The Internal Consultant's Superpowers

If you work as an internal consultant for a company, I'm sure you're familiar with the superpowers possessed by external consultants. They're well known, usually envied, and often frustrating to those of us who are employees.

What I don't hear much about are the superpowers possessed by the internal consultant. While less talked about, they are no less real, and no less powerful. I want to bring some attention to these superpowers so internal consultants better understand where their power lies, and how it should change your approach.

You Care Deeply About the Company

You are an employee of the company. You joined the company because you believed in its mission and values. Your continued employment depends on the continued existence of the company.

No external consultant can come close to your level of concern. Yes, they care about their customers, the way every company cares about the customers they serve. This, though, is different. This is the caring you have for your community. It is deeper and stronger than the caring you have for your customers, no matter how customer focused you may be.

This passion for your company is very powerful in convincing those who may be skeptical of what you're trying to do. People see that what you're trying to help them with comes from a place of concern for the company, not (just) your chosen field. You can clearly and powerfully communicate how what you do will help create a better future for everyone in the company. This matters.

You Know the Company

You know the company on a level that an external consultant can never know. You know the company's culture. You know the company's fears, its neuroses. You know what words matter, and which ones don't. You know the history of past efforts, what has worked and what has failed. You know what suggestions will get you kicked out of the room. You know what motivates people. You know where the bodies are buried.

You know.

External consultants have a tendency to minimize the differences between companies. This is for good reason: In many ways, companies really aren't that different from one another. External consultants should push back on those in the company who insist things "can't be done that way here" for one reason or another. They are usually right.

However.

Sometimes a company really is different. Sometimes, as an employee, you know in your gut that something is unique about your company.

Hear your external consultants out. Assume they are right until proven otherwise.

Except when you know. Then, trust your gut, stand your ground, and find an approach that will work.

You Can Afford to Be Patient

By virtue of being an employee, you are not tied to short term contracts. If the company is committed enough to what you do to hire internal consultants, they are committed enough to provide time for results to appear. You aren't required to show immediate financial returns on every action you take. You can wait for the payoff.

This is by far the most impactful superpower. It should be a consideration in everything you do.

It means that you can teach differently to achieve harder goals. It means you can wait out a leader who demands to see results before committing to your approach. It means you can try multiple times to help someone you're coaching see the light before moving on to more fertile ground. It means you can plant the seeds of ideas knowing you won't be able to harvest that crop for months, if not years.

Understand that the approaches your external consultants bring will necessarily be tuned for short term results. If they don't show immediate gains, they don't get paid for very long.

You aren't under that constraint. Make sure you don't just blindly accept the short term approach. Understand how a different, long term approach might be more impactful. Play the long game.

This is your ultimate superpower.