Anatomy Of A Failed Consultant

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Snake Oil

Other than writing pithy blog posts and tweeting, a big part of what I do to pay the rent is consult. Over the years I’ve become a lot better at it and have, through trial an error, gathered a few nuggets of wisdom that have helped me become not quite as awful at my job. The following is yet another part of my Living in the 21st Century series, this time dedicated to shedding a little light on how consultants can fail. At one time or another I’ve done (or seen) most of these things, which is why it gives me such great joy to shine a spotlight on them.

Without further ado, you know you have a bad consultant when:

1. He absolutely, positively cannot say no to a client request, especially the most mind-numbingly outrageous ones.

2. He believes that pleasing the client is far more important than doing whatever it is that client hired him for.

3. He is convinced that freelance work is a volume business, so he competes on price to the exclusion of everything else.

4. He thinks that working very, very hard for insane hours is roughly equivalent to doing a good job.

5. He is willing to sell any service that the client is willing to buy, even if everything he knows about that service was derived from a blog post he read one time.

6. He doesn’t understand that many of his client’s problems are as much about internal politics as they are about business process.

7. He doesn’t really understand his clients much at all.

8. He generates piles and piles of dense documentation in an effort to appear to be working.

9. He makes certain that these documents are utterly incomprehensible and unlikely to be read by anyone past the executive summary.

10. He’s kind of unwilling to charge what he’s worth.

11. He’s mostly unwilling to set boundaries.

12. He’s totally unwilling to make certain that these boundaries align with what he’s charging, and thus spends most of his time feeling burnt out and abused.

13. He’ll never critically analyze why he feels this way, and will instead blame his clients.

14. He thinks it’s a badge of honor that he has never taken a vacation.

15. He thinks that all the perspective he needs can be found in his feed reader.

16. He’s convinced that you can work 24 hours a day 7 days a week without the slightest drop in efficiency.

17. He feels that if the facts are on his side he shouldn’t need to be able to communicate them, that it’s not his fault if the client is blind to the “truth.”

18. He doesn’t understand that clients are human beings with fears and hopes and biases that are often completely external to business and always color what they do.

19. When he absolutely must communicate he laces his speech with so much jargon that most people wish he’d just kept sending those reports.

20. He walks into every meeting convinced that knows the right answer, and spends most of the rest of his time wondering when it will be his turn to speak.

21. When his mouth opens his ears close.

22. His mouth opens far too often.

23. His conversations can be described by the following proportion: 45% jargon, 35% ego-stroking, 10% lies and 10% marginally useful trivia.

24. He treats his clients like they were very little more than signatures on the bottom of his paycheck.

25. He ignores any and all evidence that a solution he provided might be incorrect.

26. He considers anyone who changes his mind to be an utter failure.

27. Almost as big a failure as anyone who says, “I don’t know.”

28. He is deeply and philosophically opposed to failure.

29. He makes a habit of undermining every other member of staff for no reason greater than the fact that he can.

30. All of his best ideas are marked most notably by the fact that they are utterly impossible to implement.

31. He doesn’t believe that budget and manpower should be a concern, unless it’s his budget and his manpower.

32. He gets unnecessarily defensive when anyone questions one of his ideas.

33. He gets downright hostile when anyone points out one of his faults.

As a result he thinks I’m a big, fat jerk for writing this and considers everything in it to be a mindless assault. (Images)

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  • Bella Cottage

    Interesting piece of information here on your website. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time.

  •  He absolutely, positively cannot say no to a client request, especially the most mind-numbingly outrageous ones.?

  • I found this extremely insightful. Properly carried out and thank you.

  • Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, regards

  • Y8

    You cannot even imagine how helpful your article has been to me! Thanks a lot!

  • #21 is the one that bothers me the most!  Sometimes I think they get paid by the word as much as they talk.  Speak less and listen more is a good mantra.

  • Hi! The one that struck my attention is the one below.

    He believes that pleasing the client is far more important than doing whatever it is that client hired him for.

    I hate it when YES MEN are not being true  to the real situation .  This can bring a business down and who suffers ? Its the owners.

    A friend of mine recently fired a consultant because He is a Yes Man.  It is harsh but I think that man deserved it.

  • This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives in depth information. thanks for this nice article

  • DUI

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  • very informative, thanks for sharing

  • Thanks for the article. Very interesting. 

  • rumah dijual

    thanks, keep you're amazing the post

  • Thanks for the article. Very interesting. 

  • This blog post interest me a lot because of your good insight about the topic. Its informative with lots of ideas.

  • unnecessarily defensive that is true..I see this behaviour.

  • Thank you so much for this post.I found lots of interesting information here. And thanks for sharing it's really wonderful and useful =)))

  • As a consultant myself, I enjoyed this article.  Thanks

  • Interesting post.

  • This is great article.A recruiting colleague recently suggested that many of the following items apply directly to recruiters as well as consultants.I like this one.Thanks to share this blog with us.

  • Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. 

  • Hee, this is important for those of us who work to remember, too!

  •  You cannot even imagine how helpful your article has been to me! Thanks a lot!

  • Other than writing pithy blog posts and tweeting, a big part of what I do to ....The consultants involved in designing the project had intensive ...

  • Its an Amazing article.thanks a lot for sharing this type of blog.its very useful to me.

  • Great description and very accurate.  Consultants muddy the waters of many great organizations ... oh wait, I was one! :)

    Thanks for the smile today!

  • gelisim

    It's very helpful, thanks for that

  • "When his mouth opens his ears close." - Extremely true, you've got to take in the insight and experiences of your peers and employees to be the best boss.  without it, your disconnected from the field and whats going on with your clients/competition.

  • Jeremy Biberdorf

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  • nice post i enjoyed when i reading your post do continue ....

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  • CrazyCousinLance

    It's great to find someone with scruples.  Just starting my website, I have learned much about SEO and have read many tactics that dehumanize the Internet even more than it already is.  I wished I could afford your services, but like a lot of newbies just starting out, I know that there is much I need to learn on my own, and keeping high standards and enjoying what you do is essential.  Thanks for the article 

  • The “trial an error” thing is very important when starting a new job. One must test first what potential that job could reach. It’s not totally a bad thing when you fail because in the end, you’ll eventually learn.

  •  It has been a nice post it was very knowledgeable.You made some good points there.Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post.

    really enjoyed this article. It is always nice when you read some thing that is
    not only informative but also entertaining. Excellent!

  • joe ryan

    This blog is going to be impressive resource. Thanks a lot for a collection of good tips. I look forward to reading more in the future. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Great posting... thanks for sharing.

  • maggy young

    "How Things Fail" :-  good piece summing a lot up. 

  • #24 is the first red flag for failed consultants, especially when they view client meetings as merely obligatory.

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