Nigel Hudson talks about being one of Bid Solutions panel members at “Ask the Experts” via the Bid Hub
What’s your area of expertise? Does it give you an advantage? Do people come to you for advice? When they do, do you genuinely help them, or does their need just feed your ego? As an expert, it’s not about you; it’s all about what you can do for others.
John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It was a call to action for the public to do what was right for the greater good, focusing on the relationship between duty and power.
With that in mind, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been appointed to the Ask the Expert panel at the Bid Solutions-sponsored BidHub. It’s a forum where you can ask questions directly to Europe’s top 15 experts in the field of bid and proposals, and get honest and free advice in return. I’m ‘the guy’ responsible for answering questions about professional development: continual learning, training, career planning, skills analysis and all the things that help you and your team to perform better and achieve your goals.
My first question was from Neal Todosijczuk, who sought to understand the choices regarding a move from employment into consultancy. I gave a detailed answer including ten considerations for becoming a consultant or contractor. My practical (and slightly sobering) advice was a ‘warts and all’ view for anyone thinking of going self-employed, or betting on their expertise as a means of success. It included things like asking why you want to do it, what impact it will have to those around you, and whether you’re as good as you think you are. But it didn’t include the one thing that’s applicable to everyone: that being a consultant doesn’t require you to quit your job and go it alone.
Anyone can be a consultant, either in addition to your job or within it. Each of us has a skill, or insight, or experience, or approach to something that makes us expert. The ‘one thing’ where we’re the natural go-to for advice, either amongst our close network of colleagues and friends, or to a broader audience.
So maybe it’s time to ponder your specific skill set – especially the one thing that sets you apart from the rest and provides your competitive advantage. Perhaps it’s time to become the consultant within your company, for the benefit of everyone around you?
If you have a specific skill that others value, then you are obligated, in my opinion, to use it to help, encourage and inspire them. They’ll see more benefit in learning from a true expert than from one of those job-hopping politically-agile ‘general’ managers who, like the pigeon, land, poop, then fly off again…leaving all manner of mess behind.
Assuming you’ll rise to the challenge, here are 12 pointers to help guide your success:
Know your strength. What one thing are you genuinely excellent (and ideally best) at? Align this to what your internal stakeholders (especially management) value.
Be the trusted advisor. Understand the challenges and motivators of your colleagues and managers. Align your services to what they need most. Be their saviour, their go-to, their trusted advisor.
Make your manager look good. Always remember that, in large organisations especially, managers will be looking to demonstrate their impact and success. There’s also every likelihood that they’ll be competing with other department heads for budget or promotion. The better you can make them look, the more they’ll value you as part of their team. This applies all the way to the top, so no matter how senior the manager is, there will always be someone they’re trying to impress.
Map out your network. Know the influencers who will sing your praise, know your supporters and detractors. Build a fan base. Network every day, meeting new people and keeping existing relationships alive. Set aside a ‘coffee budget’ to buy people drinks and spend time with them informally. Surround yourself with brilliant people, remembering that “we become the average of the five people we most associate with”.
Be visible and active helping others. Be known for what you do best. Be ‘top of mind’ when someone’s in need. And always deliver on your promise.
Be businesslike. Act like a consultant. Package up your services and proactively offer them. Your knowledge and expertise is your product/service, but you’ll need to market them effectively. What’s your brand? How do you operate? What tools and processes do you use? How can you be more efficient and effective than others? How can you build and maintain a competitive advantage?
Share your expertise freely. Use it to build relationships. Arranging meetings with others is easier when there’s something in it for them.
Volunteer, but be selective. Don’t get overloaded with ‘strategic projects’ that will keep you busy and distracted from what matters most.
Know that you’re doing a great job. Prove it first to yourself, then to others. Be confident and keep your chin high. Not everyone will appreciate what you do, and some will be threatened by it. Some crummy line managers seek to use the performance review process as a way of controlling their team, to say “yeah, but…” or indicate that although you met your objectives, the ‘way’ in which you achieved it could be improved. How lame, yet how common. You’re brilliant. Remember that.
Record your results, and the impact you had on others. Track your individual win and capture rates, and compare them to the team or business average. Be knowingly better than the rest, and know why you’re better. Then coach others to be as good as you.
Celebrate success. Keep an eye open for industry awards that your team (more so than you) can enter. When they win, everyone will be delighted, and you’ll be famous.
Stay ahead of the curve. Keep learning, keep stretching yourself, stay proactive with your development, and be the star that others will follow.
So, with this in mind, offer your help to others. And remember that I’m available via BidHub to help you too. So, go on, ask me a question!
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Author: Nigel Hudson, Senior Consultant at Strategic Proposals Limited