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Industry Leader Interview Series – Emma Walsh
March 20, 2014 · by James Carolin | Comments to this post

Founder of Australia's first return to work service for parents (

Founder of Australia's first independent network of HR Practitioners (

President - Career Development Association of Australia (2010-2012)

Shortlisted for NSW Telstra Business Women of the Year Award (2010)


JC: What is your definition of a consultant?

EW:  Someone who is seeking to understand how they can add value to others.  A consultant seeks to understand the true needs of others (the client), the organisation or the industry in order to identify the opportunities to add value or indirect value that will achieve positive outcomes for the client. An example of indirect value may introducing or networking the client to others with the right expertise and to resources that can be beneficial. Consulting is about finding a way that you can add value to someone else.


JC: How do you fit into the consulting industry?

EW:  My consulting career started in the field of Human Resources, today it extends to the fields of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.


JC: How long have you been in the consulting industry?

EW: All my professional life


JC: What attracted you to consulting?

EW:  I need to come back to the theme of ‘creating value’ again. The desire to make a meaningful difference to others – to help people and organisations improve their leadership capability - to clarify vision, achieve goals, to solve problems and look for better ways of doing things, challenging the status quo, innovating processes and establishing effective relationships with others.


JC: What is the value that consultants add in your profession?

EW: Inspiring, challenging and business partnering with organisations to develop their people leadership capability to enable the achievement of business goals and the goals of the individuals who work for the organisation.



JC: What are the characteristics of successful consultants in your opinion?

EW:   The ability to listen is critical.  If you have an area of expertise it is very easy to quickly sell that expertise and tell people what you know but it may not be what the client needs and wants.  Listening very carefully about what the problem is and asking the right, powerful questions to ensure that you can get to the real problem and reach a mutual understanding for what the heart of the matter is.  A great consultant is a very effective ‘coach’.  Effective consulting is also about informing and challenging the client – raising the self awareness of the clients - making clients aware of things that they don’t know or cannot see.


JC: What are the additional things that stop consultants from adding value in your association/profession?

EW:  Consultants who have an agenda that is not the clients can never truly add value to the client.  Consultants need to balance the interests of the client with their own interests ie: only looking for ways to ‘sell’ in a solution will most likely not offer value to the client.  The skill of consulting is a two way relationship and conversation.  Poor consultants will start a meeting with a client, make a pitch, and at end of the interaction, will try a ‘sign up’ the client to their idea, product or solution.  What can is lacking is real two-way discussion and understanding of the issue the client is trying to solve. Instead it becomes just a sales pitch.


JC: What do some consultants do that give the profession a bad name?

EW:  Deliver something that they are not capable of or by not delivering on what they say there are going to deliver.  Mostly its about telling other people what they should be doing as opposed to seeking true understanding of the problem and agreement on what it is they should be doing.


JC: If you could fix anything about consulting what would it be?

EW:   To create a more formal representation and recognition for consulting profession – such as an industry body or association to raise awareness and the standards of effective consulting.

I think many individuals and organisations providing expertise and services to their clients don’t necessarily see themselves as Consultants, when actual fact they are.  Recognising consulting as a profession and a skill is important.


JC: How would you fix it?

EW:  ‘Coaching’ is now being recognised as a profession not just a skill and their a professional body that represents the industry.  We can do the same for consulting by setting standards around professional development for consultants and by creating a professional body that aims to increase awareness of the consulting profession and sets development standards for individuals and organisations that define themselves as consultants.

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