Pauwels Blog

4 sportive tips to be a top-class consultant

17 May 2020
While writing this blog post, my legs are still tingling from the physical endurance at Mallorca. It involved over twenty-five hours of cycling, running and swimming during one single week: this is a holiday as well! Since this year, I am more eager than ever before to realise the most important sportive challenge in my life: the Ironman in Bolton. It got me thinking: how could this affect my career as a consultant?

Since 2008 I have been working as a consultant. It is a professional field in which the top-class sports mentality is also extremely visible. The urge to perform in an excellent manner is a natural attitude for most people, not necessarily also being ‘sportive’ in the literal sense of the word.

This is the third year in which I participate in triathlons. To prepare myself, I regularly train with top-class athletes. Following athletes close-by and seeing how they work to achieve top-class performances is a very special experience. After all, top-class athletes are a special breed: they are obsessed with their sport and always searching for ways to improve.

Even though sports and consultancy may appear to be totally different at first glance, they have more in common than one would imagine. The work climate for example is the same in both worlds: nothing comes cheap, you will be judged on the basis of your results and the real challenge is the road you take to reach your ultimate objective.

Consultancy, as I have experienced in the last decade, is the equivalent of top-class sports indeed. The proper mentality is useful and necessary, for the athlete as well as for the consultant. This is why I would like to discuss the following in my blog post:

I hope these will inspire you to achieve record-breaking performances during all your upcoming projects and challenges!

4 reasons why consultancy is the equivalent of top-class sports

1.   Teamwork

Team sport beholds the concept of cooperation between team members being crucial to achieving the aimed result. The individual athlete also often depends on a group of people. The team of a top-class athlete comprises a coach, a physiotherapist, a sports physician, a psychologist, a dietician or other experts.

A top-class consultant also values the team with whom he cooperates. He knows that to realise the assignment successfully, he depends on the team members and will, therefore, treat them with respect.

Eager to create a top-class sports mentality?

Show your appreciation for your colleagues. Cooperation is crucial to achieving the presupposed objectives. A mail to motivate someone, a compliment or a small gesture of appreciation? It works! Moreover, team members are the showcase for your future. They work or have worked with you and know you aim for gold! In other words: your team members are the best ambassadors you will ever have for future projects.

2.   Competence to adapt

During the run-up to the Olympic Games in Rio, many athletes trained in a specific room to be able to adapt to the humid and warm climate. During the sports season, top-class tennis players literally travel the world: from Melbourne to Paris, from New York to Dubai, handling many jet lags. Different foods, a different language, different facilities. The environment changes, the athlete adapts.

A top-class consultant also knows how to quickly integrate into a company. For a consultant, a new assignment is a new challenge and, most of all, a new opportunity to share experiences and acquire knowledge.

Eager to create a top-class sports mentality?

Closely follow new trends within your professional field. Whether it involves new technology or a recently published management technique, it is always good to discuss news, changes and innovations with your team members. An experienced consultant can also rely upon accrued experiences, acquired while working for previous clients, but he also knows that each company has different procedures. Most of the time, it is the consultant who adapts to the new working environment, not the other way around.

3.   Training

For an athlete, a competition represents the final objective of a training period. However, this will be based on a good deal of blood, sweat and tears. Thanks to the training period, the athlete can improve his skills. Eden Hazard, Usain Bolt or Lewis Hamilton? Each day, they follow a meticulous training plan to improve.

Time and again, top-class consultants also do all within their power to improve their knowledge and skills. The learn on the job each day. They regularly participate in specific training sessions and also share the knowledge they acquired with others. Team spirit, remember?

Eager to create a top-class sports mentality?

Dare to invest in your own career. I know top-class athletes who plan a training abroad or who buy an extremely expensive high-pressure tent using their own funds. Regularly include training or refresher training in your planning if you wish to grow. Knowledge increases your market value and offers more opportunities and challenging projects in the long run!

4.   Marginal gains

In sports, the concept ‘marginal gains’ was first introduced by Dave Brailsford, manager of the Sky cycling team. He integrated a new approach to thinking within the British cycling racing by stating that details, no matter how negligible, could mean the difference between winning and losing. All details which could improve the performances should thus be actively studied.

A company eager to become a top-class player is also in need of continuous improvement. Consultants play an active role in this process. They acquired experience and knowledge at competitive organizations and all contribute to the optimisation of a piece of the corporate puzzle, each in their own manner.

Eager to create a top-class sports mentality?

As a consultant, always show the ‘change principle’. Propose improvements to your client, no matter how negligible they may seem. A time savings of thirty seconds per day may have no significant influence on your activity. However, if all hundred other employees can profit from this same time savings, this could save the company at least fifty minutes each day…

Conclusion: 4 tips for top-class consultants

Now that you are familiar with the similarities, it should not be surprising that consultants can also be top-class performers after office hours. Vice versa, top-class athletes are also perfectly ideal to be part of the world of consultancy. To be a consultant is to ensure you get the best out of yourself, during and after office hours. Consultancy is the equivalent of top-class sports.

All set to dig deep and achieve the maximum from your ‘discipline’?

  • Value team spirit and your team members.
  • Be open to change and innovation and act flexible.
  • Always be well-prepared, do not hesitate to learn and invest in your own development.
  • Show the ‘change principle’ and aim for marginal gains for yourself, your clients and your projects. Small changes could make a world of difference.

Good luck!

Questions or suggestions?

Do you have any questions after having read this blog post? Contact us via mail or via telephone (+32 9 324 70 80). Our consultants would be pleased to assist you in reaching your objectives.

Tijs Billemon is Business Coach at Pauwels Consulting. He has many years of experience in recruiting and coaching consultants within the fields of IT, life sciences and engineering. As an athlete who is intensely involved in his sports, he is now preparing for his first Ironman.

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