Recently, a client said to me of another consultant that this consultant did not exhibit a passion for the work or for the company. This consultant generally produced good quality work, but that lack of passion was a serious impediment to the company’s perception of his consulting skills.

I started thinking about this. Do consultants need to love their clients, or is having the necessary skills enough? It makes sense that an employee committed to a company should identify with the company mission and show passion for that mission, but how much does that hold true for a consultant?

When I was in college, I both volunteered as an EMT for the county fire department and was a professional EMT at University of Maryland sporting events. When I studied abroad in Israel during my junior year, I managed to get a level of reciprocity for my Maryland EMT certification, and thus I also did emergency medical volunteer work abroad. A lot of my work currently is doing consulting work with FEMA, trying to improve their web resources. Is FEMA easy for me to love? Absolutely. I personally have identified with the FEMA mission since my days as an EMT and more recently working with FEMA has even influenced me to join my local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

But does a consultant have to love their client?

Not necessarily, but the consultant should show genuine passion for the work. The passion could come from the mission of the client, but it could also come from the nature of the work. One of my clients hires employees who work at parking lots in New England. Do I have a passion for their mission? Not really, but the project was to help them develop an interface that managers at each location could use to keep track of hourly employee payroll data. The development of the interface itself was exciting to me, even if the mission of the client didn’t resonate.

In short, if a consultant wants to stay in the good graces of the client, the consultant should show passion for something – but more than that, the consultant should figure out how to feel passion for some aspect of the work and should make sure that this genuine passion comes across to the client.

Love the client? That’s it?

Not quite. When I talk about my career with family, friends and potential clients alike, I express the excitement I feel about what I do, and confidence in what I am capable of doing. That’s where the “like yourself” part comes in. A consultant needs to sell himself or herself to the client.

It’s not just passion for the client or the client’s project that matters. It’s passion for who you are and what you do, genuine confidence in your skills, and genuine belief that you can help the client do what needs to get done.

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