It may not be the easiest thing to swallow - asking for advice from a respected colleague. Most people - guys at least - don't even like to stop and ask for directions. It shows a certain level of vulnerability. Now, imagine that it's your life's profession - it's your area of expertise - it's how you put a roof over your head and food on the table. Wow ... talk about showing vulnerability! At the same time, since it is your profession and your way of making a living, you want to be the best you can be, be as profitable as possible, and make the right decisions. So isn't it wise to seek advice when you need it rather than risk failing on some aspect of a consulting engagement? I think so - though I don't always do so. Several questions come to mind concerning asking other consulting project managers for advice: How often do we do this? How do we go about asking for advice? What ways can we network with other consulting project managers to share information and get quick access to needed advice? There several reasons we seek - or don't seek - advice from consulting peers. Here are a few...
Whether we choose to seek out the advice of a colleague often depends on the difficulty of the task at hand. People often put too little weight on advice from others when the task is easy. The tendency on easy tasks is to rely on our own perception, understanding, and expertise. We often consider it a waste of valuable time to heed the advice of others on such tasks. However, when the task is more difficult, people have a tendency to put too much stock in the advice of others as they become less secure with their own experience and expertise.
Weighing our own opinions
Although the appropriate use of advice from experienced peers can lead to better judgments, people tend to weigh their own opinions more heavily than they weigh others' - assuming you aren't completely clueless on a task. While we may think we need help, if we do have experience and expertise in a particular area, we usually put more stock in our opinion than in the advice we might receive from others. This is likely due, in part, to the fact that we - as decision makers - have privileged access to our own internal reasons for holding a particular opinion. However, we don't necessarily have access to or an understanding of a colleague or adviser's internal reasons for suggesting a particular piece of advice or opinion. Our reasoning is already inherently internalized, while we can never really fully internalize others' reasoning and make it our own. Thus, there is sometimes a hesitancy to weigh someone else's advice as heavy as our own opinions.
According to egocentric bias explanations, we - as decision makers - often prefer our own opinions and choices based on our belief that they are superior to those of others, including opinions or recommendations received from advisors. I'm not saying all IT consulting project managers have big egos, but ... I think a majority of us do.
Now I'd like to get back to the questions I posed earlier in this article....
How often do we seek out advice from other consultants?
If you seek advice from other consulting project managers, how often do you do this? For me, it's rare, but I do ask for advice when the need arises. And sometimes it isn't just from other consulting project managers. Sometimes it's from a client who I know offers a certain service that matches up well with something I'm working on for a current client. That serves three purposes - it keeps the connection going with a past client for possible future work, it shows that I value and respect their input and our relationship, and it helps me gain an expert opinion in an area where I was lacking.
How do we ask for advice from other consultants and how can we network with consultants to gain expert help?
What means do you use to seek out expert advice from other consulting project managers? For me it's usually Twitter, LinkedIn, or email. Occasionally it's a technology conference, but email contact with a past contact is my most frequently used method. I'd like to hear from our readers on if and how they connect with other consulting project managers to seek out - or even give - advice when the need arises. I believe that the tendency to share key expertise and necessary information probably happens more often than we even realize.
Whether you feel in complete control throughout a consulting engagement, if you're at the complete other end of the spectrum and you're floundering badly, or if you're somewhere in between, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out good, sound advice from a trusted consulting colleague. How you choose to accept and apply that advice is up to you. You must process it with an understanding of the situation that is likely very unique to you and no one else really has all of the access to the inputs of decision-making process that you have.