Over the last two weeks, this scenario has repeated itself a few times. A junior consultant I am working with hits a simple roadblock and instead of reflecting on the problem and hunting out an answer, they pull the brakes and reply, “I don’t know how to do that.” Hmm, I held my tongue for 3 seconds, then said, “That’s what Google is for”
It might sound like a flippant reply, but it is not. It is the truth. There is INFINITE access to information. You don’t need to buy a book, you don’t need to make a phone call. You don’t need to go to the library. All you need to do is get the Star Trek piece of glass from your pocket and look it up. Don’t forget the leverage model – use people’s time wisely.
It’s not a good sign. It’s shows a lack of rigor, thought-process, and discernment. If you need help DEFINITELY ASK for it, but don’t give up at the first turn in the road.
- When you are digging a hole for a fence post, do you just stop when the dirt gets more dense? No, you keep digging.
- When you are studying a math problem, do you stop when you don’t immediately understand the logic? No, you keep pushing til you get it.
- When you can’t get the hotel wifi, do you give up? No, you find the answer.
Are you driving $10,000 day of value to the client? As a management consultant, you are highly paid, and it’s not okay to ask dumb questions. Gotta be crafty enough to answer simple questions. Look it up on Google. Think about the problem. Reach out to your network if you need to. Are you using your logic, network, research craftiness, and business acumen to take you further? Or are you giving up too early?
It’s okay to not know the answer. After all, our clients hire us to tackle the ugly, complex, political, persistent, and cross-functional problems. If the problems were easy, they would be solved already. It’s okay to not know all the answers.
- When you are asking open-ended questions in a client interview to solicit feedback and open the interviewee up. Build rapport.
- When you are scoping out a project, defining the boundaries of the puzzle, clarifying what is in/out of scope.
- When you are seeking the guidance of an expert, or relying on someone’s advice, wisdom, and judgment that comes from experience.
- When you are directly asked by a client – and honestly – you don’t know
It’s not okay to be mentally lazy. I know that in the politically correct work of uber-inclusion, it’s not cool to say people’s questions are dumb, but frankly – consultants are held to a higher bar. We pride ourselves on our ability to get smart quickly. If you don’t know how to do something (excel formula, approach to a problem, meaning of an acronym, ways to manipulate powerpoint), AT LEAST TRY to solve it by yourself first.
When I interviewed for my 2nd job, my soon-to-be boss made it clear that there would be lots of executive presentations. This is the book I bought the next day. No shame.
Ten years later, I was on a different project working for the Legal department of a large multi-billion $ company, and this was the book I read at night in my hotel room.
There is no shame in not knowing. There is shame in not trying.
Great (funny) link to share. http://www.lmgtfy.com/