Personal Development

Consultants – Please hide your tools!

Can you imagine the following scenario: you go to the doctor to have an issue addressed…the doctor walks in the room, briefly introduces himself, looks quickly at your problem, then starts talking about all the techniques he’s ever learned in medical school…He gets more and more excited, opens a drawer and explains the design & purpose of each tool he has in his office. This would be really weird…not to mention downright scary, right?

However that’s exactly what you’ll find that many smart, well-meaning, but unseasoned consultants do (it’s a tell tale sign…an easy trap even for the experienced to fall into as). They’re so enamored and excited by the power of their techniques and tools they “dump” them on their client.

jack-of-all-trades

The result is inevitable – rather than appearing smart, trustworthy and credible (which is a noble goal!), they scare off the client who feels overwhelmed, confused by all the options and “didn’t sign up for this heavy approach.” Both sides have lost!

How could it have ended differently? Back to the doctor example…suppose the doctor sits down, gets to know you a bit (family, work, kids…), lets you talk in depth about your pain and symptoms, conducts a careful examination, shows you an x-Ray of the problem…then proposes the procedure he has in mind, why he thinks it will be effective and what it means to you (…length, impact, recovery time, etc). You’d feel completely different than the first example, right?

So what’s the lesson to be learned for “good consulting?” I’d like to propose the following sequence and “prioritization of connections” with your  client (which we’ll take step by step in subsequent posts):

  1. Personal connection (people – heart): relationship, empathy, diagnostic (“who & where we are”)
  2. Focus on the fundamentals (why – head): mindset, goal of goal, underlying principles (“what are we here to do”)
  3. Process (what – eyes): approach, time-phased plan of attack (“how is it going to work”)
  4. Tools (how – hands): what will use to get the process done – just the part they need to know (“working through it together”).

Beware, the telltale sign of inexperience is to take the above in reverse order. Have you seen it done, or done it yourself (I have!)?

We’ll work through these in future posts, but for now think of this approach in your next client engagement. I’m sure you’ll see the difference! Let me know how you put it into practice…

Picture: www.linkedin.com

Where’s your trash pile?

In a recent study featured by Harvard Business Review a manager was cited who routinely asked his employees the above question in their performance evaluation. Those who had trash heaps of “good efforts gone awry” were rewarded and encouraged to continue to have courage to forge ahead. Those who didn’t (aka “small trash piles”) were admonished to aim higher, push harder and take more initiative and risk.tumblr_inline_nuo9bzxitv1rajhbn_400

What’s the rationale behind such a “reckless” question? Isn’t it better to “manage by objective” and handout trophies for spectacular performance?

Let’s cut to the chase…if you want to raise a workforce that’s safe, slow, incremental and perfectionist – YES; if you want a learning and innovative organization that takes risk…and yes, sometimes fails spectacularly…BUT reaches far beyond the current paradigm – NO.

Why? Just think of the chef’s kitchen – vegetable peelings, pots, pans, dishes…or the artist’s studio with pictures, sketches, drawings, crumpled papers…

An old German saying captures it well: “wherever you cut wood, you’ll find sawdust.” In other words “trash” (aka failure) will happen whenever serious work is being done. It means new things are being tested, risk is being taken, learning is happening.

Here’s the bottom line – there’s no great performance and no breakthrough unless there’s trial & error, risk & failure (if so, it’s being hidden). Every failure is a step closer to success. If you don’t have a good-sized trash heap you’re not stretching far enough.

So as we’re just coming out of the “January review- & objective setting- season,” I challenge you to have courage to ask the “trash pile question.” Ask yourself…your spouse…your children… your subordinates. Help them recover from the shock of the question by breaking through the existing “performance paradigm paralysis” and framing the “trash heap” positively.

What‘s being learned? What should we try next? How could it lead to the next iteration of progress?…what if it ends up in the trash heap again?…some of it will – guaranteed!…but, so what! – we’ll try hard, learn, keep moving, one failure closer to success – GO for it!

Picture: theramtimetimes

2015 Lessons Learned are In! It’s all about ACTION…!

2015 “lessons learned” are in! A BIG THANK YOU to all who contributed…

Just a little context before we jump in…This is the second year I’ve conducted a “Lessons Learned Exchange” at Blue Ink, asking readers to contribute 2 lessons from the past year (see the comments below).

The objective is three-fold: 1) learn and build on the past i.e. “look back to live forward”, 2) benefit from real firsthand experience – life experiences leave “deep marks” and always beat abstract concept, 3) leverage the “community effect” – rooted in the belief that giving “life knowledge” to another person is an invaluable gift.

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