As a consultant, ever changing roles and new projects are normal undertakings. One way that consultants can vary from one to the next is their approach to new projects, new clients, and new situations. To be a successful consultant, and to choose the best consultant for a business to work with, the individual consultant needs to know what type of approach it is that they can offer. Different styles work best in different scenarios.

The first step is to identify whether you are a strategist or a tactician.  This will help to recognize what areas of consulting may be added strengths for you.  This also help to be aware of what types of consulting jobs you would be most valuable at.

Strategists vs. Tacticians:

There are people who are strategists and people who are tacticians. Tacticians can be taught strategy –but that doesn’t make them good at it. For example, if you’re a decent chess player you were taught strategy.  If you’re a great chess player, you know strategy inherently. You are a strategist.  Being able to identify where your strengths lie is important, because these are two very different approaches to consulting jobs. 

Here is how I would describe a tactician in a war-type scenario: A strategist is telling a tactician to go do something that was already planned out. In a war, you say to one of your sergeants, “You see that hill? Go take it. Get our men up there and do it.” The tactician then says, “Yes, sir.”  The tactician will then figure out the specifics of a plan to go and take the hill.  They still have to think. They have to come up with that plan to take the hill, but coming up with the specifics of how to take that hill doesn’t make you strategic. It’s more of a, “I’ve been told to do something and I need to figure out how to make it happen” mentality.

Now a strategist is the person behind the scenes.  They were the ones that delegated the task of taking the hill to that sergeant. A strategist is the one saying, “We need to take that hill, because we can’t do the next three steps to achieve our goal of winning the war without it.”  A strategist is a big picture person.  They are constantly looking four plays ahead. They are planning the end goal, they lay the roadwork and delegate the specifics, and they anticipate complications and solutions needed to achieve the end goal.  

We can now apply these same descriptions to business or consulting. Are you a consultant that’s a tactician or a strategist? Strategic consultants are best in scenarios where people have a problem and they need you to look at the big picture and come up with a solution. Tactical consultants are best in scenarios where people are coming to them saying, “Here, I need you to do X.”  The tactical consultants will then complete the task necessary; they don’t have to think about the bigger picture.

It is possible for consultants to be both.  Most people are one or the other.  Some of the best consultants are able to execute both strategic and tactical projects.  Being able to help an organization behind the scenes to come up with a strategy from start to finish that will achieve their goals is huge.  Being able to help an organization execute that strategy with all the tactical specifics is important as well.  The key is to identify your strengths so that you can give your clients the best service you can.  Businesses, in turn, need to find a consultant who lines up with their individual needs.  Everyone is different.

What kind of a consultant do you think that you are? What types have you worked with in the past? Do you think that it’s more valuable to be a tactician or a strategist? Is it necessary for a consultant to be both? Comment below!