Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why I'm a Consultant

Last September I was approached by a student at my old Master's degree program at Boise State for an interview. The assignment was to learn what it is like to be a consultant. I thought I'd share with you some of my answers. Please keep in mind that the my attitude has changed dramatically since the interview - for the better. After all, this was pre-TVCNet.

How long have you been a consultant?

I've been a consultant for less than 2 years now, but it wasn't until recently that I realized I've been doing it much longer even though I was employed by other businesses at the time. There's a book called "Creating You & Co." by William Bridges that opened my eyes. I made me realize that I've always been a consultant - the only thing different was that I was doing it internally vs. externally (how I do it today).

How did you start?

Out of frustration. I grew tired of being assigned the same problems to solve over an over again and not having the freedom to eliminate the problem. I hate to sound negative, but in the corporate world there are some people in upper management positions that would rather not see a problem eliminated. If the problem is eliminated they've done too good of a job and therefore they aren't needed. It's job security for them to see that the problems continue, otherwise why would they continue to keep them on the payroll?

I'm in the business to solve problems and better organizations, not to put out fires.

Why did you decide to become a consultant?

I think the previous answer pretty much sums it up. I know it may seem like I have a negative attitude toward the corporate world or business in general, but it boils down to me not fitting into the corporate structure / culture of how things are done. I became a consultant out of the need to be independent. I would much rather choose how and when I tackle a problem rather than running it through a committee to get consensus or having something assigned to me that I'm not really all that passionate about.

It's not that I can't work for somebody - I just choose not to. I prefer to be the master of my own fate. It's also not easy to be a consultant and I don't recommend people go into this field lightly. There's a lot of heartache and pain. A lot of rejections before you finally get someone to take you seriously.

It's been several months since I submitted those answers and I pretty much feel the same - maybe not as negative. When I say there are people in upper management in companies that would rather not see an organizational problem eliminated, it's an unfair generalization. I admit it. Of course no one wants to see a problem continue on inside an organization. However, I've had experience in large companies where the attitude was to just do what the executives want and don't question their motives. That's just the unfortunate nature of how some organizations operate today.

As a consultant, I don't feel I'm ever going to remedy that condition. The only thing I can control is who I choose to work with and how I choose to carry out my tasks. I think that's a primary reason why most consultants choose this profession.

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