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Sandra Thompson – Curator of the Ei Evolution Summit+ Founder of the Ei Evolution

Breandan hEaghra
02 August 2021

CX & EX Consultancy| Co-founder of RISE EI| CX Educator| 1st Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coach in the UK| TEDx speaker| Applied CX & EI course lead

Q1.  Did you always want to become a consultant or did you fall into the role?

When I was 15 all I wanted was to work for British Airways – I didn’t want to fly but I did want to work for the airline.  My elder sister worked for BA and when I didn’t get onto their graduate trainee programme I made it my mission to work for another airline at some point and did that was my second job!  After being employed for about 10 years it did cross my mind that I would enjoy working for myself and I seemed to meet a lot of consultants with the work I was doing.  I took the leap when I was made redundant and I haven’t looked back. 

Q2.  What makes a good consultant?

Great question.  Someone who really listens.  As Tom Peters says – someone who listens fiercely will be the person who can connect with you best.  I find that I do a great deal of problem-solving as a consultant and it’s the skill of listening to what is said, what’s not said and asking great questions that help me to do a good job.  The second thing that I think makes a good consultant is someone who helps the commissioning body fend for themselves. Which means sharing the processes and techniques to help resolve issues and develop solutions.  I have seen consultants make themselves necessary for longer than I thought they needed to be in a business.  I always want to make sure that the change we have created together is sustainable, without me.  The final thing is recognition – we have all been here I am sure.  This is when the staff within the business have been saying something for ages and when a consultant comes in all of a sudden the Board listens – I will always be the first to explain where ideas have come from! 

Q3.  Do you feel you manage yourself well or is it a case of ‘the cobbler’s shoes’?

Sometimes I can be less decisive than I am with customers and it’s interesting you raise this as a colleague asked me to put my consultant lenses on to look at an issue I was facing and it magically gave me a new perspective.  So I guess the answer is that I often forget to take my own advice!

Q4.  Are there enough hours in your day?

Yes.  During the week I start work between 4:45 – 5:30am because I find that I do my best work in the morning.  By the time I have reached say 2pm I know that I have been productive and I can take a different approach in the afternoon.  There are often not enough hours in the weekend days to do all of the things I have in mind! 

Q5.  If you could magically stop your clients from making one mistake – what would that be?

Obsessing over their NPS (Net promoter Score) in comparison with other companies.  I really think that doing that is like being in competition with one another’s height – there is nothing you can do about the height of another person, you have your height, they have there’s.  Genetics, along with nutrition, hormones, activity levels, and medical conditions all fact in and you’ll never know what that is… why are they obsessing over it?   

Q6.  What do you find is the best way to market yourself?

At the moment it’s LinkedIn and through the Pearson Business School website as I run a postgrad course through their College.  I find people or people find me and that leads to a conversation online usually.  An exchange of some ideas and maybe some onward collaboration.  

Q7.  What do you do to unwind?

Take flying lessons.  I have to focus so much on what I am doing and I am learning that everything else fades away and I feel more relaxed and rejuvenated after.  Sound counter-intuitive doesn’t it.  Or sing.  Properly singing my heart out helps me release everything from the day – this could be a 1980s track or some sort of classical number.  

Q8.  What advice would you give a starting consultant?

Make contacts everywhere you go and give something of value away (some content or tools) to them if you can so that they want to know more about you, they want to work with you or they pass work your way.  Really listen to the answers your clients or potential client is giving – work out what is really going on for them and have some highly effective questions ready to dive deeper without compromising the relationship. 

Q9.  What’s your guilty pleasure?

Disco and funk music.  On the weekend you can find me in the kitchen tidying, organizing etc with the 1980s tracks blasting  –  poor old Alexa.  I’m also a secret Hotel Chocolate 70% dark chocolate batons fan!  I play it low-key so that the stock isn’t hoovered up by my partner’s boys the day I buy it!

Q10.  What’s your goal for next year?

Just one? One is to spend a couple of months in Madagascar if I can get away.  I may take my laptop for weekends.  The second is to do more in the education/event space.  I have got the bug for bringing great minds together to share their wisdom for others:  here’s something I prepared earlier….  The third is to pass some flying exams!