This week Fiona Czerniawska and Fergus Navaratnam-Blair of Source Global Research, a full service analytics firm focusing on professional services organizations, interviewed me to talk about my new book Manage To Engage, published by Wiley this past month.
In the podcast conversation, which forms a part of a wider discussion on the Future of the Firm, the subject of engagement turned to how professional services firms (consulting companies) stack up when it comes to engagement?
Here’s the podcast and a few of the highlights behind what I said:
Many of the big box consulting firms have some of the highest engagement levels in business, winning awards as Great Places To Work and the like. Here’s my POV on those high engagement levels at large consulting firms, and there is a great deal other firms outside consulting can learn from those high levels of engagement, looking to how it could apply in their workplace.
To do that, let’s look at what a consulting firm offers:
- Variety equals learning — when you work in consulting, particularly field / client site consulting, you get a level of variety in your work that brings both challenge and stimulation — if you think about it, each new assignment is like starting a new job. The assignment brings a new problem to solve, new teams to work with, new people to meet and new experiences that bring new learnings. This is perfect for the consulting firm, providing one of the ‘great engagers’ to their people built into the very fabric of how they operate — opportunity. People crave opportunity — the opportunity to improve their capabilities, their position, their status, their overall ‘lot in life’.
- Project work brings freedom — if you’re a consultant working in the field at client sites, your autonomy increases the further you are from the mother ship. While there are guiding methodologies and ways of working, you can pick and choose what you apply and how. Even better, you are running within the real world (not academic models) and able to course correct as things happen, learning what works and what doesn’t in real time and seeing the outcome of your decisions as you make them. It’s a sense of freedom few people get to experience in more traditional jobs. And freedom, we all know, is an engager. Autonomy. A sense of having control over your destiny, over what you do and how you invest your effort, is one of the big engagers.
- Field work brings battle field promotions — when teams are small and problems big, people find themselves in situations where they can rise rapidly to new levels of performance. The launch pad is often timing — right place and right time to be given a fair go. When you don’t have the usual suspects lined up, non-traditional people are able to step up to interesting new challenges they may not have been afforded through traditional development. And again, opportunity presents itself as an engager.
- Team work crosses boundaries to bring true collaboration — teamwork alone is not enough if the team is made up of similar thinkers, backgrounds or experiences. Once you bring people from the fringe of the organization and beyond the walls and gates that keep people within silos, you bring real diversity — of thought, solutions and actions. Consulting enables that. You learn more and together can influence outcomes. Collaboration becomes a vehicle to capability development, another great engager.
- Rhythm is not routine — the nature of project work requires a cadence many organizations need but lack. Finite budgets, timelines and results require freedom within boundaries — at the end of the day you need to deliver within the agreed scope and plan. Daily, weekly, monthly reviews are something we at Proudfoot live by to keep our transformation projects on track and help our project leaders better engage their teams — our own and our clients. We call it 1.5.30. Check-In (not up) once a day (1) — how is your day going? Check in once a week (5) — how is your week going? Check in once a month (30) how is your job going? When you as a manager practice 1.5.30 you bring a rhythm to your day and your peoples day that brings a sense of connection between people. An enabler of engagement.
Opportunity, learning, freedom, autonomy, collaboration, giving people a fair go, are all engagers. In consulting these are a natural part of each day, creating engagement moments for individuals right through to more engaging organizations. Bringing these same triggers to other workplaces can raise engagement and introduce pragmatic solutions to the lack of engagement so many organizations suffer. Building them into the DNA of management is the idea behind Manage to Engage.
If you want to be a great leader, you must first manage to engage.