In consulting, the client's management and leadership skills-- and the applied emotional intelligence-- matter most. Your client's emotional intelligence is more important than the project manager's, more important than your administrative manager's, and certainly more important than the teammate you're treating as a free therapist on Diet Coke breaks.
Engaging with a client on the high end of the emotional intelligence spectrum is the difference between pouring your heart into a job and spending your free minutes reconsidering your career choices (You know what I mean if you've ever browsed for trade schools in massage therapy... in the Caymans).
Emotional intelligence is everything. And in the consulting world, it's the client's ability to connect, articulate their vision, listen, and adjust the ebb and flow of demand on the project based on their read the team's energy trumps all.
Of course, in an ideal world we'd be surrounded by high emotional intelligence-types... or at least people who felt it was an important aspect of their job performance and invested the time to improve. Unfortunately, our business culture is a wee bit shy of universal adoption but maybe you're seeing signs too that we're getting there. In his article in Inc., Raman Chadha, found of the Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, provides some hopeful insights that EI skills can be learned. They're doing some ground-breaking work in training-- the long-term impacts of which will be measured in the coming years. This is heartening for those of us who previously thought you just had 'em or you didn't.
So, what can you do? Few of us actually get to pick our clients, right? Well, it may not work all the time but we have more say and sway than we give ourselves credit for. If you're in an independent, it's simple. You pursue the jobs with the people you want to work with and for. Large businesses typically can offer a variety of projects-- generally after a reasonable commitment on one job is reached (generally 6 months to a year). Small businesses may have the toughest time because they need to smooth out potential revenue dips and might take jobs to keep people engaged.
In any scenario, I think we all have more opportunities to "interview" clients, conduct background research via your network or LinkedIn, or get creative with how you increase your proximity to those positive influences on your client's team.