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Vol. 11 No. 2 - February 2012

Andrew Sobel

Interview: Andrew Sobel

Author of Power Questions

"The art is to build into your questions a knowledge of your subject and a knowledge of the client's business."

Get our podcast interview with Andrew Sobel.

Also in This Month's Issue

The Ideal Client

In the News: Quick Takes

Daniel Goleman: Lead with Emotional Intelligence

Checking the Foundation

Is Your Price Right?

CEOs Look at the Global Economy

Coming Attractions: Glenn Yeffeth



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The Ideal Client

At some point, you'll do a project that doesn't thrill you. Maybe you've done similar work too many times before, or maybe the client is tough to work with. It happens.

But if you find yourself doing that kind of work more than once or twice a year, you owe it to yourself to make a change. Projects that bring you down can also end consulting careers. Plus, life is too short and the work too intense to tolerate dreadful projects.

Too often, we chase projects that we can do, instead of looking for those that we want to do. Yes, I know--we all have to pay the bills, so sometimes we take on work that isn't exactly exhilarating.

Still, you've got to keep your "ideal" client in the back of your mind and strive to find work you really value. Can you articulate the characteristics of your ideal client? Could you imagine a project or a client you'd work for without pay? I'm not suggesting that you'd ever do that, but it's a great way to guide your thinking and your marketing efforts.

What drives long-term success (and keeps you sane) in this business is working with the clients who inspire your best thinking, keep you learning, and pay you well. Draw those clients to you, and watch your enthusiasm pick up, your energy improve, and your impact grow.

Who's your ideal client?

Enjoy this month's issue, and send me an email with your comments.

P.S. If you haven't visited our web site in the last month or so, have a look at the redesign we've been working on and let me know what you think.

Michael W. McLaughlin, Editor
Author of Winning the Professional Services Sale and Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants
Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

Stay in touch


In the News: Quick Takes

Here's a roundup of news items, trends, and market data that I've come across recently.

Tim Berry, business planning specialist, gives us The Top Ten Business Plan Mistakes. You can also read an article he wrote for us about business planning for consultants.

Over the past 30 years, Tom Peters has given more than 2,500 presentations. That's a lot of time on the stage (and in airports). Peters now plans to publish a 23-part "mega-presentation" called "Excellence Now." Every two weeks in 2012, he will release one section of the presentation materials in PowerPoint format. You can see Peters in a short video giving you a preview of what's to come.

Facebook has become a target for cyber crime. You might want to consider these tips to keep your account safe.

Here are Gartner's predictions for the IT sector in 2012 and beyond.

Want to be more organized? Try cutting in half the time you spend organizing yourself.

"No" is the new "yes." Here are four practices to re-prioritize the things in your life.

What are the best US airports for business travelers?

Harvard's Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin released the findings of their study on US competitiveness, Prosperity at Risk.

The unintended consequence of open office concepts, project teams, and group learning: Reduced creativity. Some privacy in the workplace makes us far more productive.

Daniel Goleman: Lead with Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, and the co-author of Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Goleman was a science reporter for the New York Times, and received the American Psychological Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. His latest book, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, is a collection of his key findings on leadership.

I asked Goleman three questions about the importance of emotional intelligence for leaders.

McLaughlin: Many consultants, though responsible for delivering results, often don't have the authority to make all the decisions that impact those results. Any advice on how a consultant can lead in that environment?

Goleman: This dilemma--needing to get people to take action while having no direct line of authority--is epidemic in matrixed organizations everywhere. So consultants can use the same tactics as anyone who must lead indirectly.

One key is persuasion and influence, an emotional intelligence competence that has several levels. For starters, there's making a persuasive argument. This requires knowing what matters to the person you're talking with--what his or her motivations and needs are--and using that as the starting point.

But it also entails moment-to-moment empathy, being able to read the nonverbal, to know if your argument is working--or the person's eyes are glazing over and switching tactics. Powerful stories are another part of excellence in this competence.

Beyond making a persuasive case, you have to know who to make the case to. Who are the emergent leaders in the group, that is, those whose opinions everyone takes seriously (not always the designated leaders)? At the higher levels of this competence, you know who the key players are, are able to persuade them, and have them deliver the message.

McLaughlin: In your experience, what's the most common mistake that leaders make?

Goleman: Perhaps the common cold of leadership these days is a lack of empathy--that is, tuning out the emotional reactions of the people you are trying to lead. The art of leadership requires strong interpersonal radar, to pick up on how people actually feel about your message and your leadership.

The Type A leader who charges off in a direction and expects everyone to follow, but has no idea how people are reacting, may end up charging up the hill alone. Stopping to pay full attention allows deep listening. And in today's hectic leadership world, with so many constant distractions, that is a dying art.

Another common mistake is tuning out your own stress. Leadership creates its own pressures and hassles. For one, many leaders become isolated as they rise, with fewer and fewer confidants with whom to mull over problems or blow off steam.

For another, leaders are often held to targets not of their own making, which may not be realistic. Or they have to get to their own targets with insufficient resources in time, money, personnel, etc. If your ignore that stress, you can easily end up in "frazzle," the brain state of constantly pumping out stress hormones that shrink the capacity of your executive brain to make good decisions.

Every leader needs time and a method to decompress from his or her daily routine; if you can't control the external sources of stress, at least you can control how you react.

McLaughlin: Are there common misconceptions about the characteristics of effective leaders?

Goleman: Some hold with the stereotype that an effective leader is just "nice," on the one hand, or must be dictatorial, on the other. In fact, the leaders who get the best results tend to be a combination of firm and authoritative as needed, but also supportive and warm--in other words, emotionally intelligent.

Find out more about Daniel Goleman. You might also be interested in our podcast, Daniel Goleman: New Insights on Emotional Intelligence.

Checking the Foundation
House of Cards

If you've ever bought or sold a house, you know that, as part of the deal, a home inspection will have to be done so buyers know what they're getting into. The inspector assesses the foundation of the house, the walls, floors, plumbing, and so on. Then, you get a report on ways to shore up the place.

As you kick off the New Year, take some time for a structural inspection of your business. In many cases, you'll find that the key to better performance is in making small changes to how you do business, not in implementing some grand new strategy.

To find those opportunities, turn your attention to three parts of your business: your intellectual property (or content), your marketing approach, and your service offer.

Read the rest of the article in The Guerrilla Consultant.

Is Your Price Right?

You may be reluctant to tinker with the fees you charge, especially given the tough market many of your clients face. Still, it's good to look at how you're pricing your services to see if there's room for improvement.

Your expertise (and value to clients) grows over time. Often, though, fees lag behind that growth. Most consultants I meet are pricing their services too modestly for the value they provide. And they perpetuate the problem by promoting themselves as the leader in their field with a "reasonable" price.

Savvy clients don't expect low fees for the services of real experts. They know that when hiring consultants, they get what they pay for.

When was the last time you changed your fees? If it's been more than a year, it's time to consider a change.

You might worry that you will wreck your competitive position if you change your fees in a tight market. But remember, the state of the economy won't impact clients' perceived value of your services--assuming you've done a good job expressing that value.

To decide if you need to rethink your fee strategy, ask yourself one question: Is the value you bring to your business keeping pace with the value you're bringing to the market?

CEOs Look at the Global Economy

Researchers at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) asked more than 1,200 CEOs from 60 countries about their level of confidence in the global economy.

Many of them (48%) said the global economy would "become worse" in the next 12 months. However, 45% of these same CEOs are "very confident" that their own companies will meet growth targets.

In other words, CEOs are saying, "We’ll be fine, but the global economy won’t be."

In the US anyway, it's easy to understand why CEOs believe they'll meet their goals: Corporate profit margins haven't been higher since the 1960s. The US GDP rose by 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2011, and consumer confidence is rising.

The PwC report tells the story of what CEOs believe is wrong--without offering much in the way of a remedy. Still, it's worth looking at. If nothing else, you'll get a glimpse into the collective mindset of the people who are guiding the world's largest businesses.

Coming Attractions: Glenn Yeffeth
Glenn Yeffeth

One of the questions I hear most frequently from my clients and readers is, "How I can get a book published?"

Next month, I'll talk to Glenn Yeffeth, publisher and CEO of BenBella Books, about that question. Glenn is a former management consultant who started his publishing business in 2001. Since then, BenBella Books has thrived as a boutique publishing company for a select group of authors.

I'll ask Glenn what he looks for as he evaluates authors and their book topics, how changes in the publishing industry impact authors, and how a new author can get a book published.

Look for the next issue of Management Consulting News on March 6, 2012.


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