Internal Networking

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Following a presentation I gave on Regional networking to the HRMAJ conference, I was asked the following question:

Can you please give me some tips on internal networking? I am new in my HR dept and at times the going may be tough.I have an MSc in HRM but based on feedback I have not made the transition from theory to practice as yet. It is noted however that I am not necessarily using most of the concepts learnt in school as yet.

I think this is an interesting question to sink my teeth into, and with her permission, I’ll answer the question she raised here.
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OK, permission granted. Let’s call her “Q.”

First off, Q, I would forget about all that was learned in school. Not that it wasn’t interesting or valuable, it is just that so little of it is applicable that it is better to focus your energy on other things than trying to remember or use everything you learned. When you need it, it will be there, so relax . The workplace is not just another step from your masters, like a PhD might be. Outside of the classroom (in which you have spent probably 20 years of your life) the rules are very different.

This I know from experience… I graduated thinking that I should be using as much of my classroom learning as possible, but in retrospect it was just not as important as just about everything else I will mention here.

I would focus on the following:

  1. Developing the critical interpersonal skills that you will need forever but did not even begin to learn in school. I would look for skills that help you give feedback, communicate, sell, public speak — all those skills that involve speaking and listening. I would sign up for every course possible, because you can never get too much of them. Join Toastmasters and get lots of practice speaking in public.

  2. Start reading books and taking courses that require serious introspection into why you do the things you do, and don’t. Start to learn about what makes you tick. Take diagnostic tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, read books such as “The Road Less Travelled” and take personal development courses that help you think about your career. The sooner you decide what your passions in life are, and face up to the kind of courage it will take to pursue them, the better.

  3. Find some good people to emulate. This might be the most important. Don’t copy them, but learn from them, taking the good and leaving the bad. Understand that you will outgrow them at some point, but until you do, learn.

  4. Work with people who will stretch you. Look for tough projects to volunteer to be on. Often, the best people are attracted to the most challenging projects. You will be networking with them as you work alongside them. Stick your hand up and volunteer to come in on weekends and to stay late to work with them.

  5. Pick a single area you are interested in and learn everything there is to know about it in your job. Become the expert and go WAY beyond what people are asking you to do and be. It may not pay off for a year or two, but when it does, it will.

  6. Look for chances to take a leadership role in ANYTHING. At this point in your career, if they have a Garbage Committee, you should be trying to head it up! If there are no such teams, then form them. As a young employee I helped to start a group called “The Gang of X” in my department, from our my own initiative. It was not just fun, it was quite an empowering experience as we looked at ways in which the department could improve.


Pitfalls:

  1. If you get bored on the job for more than a few days, get yourself going by asking your boss for more to do. If you find yourself bored for weeks on end, then for the sake of your career you need to quit.

  2. If negative people like to spend a lot of time hanging around your cubicle, “run dem.”

  3. If you ever find yourself holding on to a job for the money, know that it is the beginning of the end, and that you have given up on being a professional. Just because everyone else you respect might be doing the same thing, that means nothing in the grand scheme of things in which your self-esteem and respect are more important than your pay.

  4. If you fail to keep in touch with people, read The Tipping Point where Gladwell talks about mavens. Find excuses to stay in touch by sending material that you find of interest to see if they also might be interested. I regret not doing this earlier in my own career. This takes tons of time, and you will do it clumsily at first — just make sure that the things you send out are truly of interest to YOU, and not just done because you should.

For example, I am sending out 500 Christmas cards this year to fellow professionals in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and the USA. They are all hand-written. Many gasp at the idea (and the cost), but the first few times time I saw a card I sent on the wall of a couple of different people I did business with, I realized that I had discovered something of value.

I am not saying that you should use this particular method yourself, but you must develop one that you authentically enjoy.

Q, I hope this helps. If you recall from my conference presentation, I believe in starting with what you are passionate about first, rather than what logically “should” make sense. Engage the heart, and your mind will follow — when it comes to networking. Only then, will it not feel like a burden but more like doing what comes naturally.

P.S. Consider me to be your test case. How are you going to “network” with me from now on?

Customer as Number Two

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The Customer as Number Two

A few years ago, I was sitting and eating lunch while reading the
overseas Jamaican paper (name?), when I had to drop what I
was eating in disgust. I was stopped in mid-meal by a picture
of a mad-man, his head full of live maggots.

I happened to know the editor of the paper and I immediately
called. She was not in office, and I was put onto the head of
advertising, who I also knew, as I had recently placed several
ads.

I complained vehemently.

She exclaimed – “Mi know how you feel! When I went to the
printers and dem show me de picture… dat was when I know dat dis
week’s paper wasn’t coming anywhere near me!”

I was flabbergasted.

I had expected her to explain, or defend, and not to react as if she had nothing to do with the paper. The best that I could do was to ask her to pass on my complaint to the editor, and hung up — but I have never forgotten her reaction.

————————CUT HERE———————

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RBTT’s Gambling Problem

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Today, in a taxi to the airport, I heard the worst advertisement ever.

RBTT Bank’s newest promotion involves the following promise – spend over US$1000 before Dec 31st, and be automatically entered to win a chance to have the entire balance paid off in January. In short, the bank is encouraging its customers to make over a thousand dollars in new purchases, in order to qualify to win the promotion.

My problem with it?

It just all seems to be encouraging gambling – paying cash in order to have a random chance of winning big.

For some reason, I doubt that RBTT has imagined the full range of outcomes. Let us, on their behalf, perform
a thought experiment and imagine what would happen if the promotion is wildly successful.

One person “wins” and ends up with a nice zero balance. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of customers end up with new balances over US$1000. Many of them might well have changed their buying pattern or choices in order to win the promotion. Some will have used credit instead of cash. Others will have decided to make purchases they never intended to make in order to qualify.

All will have new balances of more than US$ 1000 on their RBTT card on Dec 31, and the majority would have them because of the “success” of the new promotion.

RBTT would seem to be a winner, if the promotion succeeds. After all, new balances mean new interest income.

But does RBTT really benefit in the long-term? I cannot imagine that the kind of customer who would change their buying habits in order to take on new card debt to win a lottery is the kind that RBTT wants. After all, a gamble on that filly in the 5th is not the same as a gamble on a new US$2000 card balance. When the 5th race is over, the transaction between the track and the bettor is over.

However, on January 1st, RBTT will have a new long-term relationship with a debtor who is essentially a gambler.

I cannot imagine that this fits the profile of the ideal customer. If I were RBTT, I would immediately “assist” these new debtors to break their addictive habits. Maybe Gambler’s Anonymous? After all, surely RBTT does not want their customer to repeat the behaviour.

If the program is successful, and other banks decide to play copycat, I am sure that RBTT does not want them jumping ship in time to gamble once again.

Instead, RBTT must want the gambling card-holder to settle down, see the error of their ways, and become a faithful and trusted customer who pays the monthly bill like clockwork.

All this, rather than chasing down the next card, dice, scratch, domino or internet game of chance. Hopefully, when this unlikely “transformation” occurs, they will bear no resentment towards the bank for profiting from their weakness for the thrill of a win.

P.S. I received the following email at left in my inbox on 12/22.

FirstCuts Issue 4 — Transforming an Airline

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FirstCuts
A Framework Consulting Online eZine
High-Stake Interventions — New Ideas Issue 4 October 21, 2006

Transforming an Airline
by Francis Wade

Editorial
This past week I attended small parts of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados’ annual conference in Bridgetown. I had an opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am to be a Caribbean professional — one who travels and works across a region that I am proud to be a part of.

This contrasts with the time spent living in the U.S.A. when I could never shake the feeling of being a stranger in a country I was unable to care deeply about.

I am thankful to be home, and I consider each territory in our region to be a part of my extended home, and each business to be one that is an economic extension of my own.

In this sense, my comments on BWIA in this issue are spoken as an extended owner,and while the airline’s seemingly rough landings make me very nervous each time around, I think of them as our landings, by our airline, owned by our people.

Francis

Transforming an Airline

I flew BWIA West Indies Airways last week and had some time to think about its upcoming demise.

BWIA, the official carrier of Trinidad and Tobago, is officially going out of business on Dec. 31, 2006. It will be replaced by Caribbean Airlines, which apparently will take over much of the equipment, personnel and routes of today’s BWIA.

At the same time, there have been announcements in the press about the possibility of an upcoming merger between the airlines of LIAT and Caribbean Star. The coincidence is that both of these activities are taking place in the same industry, at the same time. As a past customer of all three companies, I read the pronouncements in the press while thinking that not much would change.

As I sat in my seat on a recent BWIA flight wondering where my lack of confidence was coming from, I happened to lower the tray-table and registered a familiar sense of annoyance with a “steupps” of the teeth. As usual, the back of the pink, leatherette seat in coach class was defaced with graffiti and pen marks.

Just as you would expect, given that most people are right-handed, more of the blue and black mess is on the right than the left. The marks look accidental for the most part, but now and then there is evidence of a malicious adult and mischievous child leaving their “mark” on purpose with a note that they “….wuz ‘ere.”

A pet peeve of mine is that somewhere, someplace, someone decided to pick these particular seats. The problem with them is not that they are ugly, but that they are perfect for writing on. The result is graffiti… hidden behind the tray-table, on the back of every seat.

I cannot say how all this came about — who decided on
the colour scheme, or the choice of fabric. How is it that the
seats could not be reliably cleaned? Why couldn’t someone install some kind of cover?

And why should I think that this particular annoyance will not
be repeated in the new Caribbean Airlines?

I am no expert on the airline industry, but I can predict that
whatever organizational culture allowed messy seats to be the norm, is likely to be continued in the new company. After all, the CEO will be the same, and the vast majority of the new airline’s staff will be drawn from BWIA.

I asked myself, if I had a blue-print for creating the new airline, what would it look like? I came up with three simple, but uncommon steps that I think would apply to Caribbean Airlines as well as to the possible LIAT/Caribbean Star merger.

The airlines should focus on embracing, rather than denying, their history of failure, co-creating the future with their employees and making bold requests for action and sacrifice.

********* Step 1: Embrace the History of Failure

The tendency of most organizations in a transition such as this one is to try to fast forward work to define the new company, in an attempt to quickly put some distance between the new and the old dispensations. The website announcement of the new airline bears this out. There is no mention of the reason why BWIA is closing; the announcement speaks only to how lucky the
new airline is to inherit the fine safety record of the soon to be defunct airline.

Unfortunately, any kind of transformation program gets its strongest start from doing the exact opposite. Instead of ignoring the past, the first step to a deep transformation is to embrace the historical reality fully and completely.

One way to do this would be to engage all the employees in an exercise to bring closure to the company’s past. This exercise would have to encompass both the positive and negative aspects of the company’s performance to date.

The truth is, in spite of best efforts, BWIA was a financial failure. At the same time, many good things happened for the thousands that were employed and their families in its sixty-plus year history. In Step 1, this mix of positive and negative results would have an opportunity to be fully aired and expressed.

Practically, this could be done in BWIA in a series of meetings, primarily devoted to exploring the past in order to tell the truth about it. There would be no effort to try to change anything at this point. Instead, the positive end-result would be that people’s aspirations and hopes would have a chance of being put to bed, and their disappointments would have an opportunity of being addressed.

I imagine employees saying “Thank You,” “I am sorry this did not work out” and “Goodbye. “

For the typical results-driven, Type A executive, especially, this can all be very difficult medicine to swallow.

“Embracing the history of failure” looks an awful lot to them like slowing things down, and avoiding the job that needs to be done. They might well argue that people should be able to move on, and just forget about the history. Or they might say that such an exercise should be delayed until the new company is launched.

However, it is quite normal for a CEO to be able to mentally and psychologically make a shift that their staff cannot.

The staff of the new airline will have 550 employees, compared with the 1800 that BWIA had. The vast majority of them will come from the old company.

The fact that they would have been selected, and their colleagues left without jobs, provide perfect conditions for survivor guilt, the debilitating emotion that affects employees in situations like this. Research has shown that employees experiencing this phenomenon can experience productivity decreases by as much as 50% for months at a time.

Doing the exercise inside BWIA, rather than Caribbean Airlines, could leave everyone satisfied that they have done their best to take care of all their colleagues, while preparing all the ex-BWIA employees for whatever is next in their careers — Caribbean Airlines or not.

I imagine that the transition team is currently focusing on the “hard” aspects of the business — those that are measurable and tangible. If executives could stop the frenetic 24/7 activity that is no doubt underway, it would help build a strong foundation for the new airline to build on.

From my work with regional executives who have lead such transitions, their message is a singular one: the “soft” aspects of your transition are more important than you think.

********* Step 2: Co-Create the Future

Once employees experience closure, it takes only a nano-second before they feel the creative impulse to create anew. A smart company will capitalize on this energy and meet this impulse with an opportunity to co-create.

From my experience, it does not matter what exactly gets created, whether it be a statement of values, vision, strategy, a business plan or even a new company logo.

The actual creative activity is irrelevant.

What is important is that the activity be authentic. It must be vital to the well-being of the company. It cannot be merely “symbolic.”

It is equally important that everyone has a chance to be heard, to contribute, and to see how their contribution might be included in the final result.

I have seen very few companies in the region put themselves through this process, and do it well. I put this down to a paucity of methods, and an unwillingness to risk the activity going badly on a public scale, rather than a lack of awareness of the need.

********** Step 3: Call to Action and Sacrifice

This might be the hardest step of all.

CEOs and Managing Directors in our region have come to believe that a key part of their job is to shield their employees from bad news. This paternalistic relationship is one that is actively encouraged or passively allowed by both employees and managers.

However, paternalism is the very opposite of the responsible, adult-like give and take that marks healthy companies. Without this kind of relationship, it is impossible for companies like BWIA to make the changes it needs to make.

Obviously, if Caribbean Airlines conducts “business as usual,” it will result in more of the same failures.

What most leaders fail to realize is that when their employees are working with them to co-create a future, they are ready, willing and able to make the changes necessary to bring it
about. When the requests made of employees are bold, and big, it can help to demonstrate that the days of paternalism are over, and that progress will only come from cooperation.

In fact, it is widely believed that BWIA’s demise had more to do with a lack of cooperation than anything else. The inability of the management and unions to work together to save the company was seen by the owners as the final straw.

This third step is not optional.

If this step is not taken, a dangerous vacuum gets created. In response, employees in our region retreat even further into a paternalistic mindset, waiting for management to “tell them
what to do next.”

If it is taken, managers can make the case that the unusual circumstances involved, require everyone to find ways to change the way they do business. In the case of Caribbean Airlines, a critical mass of employees doing business in new ways is the only thing that will make a difference.

What will prevent dirty seats is not just new fabric. Instead, it will take a concentration of human energy to overcome this, and other hard-to-solve organizational problems. Ultimately, BWIA could not solve the problem of either clean seats or job-saving profits.

Starting off on the right foot might save Caribbean Airlines, and Caribbean Start/LIAT, from continuing the sad legacies of the past.

*

Next Steps
~~~~~~~~~~
To discuss this topic further, visit our company blog and follow the 6-part series of entries starting with:
http://tinyurl.com/yjr458
We promise to respond to comments and discussion added.

A white paper called “Equal Shmequal. It’s Never a Merger of Equals” written by a former employee, Amie Devero, can be found among our white papers at www.downloads.fwconsulting.com. This short but brilliant article applies to every merger I have ever witnessed.

Useful Stuff
Tips, Ads and Links
Framework’s One-Page Digest will be launched by the next issue. The Digest is intended as a short email with clickable links to some crucial resouces for Caribbean Executives, produced on a monthly basis.

Current Research Update: Study of Trinidadian Executives Working in Jamaica. We have begun to analyze the data collected, and are falling in love with what we are finding. An idea has come up that we should be looking to a second phase in which we include expatriates from other countries.

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Doing Business with Strangers — Networking 4.0

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A couple of days ago I met a friend, colleague and business partner of mine who lives in Trinidad. We spent all of an hour together. Yet, this was only the second time we have ever met in person.

The Internet has further opened up the possibility of doing business with people that we hardly know, and this is not limited to performing simple transactions. What enables this deeper level of commerce and cooperation is not how well we know other people from first-hand or second-hand sources, but how well we can get to know them from the different sources that exist in cyberspace.

Knowing someone from their Internet “reputation” is very different than knowing that they have certain qualifications or experiences, or hold one position or another.

I am listening to a brilliant, not-so-new
audiobook by Seth Godin called “All Marketers are Liars.” In the book he talks about a company being authentic, and allowing its true character to come across in all communication with the public. An example: some CEO’s have blogs, and these blogs give very powerful insight into the true nature of the company, especially when the blog has an authentic voice. Not surprisingly, those bloggers that insist on trying to “put their best face forward,” are the ones that appear to be the most “faked”. When the blogger is a CEO it puts the entire company at even greater risk.

Successful networking in the Internet age has a great deal to do with having the courage to be authentic in cyberspace, and taking a lead in defining oneself.

The truth is, that if we do not take the lead to do it ourselves, then someone else will do it for us by mentioning that they met or know us, and what their impressions are/were. In other words, we run the risk of being defined by others to our detriment.

Most of the defining will be done by strangers.

Can these strangers be trusted?

Whether or not they can be, they must be interacted with, if we as professionals are at all interested in creating a personal brand that people can trust. If we think about the interactions we are interested in having, we can drive them towards certain outcomes that we have an interest in.

For example, a professional project manager who has an interest in the management of concerts could express it in the formation of a public brand that demonstrates their passion, and expertise. Over time, they could simply corner the market on this brand by generating an Internet and therefore public presence.

What allows this to happen is a skill at interacting with strangers in cyberspace.

This is a skill that I cannot quite name, but it has to do with learning how to make and trust Internet acquaintances, both professional and personal. Kids in their teens get this concept readily — they live in a networked world in which friends are thousands of miles away in other countries, and they communicate with them via IM, email and text messages in real time.

In our day we had something called a Pen Pal — a stranger we got to know by exchanging mail over long distances, and long time periods.

Today, the intervals have been shrunk dramatically.

We have blogs like this one, in which, with the click of a Publish button, anyone in the world can have instant access to any of the thoughts that I wish to share.

The difference is staggering, and the trust required to operate in this new world is quite different from what it ever used to be. Instead of trusting my Pen Pal, I now need to trust millions of people who interact in cyberspace.

The upside of all this instant exposure is that cyberspace can be used to amplify authentic messages — warts and all.

For the professional, deciding to stay away from it all is just not an option. Having no presence on the Internet is a little like not having a telephone — it communicates something about our level of seriousness and professionalism regardless of whether or not that is the message that we wants to send.

The best option, as always, is to be proactive, and to master the medium. There are many ways to get our message and our brand out, but it is up to us to use them to our benefit.

Books I am Reading Now — October

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Someone asked me where I find all the time that I do, to undertake all this reading. Well, given that this month’s reading list looks a lot like August’s should say something about how little reading I have done lately!

Reading List (paper)

  • Words to Our Now by Thomas Glave
  • Presence by Senge, Schwarmer, Jaworski, Flowers
  • A Course in Miracles (text)
  • Culture Matters by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel Huntington
  • Return on Customer by Don Peppers and Martha Roges
  • The Right Move by Delano Franklyn
  • The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block
  • 2 academic journals on Carnival


Listening List (audible.com mp3’s on Creative MuVo Slim)

  • Lectures by Marianne Williamson
  • A mystery novel
  • Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Fast Company Magazine Monthly Summary
  • The Right Use of Power — Peter Block


eBook list (Palm Tungsten eReader or PC)

  • InfoGuru marketing by Robert Middleton
  • Create Your Own Information Products by Alice Seba


Added to my usual list of magazines is a list of ezines:

  • Multisports. com
  • Total Immersion
  • The Economist
  • Active.com
  • MoveOn.org
  • Nerve Insider
  • A new Christianity for a New World
  • ConsultingWire
  • The McKinsey Quarterly
  • Performance Bike…. to name a few


I am also using Google and Yahoo Alerts to tell me when there is any mention of Human Resources and various Caribbean countries. I also look to see where my firm’s name has been mentioned, of late using a Google alert.

Networking Issue 3.0

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Defining Who We Are

A good friend of mine shared with me that she became a lawyer because that was the last application that was left.

While studying for her A-levels as a n 18 year-old , she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation, and when asked by her Guidance Counsellor what she planned to do, she responded with an honest “I don’t know.” Her Guidance Counsellor, who could not allow this particular vacuum of intent to go undisturbed, insisted that she needed to apply somewhere, especially given how bright she was.

They talked over a few ideas, and came up with one, but she had completely run out of applications to the local university for that faculty. However, she did have some remaining applications to the Faculty of Law and… well today my friend is a lawyer.

Or to put it more accurately, a she is lawyer who has no passion for the practice of the law.

What she does have is a secure job in a secure profession that most people would envy. According to the logic of most Caribbean employees, that is more than enough, and “she should be happy.” After all, what more could she want?

While our system of education has tragedy written into its script, with a 16 year old having to choose four subjects on which to “concentrate” to the exclusion of others, there is a wider travesty occurring daily in our societies. People are not working on what they care about. Or, in other words, people find themselves in professions and jobs for which they have no personal passion or belief.

They arrive at work each day, go through the necessary motions and come home in the evenings to demonstrate to their children that one must make do with what one has, and never seek to change anything. If anything, most of one’s effort should be directed towards holding on to what one has.

I will not argue with whether or not this approach to work is right or wrong, but I do know that it has inescapable consequences.

First, it enforces an ongoing mismatch between people and work. If I am too afraid to leave the job I dislike for one I do, then someone else’s interest in this job will never be satisfied. In effect I am blocking them from having it by staying it in myself. Movement from one job to another is a positive thing to be encouraged, in part because brings everyone closer to the work that most satisfies them. Ultimately, this is good for the economy of countries, as productivity has everything to do with job satisfaction, according to Caribbean studies like Why Workers Won’t Work by Kenneth Carter. High quality work is produced most easily by motivated people who want to be in the jobs they have.

Second, it creates organizations of people who are demotivated. The faces of people in our service industry across the region who appear to be suffering are encountered everywhere. They seem to have no interest in what they are doing, and no hope that this job will lead to anything or anyplace new. They seem to be just holding out until it all ends… somdeay.

Thirdly, the next generation of workers (our young people) comes to identify work with drudgery, as opposed to self-fulfillment. Given the lack of psychic rewards they become unwilling to delay the gratification they can get from both entry-level jobs (with an instant paycheck) and criminal activity. There is no bright future in their minds to look forward to in the long-term, and life instead becomes about getting theirs now.

What does this all have to do with networking?

To put it simply, networking occurs most easily and naturally when it is a natural extension of what we love to do. Whereas it is possible to do “logical” networking — doing the things that one is supposed to do — it is much easier to do “passionate” networking, starting with topics and questions that one already has an interest in pursuing.

And this is where networking begins — with an honest assessment of who we are, what we are interested in, and how to make these real or apparent in the listening of others. The best place to start is withareas of authentic interest.

My advice to someone who is not already passionate about what they do is: find something quickly, or resign yourself to a struggle. Who we are will not be denied, not matter how hard we try.

Networking Issue 2.0: Overcoming Fear

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Awhile back I wrote about a willingness to have my ideas stolen and used.

I was reminded of how unreasonable a stand this is in a conversation with a friend of mine who expressed an interest in becoming a consultant. My basic advice was that it was indeed difficult to do well in the profession, but not for the reasons most outsiders think.

The difficulty is related to a question I am asked frequently — how do you market yourself?

Consultants are best known for some area of perceived expertise. When a consultant has really done good work at branding themselves, their name beco
mes synonymous with a field. For example, the name McKinsey & Co. immediately evokes the word strategy, and the phrase “strategy consulting” immediately evokes the name of McKinsey (among others).

However, the association is more than a function of mere advertising, marketing and promotion. These short-cuts just do not work in isolation, and hardly work when the link to be created involves ideas, concepts or thinking — such as “strategy.”

Instead, this kind of relationship takes time to create, and does not come from a billboard. What gets formed over time is an increasingly strong connection between the listening public and the intellectual heart of the firm, consultant or individual.

Intellectual Heart
When a client looks to a consultant for assistance, the implicit assumption is that they are looking to spend their dollars on expertise or knowledge that is uncommon, and specialized. Consultants that provide an average service in every respect will only be hired to do things like fill in manpower shortages. At the highest end, consultants can make themselves unique by developing expertise in the eyes of their clients. This can be done by developing a bundle of 2 things — Questions and Answers.

Marketing
Developing this bundle, and making it available to prospects is the essential marketing a consultant should do. This bundle is the consultant’s Intellectual Heart.

Picture a possible client CEO. She stays awake at nights in her home in Kingstown, St. Vincent, wondering about a new executive that she is thinking of hiring from Chicago. He comes highly recommended, but she wonders about the cultural difference between him – an African American – and the workers in her company.

Will he fit in? How can she prepare him, and her workers, for this very new relationship?

She starts to look for professional help.

The first firm she calls (a large multinational) lets her know that they can find someone in their network of 10,000 consultants world-wide who has done work in this area, and they could fly them in to assist. The person would not have direct experience of Caribbean culture, and might be quite expensive. She is not satisfied with the idea of bringing in another outsider (probably not Black) whose very presence would introduce a new dimension. She mentally puts them on hold.

Next, she calls a solo consultant who assures her that he can do this kind of work. While he sounds quite willing, it sounds to her as if this is the first time he is considering the issue seriously. He can sense the opportunity, but she thinks that he will say anything he can to get the business. When she presses him on the issue, he gives no evidence that he has done any more thinking than she has. His website is vague, and does not mention the topic, even in passing.

On her third attempt she strikes gold. The third company, was referred to her by a friend who happened to hear the CEO mention the topic in passing in a speech to a local Rotary Club. She calls and finds him honest in telling her that they have completed no actual projects in this area.

In fact, all they have been doing for 2 years is thinking about the issue, and what they think companies should do to overcome it. They freely admit that the field is not very well developed.

However, when she listens to them talk about the challenge she is facing, she can hear a distance between where she is and they are in thinking. It almost seems as if they are 2 years ahead. She visits their company website and downloads a white paper on the subject. A short search of their blogs shows some how their thinking has evolved in the past few months. An entertaining recording of an interview of an African American and his Jamaican subordinate tells her that she is right to be concerned.

It is not too hard to see why the CEO would chose the third company in this fictitious example. She was easily able find a place for herself in the Intellectual Heart of the company.

When people ask me how I market my own firm, I find it quite difficult to explain that I want to be like the third firm above. In fact, when I recommend that they consider doing some things along the same lines, what I get back is derision – “You must be mad!” This was the response of my friend who originally shared the interest in becoming a consultant.

Following the retort, often I hear a story from them along the following lines… “I once put my ideas in a proposal, and the client turned around and stole them, implementing them without paying me a cent!”

This reasoning, although widely shared and often repeated, is deeply flawed. Beyond the fact that it is based in a paradigm of fear and scarcity, the ultimate results are the most damning.

Essentially, a consultant who seeks to be successful must become known for their ideas. However, if the fear expressed above is to be believed, the effect is to limit the consultant from ever being seen as a source of ideas. The consultant who tries to save or even worse, protect their ideas will never write a white paper, author a blog, become a columnist, publish a book or give a decent speech. The fear that this thinking generates is enough to stop any bright consultant from becoming recognized, and ever discovering its Intellectual Heart. The same is true for for knowledge professionals in any field, at the individual level.

Over time, I have come to believe that ideas are not mine to own. Instead, they come from the Universe/God, and I am like a television set, transmitting these ideas into the world. If someone uses them, good for them. If not, I don’t care.

I prefer for them to be picked up and used by others, rather than ignored. I prefer to put them out in the world rather than to die with them bouncing around in my private thought-box (i.e. brain.)

After all, my experience has been that the more I write, the more I receive to write. The more ideas I express in writing or speaking, the more I receive.

When I slow down my writing, they come more slowly.

I am therefore quite willing to have my ideas “stolen,” and I see it as the only path to becoming a firm known for having an Intellectual Heart.

The same applies to professionals — there are those who are invisible in their profession, and do not stand out in any way from the sea of mediocrity around them. Then there are those who have the courage to share their ideas, along with the criticism, “stealing” and risks that are involved.

The difficulty in becoming an effective consultant has to do with courage — developing the guts to not just share ideas and thinking, but to invest time in developing them in a serious way, in the face of the existential risk that it might all amount to nothing.

That, I think, is a heck of a surprise to a would-be consultant.