In consulting, the old adage "two heads are better than one" does hold some truth. Columnist Kevin Eikenberry explains why collaborating with peers and associates will make you a better consultant.
As consultants, we need to continually be looking for ways to better serve our clients. One rich source of new ideas is the people in our network—those with whom we might collaborate. Here are nine reasons why collaboration can make us better consultants on our current projects and more valuable to our clients in future work. Collaboration helps us:
- Build our network. Collaborative efforts are one of the best ways to enhance your network. Collaborations start either serendipitously by meeting someone new or through a conversation with someone you know. If the collaboration is with a new person, you’ve just expanded your network. If it’s with a known colleague, you have strengthened it. Either way, for all the reasons networking is important, collaborative work on projects makes sense.
- Accomplish more project objectives. Two people working on a project—as long as the project is well planned—can usually produce a more complete solution than could be achieved by someone working alone. As long as you take the time to be clear on desired project outcomes up front, collaborative approaches will make it possible to accomplish more project objectives than would have been possible working alone.
- Reduce time-to-completion. Not only will collaboration allow you to get more objectives accomplished, but it will also, of course, help you finish the project quicker. Have a tight deadline? Consider a collaborator. Think the planning time will take too long? It might the first time, and for this reason, bringing on a collaborator may not help you out of your current crunch. But by making collaboration a strategy and doing it often, the time you spend planning will be reduced over time.
- Reinforce accountability. It’s harder to let your project slide or allow timelines to slip when you’ve told your partner, for example, that you would have the next draft completed on Monday.
- Find a more creative approach to problems. Collaboration can lead to innovative and fresh solutions to problems. By partnering with someone who has different experiences or a different style, you open yourself to new approaches and ideas to better serve the client.
- Increase flexibility. On a larger project, having a partner may allow you both more flexibility. If the next task is due next week and you have some other priorities, having a partner may allow both of you to even out your workload over the course of the project.
- Continue to learn. When working alone, we often resort to the tried-and-true approaches and never seem to stretch or further build our competencies. Working with someone else provides you many opportunities to learn. What approaches did they suggest? What ideas did they bring to the situation? How do they communicate with clients? These are only a few of the things you can observe and learn from—which will help you to add new methods to your own tool kit for future projects.
- Get more enjoyment from our work. For most of us, most of the time, working on something with someone else is more fun. If you can gain all of the other benefits (or even only a few of them) from collaboration and make your work more fun, isn't it something worth trying?
- Create a win-win-win proposition. All of the benefits you gain, your collaborator gains, too. And don't forget your clients: They’re getting higher-quality work in less time—and they’ll see you as the person who made that happen.