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| Leadership

Person vs Persona

Dear readers,

I promised you in my previous article that I would explain to you why consultants can look so solemn, serious, and seem so inflexible. The time has come; I know you can’t wait any longer.

Have you ever heard about the importance of distinguishing Who you are (The Person) and What function/role do you play (The Persona) in the professional environment? This is the clue to understanding it.

The Person is the entire human being, the physical person you have in front of you. This person can be a father or a mother, live locally or far away, have hobbies like playing piano or cooking French food, play a sport like golf or tennis, etc…

The Persona is the role that this person plays in the professional environment (or elsewhere) according to his or her work. In our case today, it is the role played as a consultant.

It’s like an actor in a movie or in the theater – you don’t know who the person really is – you just see the performance of the persona (character) played.

As a consultant, the difference between person and persona is exacerbated because the client is frequently in contact with you, waiting for an expert, someone with professional skills that do not exist in the team, someone who will create a momentum of actions, give that extra to meet the mission together, and justify his/her investment.

As a customer what kind of persona would you expect from a consultant:

  • Is it someone that looks serious, determined, straightforward, well dressed, speaks clearly, listening carefully, in action,…?

  • or is it someone becoming friends to all the folks, changing his/her mind all the time, spreading critical information, shouting on the corridors, laughing loudly (oups sorry but I did this one sometimes)…?

Permanently exposed and observed, the consultant has to protect himself, wear a “costume” and play the persona the customer expects from him/her! It will definitely ease the mission execution, create the appropriate first impression, and provide a foundation for the trusted advisor relationship which needs to be established.

So you see, the consultant has to play a persona in front of customers!

This explains why I have often heard it said that all consultants are alike, that they act in the same way,… so they are the same kind of person. Humm,… what you see is the persona, where there are similarities but I can confirm that the person is really very different – and most of the time really surprisingly funny with a lot of humor. 

/!\ So beware of generalizations like “I don’t like consultants” – based on stereotypes – “because they are like this or that, they are distant, they are lesson-givers, they are expensive for a limited value, …”. You may not know how to direct consultants and establish expectations, or even how to select one. Instead, I suggest you consider adjusting your mindset in order to be able to effectively manage consultants. It’s like having a racehorse at your disposal, you have to learn how to ride it. If not… (you can imagine the end of the sentence).

Of course, over time, the persona and the person will become one between the client and the consultant if the results are effective; this is the beauty of the game and the key to creating a trusting and powerful relationship.



Written by Jean-Christophe Laurent,, CEO at Penon Partners

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