Consulting is a Lifestyle

It’s a small world after all.

When I first joined professional services, I was told consulting isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. At the time, I had only an inkling of what that means. This week, after nine years in professional services, I have come to truly understand what that advice means.  

One major benefit of working in professional services is the exposure it provides to different regions, industries, and types of companies. It is so much fun to hear what people are focused on and trying to achieve. I have the luxury of being with a firm who invests in professional development and thought leadership. While we work at an intense pace, with tight deadlines and high expectations, I love the diversity of experiences I’m afforded.

This week, I had the honor of attending two very different conferences in two very different places- one was a major technology conference (Gartner Symposium) in Orlando, Florida and the other was for Corporate Communication leaders (Page Up) in San Francisco, California. They both focused on:

  • The ubiquity of business transformation fueled by digital transformation
  • The need to lead in times of ambiguity and change
  • The importance of building cross-functional relationships and collaborating on initiatives in the gray space (those areas that don’t fall squarely on one executive function)
  • The importance of mission and purpose in organizations and in life
  • The need to manage your own energy as well as that of your organization for the long game

While these two groups generally come very different backgrounds, possess very different skillsets, and have discrete functional responsibilities, they are struggling with very similar issues. They each bring value to these issues in their own unique ways. It was a privilege to see both contrasts and similarities in just one week. 

What saddened and surprised me, however, was the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) undertones of us versus them- not about the external competition in the marketplace, but about their own colleagues!  I heard so many disparaging remarks about the CXO who “doesn’t get it,” the peer in the organization who is “such a bottleneck.” How much “smarter” this group is versus that group. 

I had a long flight in between these events –  5 hours and 20 minutes from Orlando to San Francisco to be exact. I worked on the plane. I reviewed some thought leadership we are creating at Gagen MacDonald. I reviewed some client work for an upcoming kickoff and our revised project development process. Each of these required bringing people with very different backgrounds and expertise together to get the best result. Each would be easier to do alone with one approach and line of thinking. 

It’s Friday, and I am thinking about what I learned this week and how to put it into practice:

  • Curiosity may have killed the cat, but isolation and elitism kills innovation.
  • You know what you know, but you can’t know what “they” know – whoever “they” are to you. Talk to them with an open mind – a growth mindset – and let them teach you something. We have all heard the saying, “If you want to be interesting, be interested.” At least all of my mother’s children have heard that! 
  • Have lunch with someone you think is clueless and really listen. Mindful listening – have no ready response, don’t try to convince them of anything. Seek first to understand, as Stephen Covey would say.
  • Open up your aperture – read something you would never read, follow someone you think is crazy, learn something you think you can’t understand.
  • There are many kinds of smart – value them all.
  • Have some fun – give yourself permission to goof off – being busy is overrated. Change is not going to slow down, so we each need to take time to care for ourselves and recharge. Get some sleep, laugh, eat well and get outside for some exercise. We will all be better for it.

By doing these things, you will see that Disney is not wrong. People are people, we all want the same things in the end, and it really is a small world after all.