The Consultant’s Corner is a blog series written by Consultants for Consultants. The blog articles provide personal opinions and experiences of individual consultants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the company. We hope this blog series provides a range of perspectives across the industry. If you have a different experience that you would like us to consider for The Consultant’s Corner, please send us a message.
Have you considered becoming a Consultant, but are unsure if you posses the necessary skills, personality and/or character traits required to take the next steps required to advance your career in that direction? As a Mortgage Consultant for Consolidated Analytics’ Operational Excellence (OpExNow) Advisory Division, I have learned first-hand from Clients and experienced Project Managers the requirements and expectations for such a role.
To help you answer some of those questions, I spoke with highly respected Project Managers and Consultants to discover the Seven Personality Traits of an Effective Mortgage Industry Consultant. What I found was interesting: the character traits Project Managers seek, and traits that effective Consultants possess, mirrored each other.
As you consider your next career move, examine your work skills, ethics, and personality, against the following top 7 traits:
#7: Cooperative: You’re a Collaborative Team Player
Consultants generally work remotely, independently, or have project goals that require independent effort. However, projects are never completed by a single person. Since your role will most certainly require collaboration with a Client, a Project Manager, or another Consultant, working as part of a team is a hallmark of the successful Consultant. If you are a collaborative “team player”, and “work well with a team” you are better positioned for success as a consultant. Moreover, consideration for future engagements are often focused on the Consultant’s established reputation of supporting their teams.
#6: Honesty is Your Middle Name
This quality was identified as a top quality, but in two separate contexts.
1) Honesty of Representation. Other terms were, “appropriate skills that match commitment”, “accurate inventory of skills”, “forthright when discussing skills”, “ability to deliver what they committed”. Simply put, you are the honest type.
Consultants must accurately and honestly outline their skills. In the traditional job-search environment, “best foot forward” doesn’t necessarily apply to consulting. When interviewing for a consulting role, be honest about your skill level. If you have worked in a specific software/technology as a line-level production staff member, refrain from presenting yourself as an “expert” when “experienced” is a more honest representation. Misrepresenting skills or augmenting your level of expertise only leads to your frustration.
Consultants do not have to be an “expert” in everything they touch. If a project requires knowledge in a software/technology/skill in which you are not significantly experienced, the Project Manager can decide if “expert level” knowledge is critical to the project whole and select Consultants as applicable. Your high level of knowledge in just one or two disciplines can make you the anchor of an entire team. Represent these skills honestly.
2) Honesty with the Client
Many Consultants are afraid of offending their Project Manager, the Client, or other members of the team. An essential quality of a Consultant is to be honest when uncovering issues, challenges, or mistakes; whether your own, or that of the Client. Clients want, or more accurately, demand honest and unbiased recommendations. If a Consultant can effectively communicate honest feedback, no matter how painful that feedback might be, that honesty will go a long way with the Client and the Project Manager.
#5: You’re Self-Aware
Related to honesty, all experience represented on a resume, curriculum vitae, skills matrix, capability profile, or other inventory of your skills and experience will be verified. Not unlike any other financial services industry, Mortgage Industry Consultants are screened thoroughly. If you took Six Sigma classes, but did not obtain any belt certification, don’t represent as a “Master Black Belt” as all statements and claims submitted in the Consultant’s profiles are thoroughly verified.
While verifiable experience is fact-based, Project Managers can vet potential Consultants in very brief interactions and can quickly determine if the prospective Consultant possesses the necessary skills and experience for a specific project. This is not your normal “job interview”. There is no room for “on the job training” and no time for classroom training. Consultants must come pre-packaged with the skills necessary for the project and must be aware of their skills and whether those skills match the needs and requirements of a project. Misrepresenting your soft skills or level of expertise will be promptly uncovered by the Project Manager. If you lack experience for the first project in which you are being considered, don’t be afraid to express that honestly. There will always be another project in the future.
#4: You are Disciplined and Dependable to the Core
Project Managers lean heavily on the Consultant to deliver work product, project goals, and specific results. Like teeth in a gear, every member of a project team is charged with specific roles within the project, all pulling to keep the machine running. Failure to deliver is fatal to the entire project team. No different from your management days when you sought dependable employees, dependability is a critical quality of a Consultant. The Project Manager and Client expect specific results and must be able to depend on the Consultants to deliver.
Dependability is not strictly defined as productivity. Projects run on very tight (but reasonable) timeframes. For instance, if you, as a Consultant, step out of the project for a pre-planned vacation that was not previously disclosed, it leaves the rest of the team scrambling to fill the gap of your absence. Consultants commit to projects of a few weeks, up to six months (or more). When you commit to a project, the estimated duration of the project, and applicable extensions are clearly and promptly communicated. Any scheduling conflicts you may have must be disclosed at the onset of the project.
#3: You are Humble and Inquisitive
Presenting expert knowledge humbly is a distinguishing characteristic of the successful Consultant. “Experts” can tend to intimidate those around them simply by having a very deep knowledge in their field. Expert knowledge in your niche subject matter is how you were retained on a project in the first place; however, that knowledge must be served humbly. For as cliché as the phrase, “No one likes a know-it-all,” it is quite applicable to the role of the Consultant. When your knowledge is shared with conceit, chances are you won’t be retained in the future.
Successful Mortgage Consultants are aware that each project is unique and that industry trends change quickly and will remain inquisitive, listen, and ask questions. In doing so, the Consultant will be able to add more value to a project, produce better outcomes for the Client, and maintain awareness when skills require a refresher.
It’s great that you know your stuff! But, as you interact the Client, and employees of the Client, maintain a confidence that is not overly offensive. Know your subject matter, present it confidently, yet humbly.
#2: Openness: You Chat with Team Members in the Kitchen
Related to #3 above, humility spills over in communication styles. As we drill down to the top two traits of an effective Mortgage Industry Consultant, the picture becomes clear that these individuals maintain an extraordinary level of professionalism; however, they are also personable and approachable.
Why is this important?
One Consultant we spoke to expressed an insightful thought, saying, “Our mere presence can tend to intimidate the Client’s employees because they know we were brought in to help change or create something. Communication must be professional, but also very personable, because our presence can be stressful enough before we have ever said a word.”
Building rapport with the Client and Team will enable you to prevent unnecessary barriers and will establish a trust with the client that becomes critical if project challenges emerge. Presenting project challenges and set-backs, whether directly to the Client or to the Project Manager, is a very delicate undertaking. Clear, succinct, respectable, professional, and personable communication styles provide the feedback Clients and Project Managers need, without the strain on the relationship communicating without those qualities will cause.
If you are going to get that coffee in the kitchen at your Client’s office, chat with your new colleagues. That little interaction may help you in more ways than you know.
Number One Quality of a Mortgage Industry Consultant
#1: You are Clearheaded and Meticulously Organized
Not surprising, the number one trait of an effective consultant is organization. Successful Consultants are meticulously organized. Most projects come with an inordinate amount of information in very rapid-fire succession during the early stages of the project, while other projects maintain that high volume of information throughout the entire project term. Organized Consultants can weed out the noise and drill down to the important and critical pieces of information and organize these for very prompt retrieval later.
The volume of communications, meetings, deliverables, assignments, work product, and travel to the Client’s location demands highly evolved organizational skills. If your laptop’s desktop is littered with unfiled documents, you may need to develop some advanced organizational skills. If your email box has 3,000 unread emails, that too is an indicator of poor organization.
Adding to the demand for highly evolved organizational skills, Consultants primarily work remote; therefore, their work-space is equally organized. Methods of organization are as varied as the Consultants who employ them; however, every one of them maintains a meticulous organizational system to quickly provide anything asked of them. From desk space to calendar space, work day organization to project deliverables, an organized mind is spotted quickly by the Project Managers seeking effective Consultants. Effective Consultants all agree they would not be as effective if their organizational skills were not highly evolved.
Are you honest, forthright, dependable, professional, and organized? Can you work independently while supporting a team? As you consider your next career move, if these Seven Personality Traits of an Effective Mortgage Industry Consultant describe you, visit our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/consolidated-analytics-inc-/ or submit your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chrissey Campbell is a Consultant for Consolidated Analytics’ Operational Excellence (OpExNow) advisory division. She has a wide range of experience in banking, investments, and mortgage that spans more than 20 years. Her practical knowledge in a wide range of financial subjects contributed to her passion for designing meaningful financial literacy education for families, and inspirational workshops for women returning to the workforce. Excelling at positions within financial services fields, including Training, Compliance, Change Management, and Technical Writing, she continues to provide insightful perspective into the unique world of the Mortgage Industry Consultant.