How You Can Stop Hiring Expensive Consultants, Even Though you Won’t.
Every once in a while I sit back in awe that I get paid $200 an hour (give or take) for doing some pretty basic shit for my clients. The fundamental reality is, the privileged get to outsource all the things they don’t want to do themselves (child-rearing, housework, running organizations.) This post is akin to articles that outline how to lose weight or have a happy marriage — most of us know the key components, but we simply lack the discipline to actually do the things it takes to get us there. So, I will share with you the very obvious things I do that help me impress my clients and deliver them top work. But, by all means feel free to continue to pay me to do these very simple (and for me, fun!) things because you just don’t think you can or want to.
- Read. I read a lot. I read about 30 articles a day, even on weekends. I read about topics that are of interest to me and that I am thinking about for my clients. Once you read a few items on a topic, your news algorithm does the finding for you — you just keep clicking and reading. Taking in content lets me stay current on topics, gives me insights to share in conversation, as well as facts to inform my thinking. There are so many smart people doing things and gathering data — why would I not gleefully consumer what they have to offer?
- Listen. I ask questions more than I make statements when I am trying to understand a problem. The biggest misstep I see my clients struggle with is working after a BHAG, let’s say “improving employee experience,” and failing to actually ask any employees what would improve their experience. I work on many projects where I have to gently remind my client that if they want to know what people want, they simply have to ask — and then do those things. It takes time, yes, but listening with an open mind and giving people the space to be heard gains you so much ground in trust and also information to “get it right.”
- Think. I schedule time on my calendar every week to think about the things I am working on. It’s a sacred time. It allows me to connect dots and be proactive. I can identify places where I can create efficiency in my week. I spend time asking myself what are my clients not able to see about the challenges they are trying to solve. It is my strategic hour — no doing, just thinking. The value gained in this one hour is 3x times what I get in an hour of doing.
- Network/CrowdSource. I don’t try to be the hero of every challenge. I have a trusted network of colleagues and resources that at any time I can pose a question and get a response or materials to be used for my topic. I can curate what exists and then add my own flavor or spin to it to better customize for my situation — but I try to never come at anything from scratch. I also love to see what comes up — people might point me in directions of things I would never connect before.
- Apply. This connects to each of the four steps before. I try out things I read. I create action plans based on what I hear. I use my thinking to inform some sort of progress. I collect and use the things I get from my networks. In other words, I pull in what I learn and hear about into my own context (and for my clients) and I do something with it. I proactively ask myself when I read an article — who else might find this useful? Where can I try this approach? How can I communicate what trends I am hearing when i talk to employees? In some way there is a karmic cycle here — the more I get, the more I try to return to a different context. It’s not valuable to only absorb. There has to be a follow through action of some kind.
Consultants are not rocket scientists, and clients aren’t dummies, either. Consultants have the luxury of getting paid to do the things that you probably just don’t have the time to do. But in case you’re feeling aspirational, now you know the “secret” formula. In the meantime, I am happy to continue to be your human shortcut and continue to cash checks for doing things I love to do. It’s truly a win-win scenario.