As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader, who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

I am struggling to achieve respect within my organization. I feel I am performing well, and I am fully committed to helping my clients achieve their goals. Despite this, I am in a rut struggling to be viewed as a leader and trusted advisor who provides value and excellent counsel.  How do I build a presence and credibility with my executive clients?

This is a good question. We save our resolutions for the new year. If you’re feeling in a rut, why not make a resolution to yourself this summer to finally get your talents noticed. These are my rules of thumb I’ve gleaned over the years to go from just ‘some person leading a project’ to the coveted ‘trusted advisor’ role that we all aspire to.

Be the expert

Don’t just play the part of an expert. Be the expert. Document your expertise. Get the necessary certifications and accreditations. Market yourself and publish the results of your work. Then let your executive know that they are lucky you’re in the house.

Speak their language

Executives trust people who understand their business and the problems they’re trying to solve. Do your homework on the company and your client. Find out what initiatives they have going on. What has worked and what hasn’t. Make their interests your interests. Nothing impresses a client more than a consultant who knows as much about the organization as they do.

Ask questions they haven’t heard before

Not the same old boring lines. They want you to bring new and fresh ideas to the table. They’ve heard enough from people within the organization. Distinguish yourself by asking thought-provoking questions that could spark ideas for a new direction in their organization:  New trends you’ve read or heard about at conferences; results of studies in another industry that might have an application to theirs; and intriguing case studies about new products or services that your client might want or need.

Don’t be pushy

I remember a consultant proudly telling me that they got business by exposing their client’s weakness and exploiting it. Not a tactic I would recommend to build a lasting relationship. Never pressure your executive to take action. As a trusted advisor, your role is to understand the business goal, create a solution, provide options and understand the risks. Let them come to a natural conclusion based on the great information you provide. The best consultants have the knack of making the client think it was their idea in the first place!

Keep confidences

Once you’ve gained the ear of senior executives, the temptation is to flaunt that access. Don’t. What happens in the C-suite stays in the C-suite. Fail this confidentiality test, and you’ve made a career-limiting move.

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