Good Consultants Don’t Abdicate Control, They Take Control

I get that you want to be a consultant, be your own boss. It seems so idyllic, doesn’t it?You may see me working in Starbucks and hiking during the weekdays and want this life.

I get that, but there’s something crucial you must do first. You need to start taking responsibility.

The idea of “I’m doing what you told me to” is very compelling, especially if the alternative is foraging for food or begging on the streets. – Tribes

While Seth Godin has it right in that quote above, he’s missing what I think is a more compelling reason that people like to do what they’ve been told. It lets them abdicate responsibility for the outcomes.

That project didn’t work? Eh, the boss told me to do it that way, it’s their problem.

If you’re running your own business you don’t have that luxury. Everything is your fault.

Have a client that’s crazy — calling you all hours? Yup, that’s your fault because you didn’t have a process in place to weed out the crazy clients.

A meeting take an extra hour? That’s your fault for not running the meeting properly. Maybe next time you need to make an agenda and keep things on track.

That project is running late? Well you shouldn’t have said yes to the three other things you’ve got running. You simply don’t have time to do them all and that’s your fault again.

Abdicating your control

The thing is, as a consultant you have control over everything. The buck stops with you. Even as an employee you have much more control than you think.

At my last full-time, on-site job I was the low person on the totem pole. I was the only person working on the web site in a company that didn’t hugely value their web presence.

And yet, I rarely went to meetings. I only answered my email two times a day. I put on headphones and ignored people who came into my office unless they were persistent. I didn’t know what to call it at the time but I was practicing exactly what the book Deep Work advises. I was giving myself extended periods of focus when I had the least power in the organization.

Nobody stopped me. I had much more control than it would appear at first as the low man on the totem pole.

When meetings came up I refused to show up unless I had an agenda with a clear decision that needed to be made at the end. When I had to call a meeting I put together an agenda and ran a timer for 20 minutes. No waffling, just business. Catching up is what lunch is for.

When I had something new I wanted to do at work I booked time with my boss and interviewed them like I would a client. Then I put together a proposal for the work including the time it would take and the resources outside of mine that would be needed. It wasn’t as refined as my current proposal process but it was the beginnings of it.

Your job is the time to seize responsibility

When you’re sitting there in your 9-5, whether it’s a remote position or you’re in the office regularly, you’ve got the perfect time to start practicing to become an amazing consultant.

Put together proper proposals for your boss on new initiatives. If you’re not sure how, check out Writing Proposals that Win Work.

Schedule your week ahead, and review your next day at the end of the day.

Cut the distractions and practice working deep.

Don’t just dream about that better day you’ll get someday when you get out on your own. Put together a yearly goal, then break it down into quarters and months, and inside each month plan how you’re going to push it forward each week.

If you’re sitting in a job right now don’t just take the first out. In Quitter, Jon Acuff puts together a compelling case that getting out too quickly will simply kill your dream and you need to use that job for practicing your craft. Don’t kill that dream.

As of today be the type of person who doesn’t make excuses. Be the type of person that takes responsibility for their life. You’re going to be surprised about how much control you have and how much better your life is going to be when you use that control.

photo credit: clement127 cc

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