It doesn’t matter if you work for yourself (internal projects only), you work on client projects, or you’re employed with a direct boss. You’re only paid to solve problems with what you know.
One of the key things a great consultant does is find the real problems their clients are having. Good consultants solve whatever problem the client thinks they have currently, without digging deeper.
Great consultants dig deeper.
Someone buys a boat
When I worked in the paddling industry we had a great couple who came in and tried out kayaks for months. They were always polite. They brought coffee and donuts to the lake demo days. They often gave us a bit of a hand setting things up or tearing things down. Over the course of months as they searched for just the right boat for their needs, they dealt with every staff member at the store at length. I’m sure that each of us had at least a few hours into the sale of their boats.
On purchase day, I happened to be the one helping them at the lake. Just as they were about to leave to go purchase the boats at our location a few blocks away they asked this question.
Client: So…we’ve tried a lot of boats and talked to a bunch of staff members…
Me: We’re not on commission. Go purchase your boat and enjoy it.
Client: HA! Thanks for making that easy.
They were reluctant to ask what they needed to know for fear of offending me or the other eight staff members they’d dealt with. It was an awkward question to ask, and they were really beating around the bush trying to overcome their discomfort.
By seeing the real question I was able to solve their problem.
Find that fear
A few months back I spent a month talking about being effective with your questions. You don’t have to wait until you’ve started your own business to try out those methods.
When your boss assigns you a project, there is some problem you’re trying to solve. A good boss will love when you find that deeper problem and come up with a solution to solve it, not just the surface issue that’s presenting itself.
Start digging deeper with every project that comes your way. Find that deep fear the client has and take it away. The consultant that can take away those fears is the one that’s going to succeed.