This month marks the beginning of my ninth year as a private practice consultant. Nine years is longer than my tenure at any other job, so I just might be on to something. This month is also the end of a 6-month process of professional evaluation, leading to some significant changes to my business model. Presuming that you will find value in a brief case history, here are a few highlights from the process:
The Paradox of Success
The first seven years were incredible. The diversity of my client list was invigorating and my efforts were rewarded both financially and personally. Succeeding is quite enjoyable. The brand I had sought to establish had continued to gain momentum and equity as people began increasingly to refer to me as “the new idea guy.”
Despite preaching a contrary message to others, I viewed the formula for success as merely repeating what had already worked. The advent of 2009 found me planning to do more of the same things that had previously resulted in success. 2009 was going to be a bit harder, but I’d just power up and move on. I held steadfast to my previous approach even as the economy went into a nose dive, believing that the world still needed new ideas and would eventually come knocking.
I was applying yesterday’s successful solutions to my current problems and finding the results you might expect from such futility.
Had I been consulting myself, my advice would have been – “Stop doing that.” To enjoy success over time, you must do different things or do things differently. How many times have I written that on a flip chart in a client’s conference room?
Building on my Strengths
As a StrengthsFinder® advocate, I am convinced my best contribution involves working with ideas and helping folks maximize their future. My personal brand has been built around that. I am not interested in doing a new thing – but rather in doing the same thing differently.
This past week I completed an intense certification course and am now licensed to facilitate training workshops using the SimplyStrengths™ system developed by Marcus Buckingham. I like SimplyStrengths because it adds an explicit component of accountability and performance that was merely implied in StrengthsFinder. The SimplyStrengths workshop is a  structured, content-rich program, quite different from the open-agenda, brainstorm-driven approach for which I’ve become well known.
More than one adviser has asked, “Will this mean ‘Jim the idea guy’ is going away?”
The answer is NO. Buckingham’s system enhances the ideation process by giving clients a great tool for achieving objectives that result from a healthy retreat or strategic planning session. My “thing” is still new ideas, I’ve just found a different way of doing it.
So – ask this in your next staff meeting:

  1. What is our thing?
  2. Do people still want and need that thing?
  3. How can we do our same thing differently?

Until next time,