Tag Archives: Professionalism

Consultants are like physical trainers

Mondays 440am wake up. My wife and I have a love/hate relationship with Mondays and Wednesdays because they start with a 440am alarm. Massive coffee. 515am we are at the gym with a physical trainer. Planks, V-ups, Goblet squats, push-ups, dead-lifts, lunges, you get the idea. Yes, we love the feeling after the workout. You feel… Read More »

Swen Nater (UCLA): Train with the best

While reading Coach Wooden and Me (affiliate link), by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I ran across the story of Swen Nater, who was a first round NBA/ABA draft pick even though he never started, and only play 2 minutes on average per game while at UCLA. Deliberate Practice. Swen did not start out a natural. Apparently, Swen… Read More »

Geek out. Become the mini-expert

Geek out. I have been using this slang a lot.  Many of us who have heard this expression know that it means to become a little bit obsessive about something (usually a hobby). Applying this to business problems, my argument is that business consultants and students need to harness that kind of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity and… Read More »

What is deliberate practice?

It takes more than 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that people have to practice for 10,000+ hours before becoming experts. At the time, this dispelled the idea that it is just raw talent or genius at work. No, he concluded, it takes lots and lots of practice to be excellent at something. When listening to the most recent Freakonomics podcast here entitled How… Read More »

Consulting: Idea fight club

I coined this phrase on my last project.  This is the simple admission that consultants should be confident in their ideas – backed up by data, research, and thinking – and be willing to allow their ideas to stand the testing of their peers, managers and clients. Ideas get stronger the more the are tested.… Read More »

Consulting humility: “I’ll go [get lunch], I am the cheapest person here”

When one of my consultants volunteered to go pick up food for the rest of the team, this made my day . . .because he understood consulting. It’s a combination of confidence and humility. Confidence in important things, humility is small things. Leverage.  This junior consultant, let’s call him Ted (pseudonym), implicitly understood how consulting firms make money.  We work on… Read More »

Some rough manager days

I have not blogged in a month because of international travel, 3 concurrent projects, and honestly, some of the toughest manager days I have ever had.  Got some new folks, a fairly ambiguous project, and a lack of thinking.  Sad, but true.  A lack of real thinking. Here is an unfiltered list of the #%^# I said… Read More »

Consultant, do you have 10,000 hours?

Malcolm Gladwell argues in Outliers here that you really don’t start to excel at something until you put in the requisite blood, sweat and tears . . . or 10,000 hours of focused energy. Yes, the Beatles were brilliant, but they also toiled at their craft in hundreds of small German bars in the early 1960s.  Without sacrifice,… Read More »

Don’t over-manage your career; get on the rocket ship

Career. Some people over-manage their careers – thinking too much about the role they play, how they will position themselves for promotion, and what they deserve to be doing on the team.  My wife rightly says I don’t think about this enough, but honestly, some people think about it way too much. Do good work.  If… Read More »

Year-end reviews

Performance reviews: In management consulting, there are performance reviews going on constantly.  No seriously. . .  constantly.  Consulting readers, please disagree. A review for every project.  A mid-year review.  A year-end review. To the optimist, this is an ideal scenario because there is near constant feedback To the pessimist, this is an onerous task for all those involved While… Read More »

Success = direction + smart people + trust

I know what success looks like. I have been consulting executives for the last 15 years – as an external management consultant, as a strategic planner, or as a organization design project lead. Spent a fair amount of time with CEO, COO, CFO, VP of this, and Executive Director of that. The majority of our clients have… Read More »

Why 14% of Harvard goes into Consulting

I recently read a 4,300 word article in the Harvard Crimson school newspaper that helps to explain why more than 14% of the Harvard graduating class goes into management consulting.  If you are interested in understanding the psyche of young top talent that goes from Harvard into the Big 3 or Big 4 consulting firms… Read More »

Feedback is a gift, get the most out of it

Feedback keeps you sharp.  All professionals should be thankful for authentic and well-meaning feedback. It’s a way to gauge our performance, impact, and influence. Good or bad feedback is useful, when it comes from someone we respect. Companies pay $millions to research what their customers are thinking, and yet, as consultants we often get feedback… Read More »

Saving the client $1,300 on Sunday

Tomorrow, we have 2 workshops, totaling 30 people. It amounts to 1,900 pages of color printing and binding. Since Fedex usually charges 69 cents per color printed page (retail), it comes out to approximately $1,300 in just printing. Cray, cray. Right thing to do.  I live 4 miles from one of my company’s offices, so I poured my coffee into… Read More »

Managers are the glue, be greedy for more work

I gave this advice to a newbie manager this week. The manager kept acting like an individual contributor, as if that was enough to succeed. He kept saying, “well, I do this” and “I do that”. Wrong point of view. No sense of managerial duties. Managers are the glue. Good managers give the consulting firm leverage and profitability… Read More »

Consulting advice: Be, do, say

Be. Do. Say. I heard this for the first time 3 weeks ago. It resonated. In the overly-marketed world we live in, there is incessant advertising noise and not a lot of authenticity. Through the clutter, which brands and people can you really trust? Companies and products all purport to have the solution. They talk about unique selling propositions,… Read More »

Stop whining, consultants focus on options, not problems

I listened to a lot of whining this week. It was partly sad, partly frustrating. New consultants – unaware of what we really do – have a list of reasons why it is hard: I can’t get the data, so that’s why I am behind I sent an email; don’t know why they won’t answer ABC told… Read More »

Did you deliver value? Did you have a $10,000 day?

Consultants, lawyers, accountants bill for time. For good or bad, the traditional time and expense way of billing still prevails. This means that your time is valuable to you (as a professional) and to the client (as an expense). Every hour that you bill, the client pays out of their profits. Every dollar you bill hurts their… Read More »

Consulting commitment: 143am

You cannot be a successful consultant, lawyer, or professional without a sense of commitment. Commitment to the client, commitment to your team, commitment to yourself. It’s driven by a sometimes not-so-healthy fear of failure. In the end, it motivates you and compels to you do better work. It’s 1:43am. I am having wine while concurrently working on… Read More »

Consulting advice: Help your clients save face

Save face. This is a simple concept that is critical for consultants and sales people to understand. Never put your client in a situation where you are directly and publicly disagreeing with them. Never box them into a corner where they might be ashamed of the situation. Never embarrass them. It’s a very Asian business culture… Read More »

The Marble and the Sculptor

The Marble and the Sculptor. So one of my best friends had his book published today. He is a lawyer by trade and by heart.  The publisher is the American Bar Association. Yes, that Bar Association. The one that was founded in 1878. Completely Relevant to Consultants. If you read through the table of contents below, you… Read More »

Consulting late night: 20 reasons a consultant might be up at 2am

Late night. I am working at 2am, which is actually not that unusual with management consulting. Here are some of the many reasons why a consultant might be working this late: Some good reasons: Time zone change. You fly into NYC from the West Coast. Client deliverable due the next day, more revisions needed. Proposal… Read More »

Saying YES to clients can get consultants in trouble

It’s easy to say YES When the client asks for something – new research, some ad-hoc analysis, an extra workshop – it usually seems like a reasonable request. After all, they pay the bills and shouldn’t they get the most out of their consultants? When the consultant says YES to a new request, it may… Read More »

What makes powerful people act stupid?

Hubris. That could easily be the sub-title of a book by Stanford Professor Bob Sutton called Good Boss, Bad Boss. He gives a talk at Stanford Business School here. Prior to this, this he wrote a best-selling book called: The No Asshole Rule (affiliate link). Love the title. Baird & Co (large investment firm named #11… Read More »