How the Client Senses the Consultant Spy

consultant spy
The consultant spy

In the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the 5th book of the insanely popular series by J. K. Rowling, a new teacher is introduced. Professor Umbridge becomes a formidable antagonist in the story.

She is appointed by Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, initially as a teacher of Defense against the Dark Arts. She later becomes Headmaster of Hogwarts. During her tenure, she was known to hold a clipboard as she observed the students’ behavior, taking notes, but not revealing any of her thoughts.
Continue reading

How Conflicting Objectives Cause Office Politics

conflicting objectives
Conflicting objectives leads to office politics

On the morning of January 5th, Tom Parks, director of application development, filed into the company auditorium with the rest of his co-workers to hear the president give his “state of the company” speech. It was a routine Tom knew well. The president gave this presentation annually during the first week of the year. He spoke at length about Morrison Manufacturing’s performance over the past year. He thanked all of the employees for their hard work and talked about how bright the future looked. This opened the door for him to present his audience with the company’s top objectives for the coming year.

The president proudly announced that in the year ahead, Morrison Manufacturing will:
Continue reading

Consulting Downside: Separation Anxiety

consulting downside
A consulting downside

When I began interviewing with companies during my senior year of college, it was important for me to find a company that had a good culture. I had an outgoing personality and liked to have fun. I wanted a corporate culture that closely matched my personality.

Consulting upside

I interviewed with consulting firms and other business organizations. I was lucky to find a consulting firm for my first job that had the culture I was looking for. After a few weeks of orientation, I came back to the office for a couple more weeks, waiting for an assignment. I had some time to develop some relationships with people in our office. Some of them were in the office full-time (overhead), while some of the people were consultants like me waiting to get their next assignment.
Continue reading

Is That an Employee or Consultant?

employee or consultant
Is that an employee or consultant?

When I started my career in consulting, I was part of a consulting team. We went to the client and worked as a blended team where there were approximately half of us as consultants and half as client employees.

It wasn’t long until I realized that some of the folks that I considered client employees were actually consultants, either independent contractors or employed with other firms. I didn’t know if a person was an employee or consultant.
Continue reading

The 3 Types of Consulting Approaches

consulting approaches
3 different consulting approaches

If you mention to someone that you are a consultant, you tend to get a wide variety of responses. You can usually tell immediately whether the person has had a good experience with consultants by their response. If there is a pregnant pause as they try to think of something positive to say about consultants, it’s a sign that they are not impressed. If they abruptly change the subject, they either don’t know what consulting means or they have already decided that they hate you with a passion.
Continue reading

A High Status Workspace is Not Usually Given to a Consultant

High Status workspace
Where you sit often shows your status in the organization

We see evidence of status all over the work place.  The boss in the corner office; larger, more comfortable chairs for management; and cubicles by the window for people with more seniority.

There are companies who try to remove the haughty symbols of status in attempts to make everyone equal.  I heard of a company once who, when redesigning their office space, made all of the offices the same size.  That way, the CEO and the low-level manager had the same sized office.  No status there.  Except that the higher someone’s level in the company, the larger his or her office plant was.

The high status workspace seems to be the most visible status symbols in most offices.  Some companies have policies regarding seating arrangements.  Based on one’s level, there is a specified number of square feet the executive’s office should be.
Continue reading

The Best Route to Success – Incremental Gains

Advancing your career success
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I remember an old cartoon of a reporter asking a famous star, “How do you account for your overnight success?” To which the star responded, “Twenty years of hard work.”

In our current, reality-TV world, there are people who become household names in a very short time. I have found, though, that that type of fame is often short-lived.

Overnight success in the business world is rare.  You might argue that there are people like Mark Cuban. He created a website, sold it for billions and is now owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. He’s also a “shark” on the popular TV show Shark Tank.

While Cuban has become a poster child for internet success, his wasn’t overnight. He putting himself through business school at Indiana University. Then he worked as a bartender and a software salesman. After being fired from the software company, he started his own company. Seven years later, he sold the company, for which he made about $2 million. He started another company, Audionet in 1995, which became His company grew throughout the dot-com craze in the late 90s. He then sold it in 1999 to Yahoo for $5.7 billion.
Continue reading

Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?

Baseball manager analogy for bad leader
Good manager, bad leader

The baseball coach was frustrated with his team. They just weren’t executing. When they were up to bat, they couldn’t buy a hit. The pitchers gave up too many hits. Even when the pitching was good, the fielders made errors that cost the team too many runs.

The coach hated it when the errors happened. He would throw his clipboard down on the ground, cuss, and yell at the offender, humiliating them in front of both teams and their spectators.  Nobody knew if the coach thought that kind of behavior motivated people or if he just couldn’t help himself. He was a poor leader.

The frustrating thing was that he had won a lot of games in his career. Was that behavior what led him to achieve success?  Or was it really success?
Continue reading

How to Create Your Personal Brand

Create a unique and powerful personal brand
Your personal brand is your business fingerprint

Early in my career, I worked for a small consulting firm as a software developer. I liked the company and I like the work.  I had a very supportive manager.  Perhaps because of those factors, and some credit to my small town, mid-western roots, I worked hard on my projects. I put in long hours and ate at a lot of food out of paper bags from carry-out restaurants.

I was there just short of four years before the company went out of business. Another consulting firm came in within days to interview anyone who was interested. I interviewed with them and was hired by them.  I learned later that when they talked to my boss about me, he told them “Lew will do whatever it takes to get the project done right and on time.”
Continue reading

101 Tips for Success in Consulting