A successful consulting business is only possible with the right mix of people.

With productivity firmly at the centre of economic debate, I have reflected on my own experience in the professional consulting environment to try and distil what makes an effective team?

Having had experience working in (and alongside) consulting firms ranging from five to 2,500 staff in both the UK and Australia, the common thread to successful teams has been getting the right (delicate) mix of people.

I’m no social scientist or psychologist but I have come to recognise key traits, behaviours and skills in both effective and ineffective teammates.

Here’s how I break the resource pool down:


So to achieve good balance we need to understand what imbalance can create.


As you’ll note from the above, some of the combinations aren’t disastrous. However, they don’t offer an optimised structure for successful, efficient consulting. Upon undertaking this analysis, it has become clear that the winning formula takes the best attributes of each type of consultant: alpha, beta and plodder.


At each level, planning should be undertaken against technical, operational, strategic and tactical outcomes. These should then be cross referred in order to establish a key vision and focus for the group in terms of what happens tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. At all levels, strategy is critical to communicating where the people in a business are going. Without a clear strategy, staff are left to make their mind up about what’s important. Unfortunately, this will most often be the path of least resistance and least corporate reward.

A primary component of any business strategy should be about people, not resources. Too often in business there is an attempt to dehumanise staff members and measure them against KPIs and job descriptions. Too often this leads to comparative work culture where a preoccupation with ‘what other people are doing’ distracts from individual’s goals and objectives.

It is very important to recognise that as people we bring diverse experience, personalities, skills and traits. An effective team will embrace this diversity and exploit the best bits of everyone to achieve mutual parallel success.

The intended value of this article is to allow you to undertake your own workplace analysis to recognise where individuals sit and check the calibration of your structure. But if you do, remember no one type is superior to the other, teams need to work together and leverage individuals’ best bits to achieve success together.

  • Whilst at an organisational level, it is obviously beneficial to have some kind of mix of all of the above, at an individual level, I would rather be an alpha than a beta or plodder as those who lead are out-front and get things done (though I have to acknowledge that with my temperament, I personally tend to be more along the lines of the latter two as opposed to the former).

    In terms of managing a team, however, it is important to understand the different temperaments as well as the strengths and weaknesses each individual brings to the role. After that, you can look at how you might assign roles across projects so as to best utilise each individual in a way that maximises his or her strengths and minimises their weaknesses.

    Also, it should not be assumed that everyone aspires to move up into management. Those who want to just keep doing what they do and be good at it from a technical standpoint should be allowed to do so.

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