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The consulting industry needs a wellness revolution

An ever-changing world is seeing organisations increasingly turning to management consultants to reshape their business strategies.
Image credit: Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
Image credit: Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

In fact, according to US data, the revenue of management consulting firms increased after the global recession of 2009. An estimated $149bn was spent on consulting firms in the US, up from $141bn the previous year. In today’s current competitive market, it is widely accepted that organisations that are taking the lead now to prepare for the longer-term post-pandemic reality, will thrive.

And that is why these particular organisations often look to change management consultants for their guidance and expertise to practically map out future strategies against various business scenarios. Since the lines between ‘digital and ‘strategy’ are essentially disappearing, organisations are also reaching out to management consultants to restructure operations in such a way as to allow them to thrive as a digital-first organisation. Business continuity and resilience are essential focal points. And this is wise, because there is no denying that the wheels of change – in particular the unprecedented acceleration of the way we engage at work and socially – are still turning. Technology solutions and a people-first leadership approach will continue to impact on productivity in the long term.

The scope set out by these change forces is bringing change management consultants closer to their clients. This means that consultants need to have inherent facilitative leadership traits to best support leadership of organisations.

But on the other side of opportunity, and during a time when burnout is a very real unintended side effect of the pandemic, the management consulting industry needs to pay close attention to the holistic wellbeing of those same individuals in charge of facilitating change for the better.

In order to live out our values no client relationship can be effective, and at the same time no change project can be sustainable, if the people guiding it are suffering. We are particularly aware of the widely quoted phenomenon among the industry that many consultants don’t last beyond three years before succumbing to burnout. This is often a real result of the stressful and hands-on approach that is required of consultants in the industry.

No amount of business success will improve personal wellbeing.

This is why we believe in rooting down the holistic wellness of our own people first as the force of life before they can walk the path of facilitating inclusive leadership sustained by the principles of accountability. Let’s discuss the three rooting systems of a healthy consultant:
  1. Holistic wellness

    We often hear of professionals in the consulting industry expressing the inability to live meaningful lives outside of work. Finding time in an ‘expected’ work week of 50–60 hours to pursue other priorities such as time for their families, friends or their own physical and mental wellness is a challenge.

    I’d like to challenge this culture, which is why our own employee value proposition perceives the successful integration of the holistic wellness of our people – and their personal life goals – as central to their career success.

    Often wellness programmes are positioned as 'add-ons' or ‘nice-to-haves' to existing cultures which celebrate overwork and burnout, but we believe that wellness should be integrated into our organisational strategy. In fact, we go as far as to say that combating burnout with wellness is our method of irrigating this particular root structure. Which is why we have taken care to design our employee wellness programme first, to then sprout to our DNA in order to guide the value we deliver to our clients.

  2. Inclusive leadership

    There is no doubt that leadership is a critical skill for any management consultant to develop and nurture. Harvard Business Review states that inclusive leadership, however, ultimately lifts organisational performance.

    The authors of this insightful article list six management consultant traits as essential to embody:  visible commitment, humility, awareness of bias, curiosity about others, cultural intelligence, and effective collaboration. In addition, at our practice we have learned that in the context of operating within a pandemic environment, it is worth placing great emphasis on pruning two supplementary traits:
    • empowerment – providing teams with the context and authority needed to fulfil their roles; and
    • flexibility – an increasingly important trait in a rapidly changing economic and social environment. Flexible leaders modify their style or approach to leadership in response to uncertain or unpredictable circumstances.

  3. Accountability

    Accountability means we as leaders adopt self-ownership of what we need to do and what we need to get other people to do. This particular employee culture root system often loops back to the fruit of our labour – or the results our efforts are aimed at. Or simply put: Did we achieve what we said we are going to achieve the way we intended to achieve these results?

    In line with our client value proposition promise, we each hold ourselves accountable by asking ourselves whether we’ve been:
    • conducting ourselves as the top diplomat in any given situation?
    • working with integrity to diligently earn and keep client trust?
    • demonstrating our commitment by exceeding expectations?
    • doing everything to facilitate the promotion of a culture that is inclusive and authentic?
    • open to giving and receiving unending learning/mentorship?

Our goal as a management consulting practice is to sustain long-lasting employee relationships, sustain business development and most importantly lead to individual as well as self-actualisation. This is why we strongly discern our practice. We perceive the successful integration of the wellness of our people and their personal life goals as central to the success of their role at Kriel & Co. This goal is supported by a robust wellness programme to incorporate tangible and measurable strategies to achieve optimum holistic wellness, and to each hold ourselves accountable for our own holistic wellbeing.

Learn more:

Kriel & Co is an IMCSA-accredited management consulting practice specialising in change management, digital transformation and mentorship. The practice actively serves clients in a variety of sectors with a proven track-record of delivering innovative, cost-effective and sustainable strategies for digital change. Consultants are primarily retained on a long-term project basis by clients to oversee holistic digital transformation projects and initiatives. Contact moc.ocdnaleirk@olleh for more information.

More about the author:

Francois Kriel is an IMCSA-accredited management consultant with change management and digital transformation as specialisation areas. He works full-time as director at Kriel & Co where he leads a dynamic team currently facilitating digital change at several high-profile organisations. Kriel also supports Stellenbosch University as guest lecturer to business management honours students. He is an advocate for collaborative leadership, mentorship and LGBTQI+ inclusivity.

8 Mar 2021 11:03

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