Rough consulting week: Embrace the suck

By | April 3, 2016

Last week was brutal. Was glad to just make it through the days without disappointing people or making too many mistakes. I had 32 different conference calls, a boat-load of work, a dentist appointment and planning for my mom’s 70th birthday. Apparently, the military uses an expression which was entirely appropriate last week: “Embrace the suck“, which simply means that situations go bad. . .and you need to deal with it.

Consultantsmind - Embrace the Suck

It’s been a while since I was up that late. Two nights of 2am or later. Honestly, some of that was dozing on/off on the couch. Yikes. As I told my friend – “I must be a really inefficient and slow worker”. These photos are from different nights, not pretty.

Consultantsmind - Late night

Consulting workload is lumpy. It is not linear. There is no “average” workday. Times of madness followed by stretches of ennui. When people I interview ask me about work-life balance, I have to bite my tongue a little bit.  What is balanced? Rather it’s a question of where are you in the S-curve of your career, and life.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about the fallacy of work-life balance for driven people in grueling, innovative, and client-service roles. There is no punch-clock. There is no union telling you to not work past 37.5 hours a week. We are engineering our own work schedule and expectations. We are molding the work around our lives.

Last week, I was the most productive I have been in a long time. Forced between 4-5 “must do” proposals and work-streams, I just triage the situation. There is a witty expression which I believe is very true. . . “if you need to get something done, give it to someone who is busy.” 

Doling out the truth.  One of my gifts is to give direct feedback to people, project manage a situation, without offending people (too much). In other words, I am a friendly truth-speaker. A few of the direct things I said last week:

Don’t let me get in your way. You do not need another manager on this. You tell me where to plug into your work?

No, I don’t really need to know. Unless you want me to take action on it, I don’t want to know.

Seems like you are in good hands with A & B, I am rolling myself off of this assignment.  They have the passion, content, and logistics covered. Giving control up to them.

Cover me on the call – you know my opinion.  The client has had the data request for 3 weeks, so there is not really any apologizing we need to do on our part.

Okay – I am getting off the phone to get back to work.

I agree – but in the list of things to worry about . . .that is #10 on my list. It’s not under our control, and out of scope.

I just don’t think the presentation is actually any better than it was 2 days ago.  Happiness level is low.

You need to do me a solid and speak with B.  You are pretty far apart – She does not have any clue that is how you feel.

My bad for being late on this call.  I owe you a beer.

Have a great week consultants. Do great work this week. Traveling this week, facilitating a workshop, several proposals due to clients. In the hunt to win business. This week will be WAY more fun, less crazy, and honestly. . . I had a restful weekend.

Related note about meetings (from Tomm in comments): 

When organizing a meeting myself I stick to Dominc Barton’s advice which I find very helpful: each item from the agenda is labeled into one of 3 buckets: ‘for information’, ‘for discussion’, ‘for decision’, so we’re all super clear in terms of what outcome shall be expected at the end of the meeting.

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3 thoughts on “Rough consulting week: Embrace the suck

  1. Tomm

    Workload in consulting is not linear, but nowadays more and more industries operate on ‘as required’ basis, often at the expense of personal life of workers. In my opinion the widely criticized ‘9-5′ model is not bad, as it enables business planning and introduces some stability into employees’ lives, but it works only if people deliver what is expected of them with minimal supervision. With ‘I’m here only to do my 8 hours’ mentality it’s a waste of resources. Probably that’s why I’m so frustrated when need to co-operate with clients’ employees who operate on that basis, because nothing can be done on time, and you need to constantly check if any progress was made.

    When it comes to business meetings I attend only essential ones these days, as I noticed that majority of meetings are unproductive discussions and exchange of opinions. When organizing a meeting myself I stick to Dominc Barton’s advice which I find very helpful: each item from the agenda is labeled into one of 3 buckets: ‘for information’, ‘for discussion’, ‘for decision’, so we’re all super clear in terms of what outcome shall be expected at the end of the meeting.

    Great blog, keep up the good work.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Like that thinking a lot. Thanks for contribution. Will add the Barton comment into the body of the blog, if okay.

  2. Tomm

    Please go ahead, I found many of his insights valuable.

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