good consultant bad consultant everywhere a consultant

Business consultants. As with anything … there are good ones .. and bad ones … and then there are those of us who think they could be a consultanttalk to myself and are a little unclear what defines a good one or bad one.

Regardless. Let’s take a minute and talk about consultants through my eyes. I will begin by suggesting I imagine it is often as effective in Life to admit what you are not good at as well as what you are good at in determining what you want to do.

I have already noted I would suck at being a free lancer <https://brucemctague.com/14-reasons-why-i-would-suck-at-freelancing>.

And today, after reading a great article in The Economist <Schumpeter: Thinking twice about Price>, I will be able to note I would suck at being a consultant.

Why?

Because I have a deep need to tell the truth in business … no matter what it may be.

Now. I did not believe that would be a problem until I read this article <okay … that is not true … I have always known telling the truth in business is often not a good ‘survival’ strategy>.

In fact … while reading the article I was beginning to think of myself as a potentially good business consultant. Because most of the thinking in the article discussed why businesses should be discussing how to raise their prices rather than cut costs as a way to increase profits <and I am also a huge advocate for this type of business thinking>.

Oh.

And then I reached the end of the article and … well … oops. I was mistaken. Because apparently while many consultants may actually believe this <raising prices can be good> … and believe it is the right thing to do … they will not tell a client for fear of not maintaining the relationship:

 

“The irony, confides a senior management consultant, is that firms have such a taboo against letting go of a client … that they are the worst at taking their own advice to be fearless in asking for more, and walking away if they do not get it.”  – The Economist <Schumpeter July 2013>

 

I couldn’t be a consultant because … hmmmmmmm … I am too fearless? That I am willing to walk away? Well. That not only sounds odd said out loud … it even looks ludicrous now that it is typed.

 

Ok.

To be clear. I am not anti-consultant. I actually believe they can provide a huge value to businesses <although I do believe how they go about business is a little wacky on occasion: https://brucemctague.com/a-rant-about-process-and-consulting>.

Wacky process or not … I sometimes believe the title ‘consultant’ is incorrect and does not infer enough responsibility upon the consultant themselves.

Maybe they should be called … truth teller? fixer?

 

Anyway. A consultant should do work that most large companies <and smaller leaner organizations> are simply incapable of doing internally. Well. They are actually capable … most companies actually have the smart people who can do what a consultant <truth seeker> is hired to do … but those people are already in important positions already doing important things to keep the company going. In other words… they have other important shit to do.

 

Just to go on the record <this is Bruce mental research and not some expansive global survey of actual results and feedback> I believe there are several teaching apegroupings of consultants:

–          The larger consulting firms. They are really really smart <but maybe not willing to tell you all you need to hear>

–          Maybe 50% of the smaller consultants are really really good. They are senior experienced folk who know what they know and are willing to not do things they don’t know. Some may tell you what you need to know … and some may tell you what you want to hear <because small businesses sometimes go into survival mode>

–          Maybe 25% of the smaller consultants are not really that smart in a solution criteria judgment way … but are really really good listeners and can play back something they have heard in a way that actually helps you <the company> identify a solution you kind of already knew but now it becomes clearer & actionable.

–          And the last 25% are hacks. They think they are smarter than they really are. They are sincere with regard to believing their own capabilities but they sincerely give you really bad advice.

 

Oh.

A quick note on the fact that the larger consulting firms are really really good.

It is a fact that most of the larger consultancies have gobs of very smart, very ambitious, very hard-working young inexperienced people killing themselves to do what they are required to do. And these gobs of smart young people feed information to more senior experienced team leaders <who actually know what they are talking about> leading to some really smart insightful thoughtful thinking. Unfortunately … you <the client & company> may never get to hear what the really smart insightful thoughtful thinking is because it is going to be tempered in a way to insure you don’t walk away.

In other words … they fear telling the truth because the truth may piss you off <or it may not be what you want to hear>.

 

Now.

Consultants are the furthest thing from stupid <on this truth telling topic>.

They know what most companies already know … that truth telling inside organizations is a common challenge.truth struggle for process

 

“Authentic and honest internal communication results in better, faster decisions and actions. It also builds a culture of trust and collaboration where opposing views are debated and more effective solutions and innovations are created. In reality, however, there is a distinct lack of truth-telling inside most organizations. I’m not talking about malevolent dishonesty. No-one goes to work thinking “I’m going to hinder my own and my company’s performance by withholding the truth from my colleagues”. I’m talking about the many moments each day where we think one thing, but say something different; where we have an idea that may be of value, but we hold back and say nothing; where we are called upon to give an honest opinion, but decide to say what is easier or what we think others want to hear.” – Lynn Harris <organizational development consultant>

 

And it is a challenge for actually a good reason.

 

Telling the truth is not pervasive in most organizational cultures because we fear the consequences. This fear is all about an imagined <and often very real> negative impact.

It is a fear of conflict as well as fear of self survival.

I read this somewhere which captures the real fear better than almost anything else I read:

One thing’s for sure, in an environment where truth-telling is not the norm, we would certainly stand out by speaking frankly and many of us would prefer to keep our head down rather than present a stationary target

 

This all leads to me to another non-research suppoerted point.

It seems like there are two basic types of consultants.

Those that listen carefully for what the client wants to hear.

Those that listen carefully to isolate the issues  for what their clients should hear.

As a corollary … there seem to be two types of consultant clients.

Those who want consultants to tell them exactly what they want to hear <with the intent to support their own ‘already made up mind’>.

Those who really want the consultant to help them and want to hear what they need to hear.

Regardless. Great business consultants are like psychiatrists … well … but different. While psychiatrists only ask questions <the patient must answer them> … consultants ask the questions and answer them.

Ok.

But back to me not as a consultant.

I would suck because somewhere down the business career road I began to tell the truth. I knew I had to from a personal integrity standpoint … therefore … the first person I had to stop lying to was myself. While I cannot consciously go back to any one point in my career and say “this was the moment” I can say unequivocally, while painful to a lot of people around me, once I began telling the truth it seemed like my business life began to become my own. And it happened very very quickly.

So how does Truth in consulting come to life?

I like to report what I find without considering whether they fit the client’s preconceptions.

I like to admit if I cannot find something or even if I do find something … that I have no frickin’ idea what it means <but still share the information>.

I like to give a point of view so I can be held to it <and actually get compensated more if I am right>.

I like to give the best recommendations for their future business without thinking about the impact on my own future business.

 

I like … well … to tell the truth.

Why?

Well … its not just an integrity thing … it is more a business thing. I tend to believe businesses need truth more now than ever.

So many organizations seem to run on fear these days <which I do not believe is healthy> and I kind of feel like it is my responsibility to give voice to the fears … and the truths <which one could construe as the ‘hope’>.

Consultants need to act like the pilots of the ship … not passengers who are along for the ride. By the way … this is an aggravating behavior to the current pilots of the ship.truth revolution

Yeah.

I know.

I would suck at being a consultant.

Not only does no one want to hear the truth … when they do hear it they disregard it is ‘non-truth’ <’that’s not really the way its is’> or worse … the answer that sends me directly to a bar … “oh, that isn’t relevant.”

 

I imagine my real point here is that a consultant is worth every overpriced dime you give them … if they tell the truth.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce