on your actual evolution as a consultant. How long have you been developing your expertise? Commit to stretching the timeline you’ll give others on your team to achieve excellence.
Handing off duties that are vital to your consulting firm without instituting any controls creates unacceptable levels of anxiety and risk.
This is an easy fix.
Establish guidelines, guardrails and indicators that you will gradually relax as you grow more comfortable with others holding the reins.
For instance, identify specific situations that require your direct involvement.
Institute a weekly “training” meeting during which you and the colleague assuming your responsibilities review their work and discuss improvement opportunities.
The complement to your Control Plan is an Expectations Plan that clearly establishes a timeline and indicators of progress. This is an opportunity to codify your patience.
Without realistic expectations captured in writing, you’ll derail your own growth efforts when you suffer a temporary dip in humility or your patience with colleagues’ errors thins.
Review the Expectations Plan with your subordinate.
Also accept that your going-in expectations will not match reality. Mentally prepare to adjust and refine your plan many times along the way to fully achieving the next stage in your consulting firm’s growth.
What else has helped you effectively delegate to others so that you can open up opportunities for growth?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
I became a manager very early in my career and the best lesson in delegation came when my boss said “you’re not doing your job.” I was furious because I was working hard to ensure excellent results, but he was right, we weren’t reaching our potential because I wasn’t delegating. His voice still rings in my head often. Still, love your point about needing a Control Plan because an “all or nothing” approach to delegating sets you up to fail.
Great story, Greg! You were focused on “what” but your boss was focused on “who.” Good on you for learning that lesson early in your career!
I appreciate your sharing the illustrative anecdote, Greg. It adds a lot of richness to the discussion.
A post to reflect on perhaps when setting goals as you seeking to grow and stretch. When I started out the 3 points made above weren’t clear to me and in its place, I was fortunate to have connected with a small group of folks within my topic area that worked both independently and also in traditional roles. This small group (I referred to them in my head as my “board”) offered ideas, advice, and accountability to efforts I was trying such as outsourcing a marketing effort early on. Having a small group to check in with, and having them keep tabs on me, helped me try some things that I probably wouldn’t have, I would have stayed in Mindset1. In the spirit of the circle going around, I would be glad to join your “board” and help as those before helped me. – bill
Kudos to you for soliciting (and taking!) advice as you’ve built your practice, Bill. Escaping the lack-of-confidence mindset can be very difficult for many new consultants. That’s one reason, I offered hope in this article about BD and future you.
You’re also very kind to offer your insights to other readers in the community. (Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that a valuable complement to input from peers is advice from an expert who has built hundreds of consulting firms.😉)
I’m glad you chimed in with your story, Bill!
Amazing coincidence! I was just writing the outline of my training for accountants. First module Mindset. And look what popped up in my inbox? Studying Carol Dweck’s work now. Consciously creating your own reality is an important skill.
Absolutely right, Trow. Bonus points in your account for starting your training with mindsets. Professional services of all types are cerebral, built on and providing outputs based entirely on ideas. Mindsets are the foundation of everything we do.
Thank you for adding your perspective, and good luck on the training program!
Enjoyed your 3 Mindsets article – Sharing an idea that has allowed me to better delegate: I practice being comfortable with my team making mistakes by viewing those mistakes as pitstops for learning. That’s how we grow.
That’s a great attitude, Michael. Remembering that your colleagues are also on a learning journey (just like you) and that they’re human helps diffuse some of the frustration that accompanies errors.
Thank you for sharing that excellent mindset framing!