By Herb Watson, CEO and President
On LinkedIn, I published an article sharing 7 things I’d learned since starting a professional services consulting business. As I thought about how to show up differently in 2017, I wanted to ensure that members of our corporate family understood what was important to ensure success as a consultant. So as new employees join our family, here are 7 things I plan to tell them.
1. Maintain a Team-First Attitude
As a member of the team, nobody is bigger than the team, the team is always first. Sometimes the team needs you to catch it, run it, throw it, kick it, and sometimes the team needs you to just block. Be versatile and stretch yourself as required. In my business, closing contracts isn’t considered very glamorous work but it’s much needed. If you’ve got to close contracts, strive to be the best closer of contracts as possible, exceed the standard requirement. Highlight your value through your willingness to execute jobs that are perceived as less than glitzy. As with NFL teams during the preseason, teams need to trim down the roster from +90 to 53 players and the same sometimes applies to professional services companies when contracts are lost. Remember, management is sometimes faced with the difficult task of who stays and who’s separated.
"Make sure you do what it takes early on to survive roster cuts."
2. Understand Your Client Environment
First and foremost, understand who the real players are in the organization and don’t get caught up in office politics. When you start a project, spend some time simply observing the players and how they interact and where tension exists. This will help form your interaction baseline - what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. When I was an Army Captain, I indirectly worked for a Major that would rip someone to shreds if they appeared to question his authority in any way and for their choice of words. During my observation period, I realized he was a one-on-one leader and if I engaged him one-on-one, I always got what I wanted. I laugh about it now, but I soon learned the importance of word choices. For example, it would be better to say “deliberate verses slow”. I also realized he was a real player and he was the one that had to be satisfied. There was lots of office chatter regarding his style but I made it a point to stay away from the politics surrounding him. My dad always said “sometimes the less you know about something the better off you are.”
"Remember you have two eyes, two ears and one mouth for a reason."
3. Quality is a Big Deal
Don’t fool yourself, quality really, really matters. Everything you do must be your absolute best with a keen focus on quality. Quality is more than just a sound bite that plays well for the masses. As a professional, your ability to deliver high quality work products sets you apart from others and leads to a more enriched professional environment. Don’t be afraid to get a second set of eyes on your deliverable and be glad when a co-worker finds deficiencies. That’s much better than your client pointing out shortcomings. When practical and feasible, build in review cycles for all your deliverables. Understand that sometimes detailed reviews can be tough due to operational tempo. If that scenario arises, take time later to review your work product to see where you can improve. Delivery of high quality work products indicate a deep sense of caring about your professional reputation. Never settle for mediocrity.
"Clients remember quality and, believe it or not, they keep score."
4. Show up as a Consultant and not a Butt in a Seat
Don’t be a butt in a seat that shows up every day, keeps your head down and simply does whatever the client wants. Show up as a consultant and look for ways to help make your clients organization better. Think of it like this, don’t just help gather the horses once they’re out of the corral, figure a way to keep them from getting out. Clients appreciate when the support staff demonstrates a genuine interest in their success and has the ability to analyze and advise them in making the best possible decisions. I remember my first consulting project where I convinced the client to convert a spreadsheet into a database. As a result, my client could quickly generate management reports and had better insight into policy and training gaps. Use your problem-solving skills daily to get the job done and make clients happy.
"Keep your head up and eyes open,
look for opportunities to be a difference maker."
5. Give Back to the Company
During John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961, he made this famous quote, “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”. Realize there’s a reasonable expectation that you give back to the company. Demonstrate your value by stepping out of your comfort zone no matter where you are in your career. Make it known, you’re willing to contribute to the corporate family’s success. For example, help with the holiday party, write a section for a proposal, lead a training session, or identify a new business opportunity. A few months back I asked one of our employees to participate in our proposal review process. She jumped at the opportunity and she showed up at our corporate summer party with materials in hand ready to work. Believe it or not, a group of seasoned employees had a lively discussion on the direction we should go with our proposal submission. While I won’t encourage working at a party, I will admit the discussion participants had a great time engaging each other’s expertise. Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
"Get engaged and don’t make it a one-time event."
6. Help Other Corporate Family Members
No matter what, always extend a helping hand to members of your corporate family. Everybody struggles on the job from time-to-time and it doesn’t feel good when it happens to you. I once read, “the greatest success we’ll know is helping others grow and succeed”. We’re playing a team sport and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A successful team is built on the foundation of trust, encouragement, and patience - it has no room for a “me first mindset”. If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to raise your hand no matter what the situation is. Learn who the experts are within the company and learn what resources are offered by the company to assist you with your challenges. Once you’ve figured it out, as appropriate, share what you’ve learned because someone else is most likely challenged in the same way.
"Get a little exercise by extending a helping hand to lift someone up."
7. Know Your Company’s Capabilities and Values
This is easy, you can simply go to the company’s web-site to obtain that information. Make sure you understand the full scope of your company’s capabilities. Don’t just say we do X. Perhaps you can say we do X which is enabled by A, B, C and D. This is important because when opportunity knocks, you’ll always be prepared. I’ve been in a couple of situations where clients faced real challenges and I could articulate our company’s capabilities which resulted in additional resources. It gets better. In one case, the resources added helped save jobs for 3 people who were about to be unemployed. Knowing the corporate values are equally important, because they are the underpinnings of corporate ethical conduct. Values are not just a tag catchy tag-line, it drives employees to do their best while doing what’s right. We spent a lot of time thinking about values because we wanted them to be the foundation of our corporate culture.
"Know your stuff, especially what helps pay the bills."
I’ll certainly talk about completing your time sheets, taking time off, and the company handbook but I feel like the above topics are important to share. As always, people are my first-priority and my goal is to ensure our family of employees are well prepared to experience success.
Finally, here’s a quote by Sybil F. Stershic that sums it up,
“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.
And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”
I am glad you joined the team.