Friday, September 11, 2015

Bridging the know-how gap with consultants

Clear-cut Thoughts

First things first: Since quite a while I had stopped writing on my blogs. One reason is that I am focused on building THE FLOAD™ together with my cofounders. Another reason is that I needed to decide on whether and how to continue my writing.

In the past I wrote about Leadership topics. That will continue. From time to time I did also pick up other topics in a different blog. 

‘Clear-cut Thoughts’ on is my new publication where my writing is consolidated in one place.

Maybe you will find some similarities you are experiencing as well. And maybe it will then trigger some critical thinking with you.

In any case enjoy the ride. Read at your own risk.

Walter H Groth

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Bridging the know-how gap with consultants
It’s amazing how easily money is spent for consulting services. Even by leaders normally careful with spending the company’s money. That’s right, it’s not your money but your organization’s.
As a leader in your organization it is your responsibility to spend the organization’s money wisely. That’s true for the C-level and as well for anyone else in a leadership position. And that’s true for political leaders spending the taxpayers money.
The organization’s money must only be spent according to strategy and goals. That includes solving problems that appear along the road. An implicitness often ignored. Hence, the leader’s job.
Many people in leadership or management positions, unfortunately for their organizations, have the reflex to look for external consultants when a problem appears. The easy way out. That’s when rational thought goes out the window and speculation starts. And it adds to the drama. Yet, you as a leader are in charge to do what’s required in the first place.
First, it is of the utmost importance to find and analyze the root cause of your problem. You and your team are the resident specialists. You know more than anyone else from the outside possibly can. Thus, you need to establish the facts during your investigation. You need to understand your data. That’s how you establish credibility in yourself and your team.
When consultants are hired it’s an alarming sign that some leader can’t do her job. I don’t care when you claim that your team failed. Your team failing is YOU as a leader failing. You didn’t do the job you are paid for. And now you want to spend money on top of your salary to fix your problem.
Consultants happily come in and promise you the crown jewels. And you are more than happy to buy into their story. After all you will appear proactive in the eyes of your leaders, won’t you?
You are proudly working on the solution, right? Wrong. In most cases, not in all though, you are covering up your own shortcomings. My advice to you: Get your shit done!
Consultants are not responsible for solving your problem. You are! You have to do the job and not they. They are responsible to adding to the bottom line of their consulting company. Their job is not doing your job. They are salespeople paid to bring in revenue to their company.
Their revenue goals are pretty hefty. Their commission and / or bonus is depending directly on that. And boy do they want to get their commission. Hence, whatever it takes they will do.
One more thing:
Don’t listen to the babble of consultants who, more often than not, have not the slightest clue what the words really mean they are using. Many of them are avid buzzword illusionists and most of you are an easy prey.
Keep in mind that consulting companies too have to come up with a new product / revamped service each and every year. To them nothing is more obsolete than last year’s chatter. Their new program is what’s in the automotive industry is the ‘new model year’. Not really necessary, yet, it sells.
Well, now let’s assume that you are still pondering to bring in a consultant / adviser. Then, at least, observe the following:
Only consider the best consultants around in their specialty. And keep a watchful eye on those making the most noise. Claiming that they are the most important, the most influential (“I am one hell of a networker”), simply the best. Except they aren’t. Truly remarkable, influential, and important people don’t have to talk about that. Class and style speaks for itself.
“Trust one who has gone through it.” ~ Virgil
Before you sign a contract to hire a consultant ask them that:
Have you yourself actually done what you are talking about? And if so
  • how much time did you spend performing the job you are providing advice about?
You claim that your methods are “world-class proven methods”.
  • Hence, it would be safe to assume your own consulting company is using your methods, right?
  • May I ask you then to show me your company’s performance of the last 5 years?
Since you claim that your methods are so awfully successful, would it be safe to assume that you:
  • would guarantee at least a 10x return on your annual fee you charge
  • would commit to that in the contract?
  • would agree on a penalty if you can’t deliver?
If any one of these points is declined, the meeting is over. Waste of your time.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Incompetence, Ineptitude, Audaciousness, and Downright Stupidity

Not one single day goes by without some bloody incompetent people in leadership positions creating a mess.
Mind you, I didn't say they are leaders. They just happen to be in such positions. Some of them were elected. Some of them believe they were elected. The 'Professionals' of them make people believe they were elected.
Others were put into their positions. Usually because of being part of a pack. Put there to protect the flanks of the pack leader. The wing men. The masters of ‘winging it’.
And then there are the self proclaimed leaders of whatever they believe they are leading. If nothing else they hijack the title 'thought leader'. Derived from their conviction "And I thought I am a leader".
What are the common denominators?
First, there is the horseshit they are leaving behind consistently. Second, there is the stupidity of people letting them do their spiel. Third, those people actually believing the horseshit.
Want to hear examples? Here you go and you know them all:
The Political Sector:
Greece. What about Greece? Well, they’re broke. As simple as that. Not an exciting perspective though. But that’s the way it is. And that’s what one has to deal with talking about solutions.
Here are some examples of what the political ‘leaders’ are trying to do:
Renaming it. Instead of ‘broke’ you can call it for instance ‘temporary cash shortage’. Where ‘temporary’ stands for ‘forever’. The idea is to make it sound nicer. Gives these politicians a warm and fuzzy feeling of being in control.
‘Gamifying’ it. By pretending that you are just in a big game and using everything at hand that game theory offers. Also known as “Varoufuckthis”.
Denying it. You tell yourself and others it’s not there. Even if it’s right in your face. If you do that for an extended period of time you might even start to believe your own bullshit.
And here’s is what true leaders would do:
You acknowledge the problem. Greece is broke. Means plain and simple that no one is getting his money back. The money is gone. Period.
And then you start from there. Greece being broke is a consequence of a series of different root causes. Most of those are well known. Inside Greece. Inside the EU. Inside the IMF. No repair will do the trick. You gotta disrupt this spiral and start from scratch. After all the ‘Marshall Plan’ for Europe is quite a good example of how to tackle and solve such a problem.
It’s complex, it’s complicated, and it can be solved. Less political bullshit and instead more science-based critical thinking is required. Add to that some empathy with the Greek people. That would be a good start of showing leadership.
The Private Sector:
The private sector, companies, are no better off with their people in leadership positions. Not in all, but in many cases.
Take for instance the banks. Always good examples for failed leadership. And ‘failed leadership’ only mildly expresses what’s really going on. Besides the ‘financial crises’ (by now almost everyone has heard about that) there are things like the manipulation of the Libor rate or massive tax evasion / fraud. And the list goes on. Based on greed ending up in criminal activities.
And it’s not just the banks. Just look at all these cases of corruption, money laundry, fraud, dishonesty, etc. that are exposed day in and out. And those are only the cases we are made aware of.
And the common denominator here is that the Top-Leaders usually just didn’t know. These poor guys were simply let in the dark by their own people. Imagine that. Imagine how bad that might make them feel. Here’s my take: either you didn’t know, which makes you totally incompetent and stupid. Or, you did know and lied. Either way you disqualified yourself as a leader. Hence, step down.
Here’s one more. One of my favorites.
The Advisers:
It’s not just about the top ‘leaders’ in politics or the private sector. There are also cohorts of people taking others for a ride. The simple purpose? Making money out of you. They call themselves advisers. Or use similar names. And with their advice they lead. Lead their clients to spend even more money in mostly useless stuff. And the best thing is: nothing is older and more obsolete than last year’s advice. Advising is big business.
The best way to sound important is to make it look extremely difficult. Part of the recipe is using always the latest buzzwords. Another ingredient is making it look like it would be science. Grabbing whatever concept of science. Ripping it out of context and making it fit your purpose. Anything goes. Especially when it comes to sales. They talk. Talk you a hole in your knee. Because they can.
A graduate student of theoretical physics summed it up nicely the other day: “When I read what they write about the sales process I know why I am studying theoretical physics. It’s infinitely easier to understand.”
How to find out whether an adviser is worth the money?
Ask these simple questions:
  • Do you have any personal work experience in the matter you are teaching and how extensive is it?
  • What is your personal success rate / track record with applying what you teach?
  • Assuming you are using what you preach in your company. Could you show me your numbers of the last 5 years?
If they refuse to answer at all or their answers are not satisfying tell them to get the fuck outta here!
The Importance and Power of The Followers:
Followers, often unbeknownst to them, are indeed playing an important role. Your following makes the leader a leader. You choose whom to follow and whom not. That is in your power. And with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibility of choosing with care. Applying critical thinking in the process. Questioning motives, competence, experience, etc. An ongoing process.
Also, you can decide to ‘unfollow’. And you should stop following if the particular leader fails to deliver. This is your right and your duty. It’s not good enough to ‘feel bad’ about something. It’s important to speak up loud and clear. Yes, you might lose some ‘friends’ in this process. Yet, on the upside you gain respect and a few true friends.
Followers are important. They make or break leaders.
Use your power wisely. But use it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Understanding Matters

Day after day we are inundated with an unbelievable amount of 'information junk'. Opinions are raised and declared to be facts lacking even the most basic data substantiating their claims.
You see that in the press, in the news, in talk shows. It happens in meetings,
in conferences, and in seminars. People up on stage talking carelessly about matters they don't have the slightest clue of. Telling others what they should do or shouldn't do. What works and what doesn't. Only to be topped by brainless speculations untainted by any knowledge.
And they love arguing over their rubbish with others equally ignorant, incompetent participants. Desperate self-promoting D-celebrities ripe for the jungle camp. Busy with building their image. Whatever image. It doesn't matter. Their motto is “Get me out of here, I am a show star!”

Kim Kardashian distilled that to its very essence: tweeting a selfie of her bare ass is worth more than a thousand words, or a zillion clicks and likes. And maybe that's more entertaining than listening to the bullshit. More than it says about her though it speaks loud and clear about the the intellectual level of the audience.
And when a few people have a profound understanding of the subject matter others haven’t, that usually triggers aggression. They are accused of all sorts of things. For instance, if you make an effort to truly understand Russia and Mr. Putin, you are accused of approving what they do. A Putin pleaser. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding the subject matter before making any kind of comments is what true leaders do.
Understanding has different meanings though:

  1. the knowledge and ability to judge a particular situation or subject
  2. an informal agreement
  3. a willingness to understand people's behavior and forgive them

It doesn’t mean that I like something someone else is doing or saying. Let alone approving it. It means that I get to know the ‘why’, the motives, behind someone’s actions.
Let’s stay for a moment with Russia and Mr. Putin’s actions. What is it that drives him? What’s the rationale? Is there any rationale at all? Why is he doing what he is doing? What are his motives? Who has influence over him? What’s the history? How do the other players fit in the picture? Those and many more are questions a leader must raise. That’s what provides the knowledge and ability to judge the situation. That's what gets you to a more realistic assessment of what they might be up to.
Or take the case of Greece. A new government armed with overly optimistic assumptions. Meaning well, for the benefit of doubt. Yet, under enormous pressure to 'win their case'. Desperately. And then they run into creditors tired of listening and poised to prevail with their position. And they too are under enormous pressure. A recipe for disaster to happen. Greece is broke. Period. Yet, instead of looking into the data, making sense of it and understand, they choose to be pissed off by ridiculous incidents. And they love the public stage and relentlessly giving interviews. Steadfast ignoring the problem. The Titanic is sinking and they choose to rearrange the deck chairs. Emotion goes up and intelligence goes down. And reason is nowhere to be seen.
The more data you know, the better your understanding can become. And ‘data’ also includes how people may feel about something and why. Many factors hidden deep in the psyche of a person have a strong influence over their actions. Only then can you commence with a thorough predictive analysis. Only then can you get an idea what they might be capable of doing.
Here’s is an example: think about the following characteristics of a person:
mentally strong, focused, concentrated, charismatic, charming. Quite congenial it seems. Now think about these characteristics: reckless, narcissistic, egoistic, no empathy. Rather not so likeable. Yet, both groups of characteristics (according to psychological studies) are the prominent properties of psychopaths.
Understanding matters. And for leaders even more. And in order to understand you must first know the data, the facts. Once you know get your critical thinking into gear. That includes understanding people’s behavior. Empathy expressly required. Once you come to a conclusion let it be challenged by those who also studied the case in depth. That, hopefully, would be your team you surrounded yourself with. A team of other critical thinkers not shy about challenging your findings.
Do that before you speak up and comment about the matter in question.
And if you happen to lead a meeting, a seminar, a conference, a talk show always remember that it is you, the host, who is in charge. Hence, do yourself and the audience a favor and stop the shameless self promoters. Even better: don’t invite them and let them waste your and the audience’s time.

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