The Secret to Great Consulting: Empathy


What makes a great consultant? The first traits that likely come to mind are: expertise, strong communication, and being a team player. While all those traits are important, a primary pillar of best consulting practices, is empathy. However, empathy is nowhere to be found on the most popular lists of what makes a good consultant—so how does empathy turn a good consultant into a great one? Let’s dive in.

The job of a consultant is to provide expert opinions and analysis on a project, as well as provide strategies and solutions to mitigate potential issues. To provide valuable solutions, consultants must first understand what is being asked of them. Once they gain an understanding of the project, then empathy becomes a paramount characteristic in being a great consultant. When consultants want to understand something, they are asking about the ‘what’ of the project. When consultants empathize with clients, they discover the ‘why’ behind the project. Although empathy should exist in all workplaces, it is especially imperative for consultants because they must interpret the feelings of the customers as well as what is driving their clients. After all, if you do not understand the driving forces behind the needs of the customer and decisions of the client, how can you effectively showcase the value of their product or service? Actively practicing empathy in the consulting realm (and the general workplace) is not solely for team member morale. Empathy has positive, measurable effects in business as a whole.

Empathy does not only boost motivation and efficiency. A 2018 study by Businessolver also found that 87% of CEOs agree that empathy can boost an organization’s financial performance. Unfortunately, the same study reports that 90% of respondents feel that empathy is undervalued in business. Traditionally, it makes sense for companies to seek out the best talent, but the soft skills continue to reign supreme. For example, Project Aristotle, a study released by Google in 2017, found that the most unique ideas came from the B-Teams whose skills revolved around: equality, generosity, curiosity and empathy. Although the B-Teams did not have the most skilled team members on paper, their character propelled them to the top of the list in this study.

Empathy turns function into action. Consultants who only focus on the function of a product and do not dive deeper into the history and passion behind the product will not deliver substantial value. When consultants take the time and effort to discover how and why a product or service came to be, they can effectively work alongside the client to provide value, instead of just working for a client. At PhoenixTeam, we work with our clients, not simply for them. We are dedicated in our search for empathy-driven value, and to bring back joy to technology development.