You Can Make A Difference: A Guide to Being a Great Consultant

Posted on March 8, 2021
By Zena Simces

In my recently published book, You Can Make A Difference: A Guide to Being a Great Consultant, I recognize the successful work of the Tamarack Institute in applying a collective impact approach for meaningful community change. As a consultant, manager or leader engaging multiple groups of stakeholders to co-create solutions to complex organizational or industrial challenges, or addressing major community social, health or environmental transformations, this approach enables you to move beyond the single impact of an initiative in the short-term to strive for broader impact in the long-term.

When I was leading a project to address the issue of how to enhance wellness in neighbourhoods and within an entire city, I worked with each of the organizations separately and then brought them together to strengthen their relationship and develop a common vision. We then began to identify specific initiatives that each group could complete on their own and those they could undertake together to help achieve the collective vision. We developed processes of communication as a well as a joint strategic and operational plan. However, the actual implementation and impact did not go as far as was intended. What I learned, from the expertise demonstrated by Tamarack Institute, is that to sustain change you require a shared system of measuring impact and reporting on results and a solid infrastructure with designated responsibility, co-ordination and funding to keep the momentum going and achieve impact in the long-term.

Whether you are contemplating a consulting career, want to hone your skills as a consultant or manager or you are a community leader considering hiring a consultant, there are 10, what I refer to as “soft skills’ that are critical.

  1. Woman working in flower shop
    1. Building trusting relationships is of foremost importance to creating a safe, equitable space so people feel they can trust you and others at the table.
    2. Understanding the culture of an organization or community group means being very aware of its ‘personality’ and the environment in which it operates.
    3. Being a good listener and communicator requires you to listen first and speak second.
    4. Upholding ethical standards necessitates knowing your own values and principles and applying them in your work.
    5. Being a catalyst for change requires an understanding of the barriers and how to move beyond them.
    6. Focusing on the big picture will assist you in staying true to the vision and overall goals.
    7. Considering collective impact helps you strive for more profound impact in the long- term.
    8. Being an influencer enables you to persuade others that they have the power to act.
    9. Managing your work/life balance keeps everything in perspective.
    10. Being a leader means being able to make difficult decisions and acting on them.

In my book, through my narratives, experience and research, I clarify the significance of these skills and suggest techniques to apply them. The information provided is intended not only to get you started but to steer you on a successful path.

“We all need to show we care, before people care what we know.”

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Community Innovation, Community Change, Inspiring Communities

Zena Simces

By Zena Simces

Zena Simces is a Consultant for Strategic Change with over 30 years of experience in health, social services, education, justice and employment in government, not-for-profit and private sectors. She has a unique combination of expertise in research, program evaluation, strategic planning, policy and program development and organizational change, along with a solid background in community facilitation and engagement, marketing, communications and public/media relations. She has facilitated numerous consultations with a wider range of stakeholder groups.

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