5. Don't expect a red carpet on your first day
When you become a consultant, you have to say goodbye to executive trappings and hello to humility. You can't have any expectations as to how you will be treated within the organisation: Some companies will give you a private workspace; others will give you a shared workspace. If you have to share an office or get stuck in a cubicle, don't get hung up on it. Stay focused on what you need to accomplish - not on whether your workspace connotes status.
My first day as a consultant was an eye opener. It was so different from starting a new job as a full-time employee. There was no welcome breakfast with Starbucks coffee and bagels. Nor was I ushered to a new office. Instead, I was brought to a cubicle and left to my own devices. I had to find pens and paper on my own. Fortunately, I did have access to all the systems and applications I needed. If you expect your client to roll out a red carpet, you're going to be let down.
6. Don't pull rank
Consultants have to convince others to get work done since they lack the organisational power and authority that full-time, onsite managers can use to effect change and motivate people.
Pulling rank or acting like a know-it-all won't help your cause. I've found that the most effective way for me to get employees to follow my lead - whether as a consultant or IT executive - is to involve them in decision making. Early on in the engagement, I typically hold a meeting with an open agenda during which I discuss the reasons why I was brought in and what I'm planning to do.
I make it clear that the purpose of the meeting is for me to get their input on the best way for me to complete the project I've been hired to work on, and that I'll make a decision based on their input. I find that when I involve people in the decision making, I get more buy-in, and employees become more willing to own the tasks for which they are responsible. If you're not good at involving many stakeholders and building consensus, consulting may not be a good fit for you.
The one time I did accidentally pull rank, I immediately realised the error of my ways. I had printed out an analysis I had done in Excel on 11-by-14-inch paper. The individual to whom I was presenting the analysis asked me if I could print it out on legal-sized paper. Since I was used to having an assistant who handled those kinds of mundane tasks for me when I was an executive, I asked the client if her assistant could print out the analysis. She told me that her assistant didn't have time and that I should do it. I quickly realised in that moment that I was no longer an executive.