Leading While Naked: Part 7–We’re Losing the Business!

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

We’re losing this business!

I haven’t closed many sales pursuits by selling.  And most buyers haven’t bought much consulting work by buying.  Uhhhh, what?  Read on.

We encounter lots of opportunities to develop business from RFPs to extensions of work at existing clients to that random encounter with friends when the topic of “what do you do for a living” comes up.  And all shades in between.  And in those pursuits that have moved smoothly and successfully from “help me” to “I’ll trust you to do that” pure selling and buying played minor roles.  If any.  I’m not talking so much about the formal process – I’m talking about the reality of the decision maker’s mind – and heart.

It’s funny how when we fear losing the business (Patrick Lencioni’s first mentioned fear in his book Getting Naked) we fall into deadly behaviors that unless cured, seem to drive us into exactly the result we fear – we lose the business.

It was a really big deal – a “make it” kind of deal – and we were leading and pulling away.  Cruising along in the race executing our selling approach – dotting i’s, crossing t’s, step left, step right, check the box, etc.  And then this little birdie said “how is life when losing?”  Reaction?  You know the feeling – looking in the mirror, heart pumping, irrational thoughts, splash some cold water on the face.  Later after checking and feeling a bit, it was true – we were not winning this business.

Some say “change the game” when you don’t think you can win with the buyer’s rules.  Sometimes works.  Risky.  Depends on a lot of factors.  Didn’t agree that those factors existed here and I’m not sure I like the classic approach to that strategy much anyway.

Lencioni offers the same notion – but from a deeper-seated relationship perspective.  Paraphrasing a bit:  prove you are more interested in helping people in their business and not preserving your own revenue stream – and thus, you are likely to preserve your revenue stream.  Ergo, act like you are not afraid of losing the business or you likely already have.

Much gnashing of teeth and wearing sackcloth on our part.  Well, sorta.  Knowing we were behind and confident in our abilities, we asked for a meeting to discuss our position, our thoughts, and our potential to withdraw from the fray.  They agreed.  Almost surprisingly.  But that is another story.

We shared some kind truths, expressed our understanding and feelings about our current position, and asked a simple question:  “do you really know what it is like to experience working with us?”  Like asking someone do you really know what jalapeno jelly tastes like:  you read the ingredients, you know what jalapenos are, you get the concept of jelly – but unless you have tasted it, you really don’t know what it tastes like.

That is what we were really asking them.  Wouldn’t you like to “taste” what working with us is like?  To experience that, we suggested that right there we do a little consulting about one of the processes they needed help on – with the risky bet that if they didn’t like our way, feel, aka “taste” that we would not be a good fit for them anyway.  Better to know now and move along than to drag out the process any further.  That was our pitch.

So we worked openly with them – digested, diagnosed, and developed some conclusions about one of their problem areas – and at the end, checked in with them on the experiment.  Telling sign was that they were so engaged that none of them realized 2 hours had passed.  Funny to watch execs scrambling with quick emails to apologize to others for their tardiness.

Not instantly but shortly, we won the work.  What had happened?  Paraphrasing Lencioni again:  start serving prospects as if they were already a client.  Find a way to meaningfully help – and if they don’t hire you, they must not need you or the fit isn’t right.  That is what happened.  Consult.  Don’t sell.

100% effective? I think so if you can get the conversation turned that way.  Artful and risky and some higher order skills.  And a lot of fun.  I guess for me it’s about rubbing off on a prospect like we rub off on clients.  If we can help and our ways look and feel and “taste” right, we likely win.  Almost as if that is an altogether better approach for buyers too. Hmmm.

Stay naked.

Leading While Naked: Part 6—Oh. THAT Conversation!

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

I told her “Stop doing that. You are acting like an amateur. You’re screwing this up! And I am looking bad.”

Well, that’s what my emotional venting side wanted to say. Fortunately, I moved from victim to coach and asked myself (key point: before meeting with her) “what did I really want?” The answer was I wanted her to get out of the details, to quit changing her mind, and to really manage the process with me. She was a tough client and deeply experienced in this kind of stuff. I had a few choices but primarily I knew that conversation had to happen, but how to have it? Not thrilled about the confrontational approach from the past. Read more of this post

Leading While Naked: Part 5—Can You Smell Courage?

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

Can you smell courage?

Some would say it embarrassed the [fill in your expletive of choice] out of them and they would never do it again. Others recall the how painful and humbling an experience it was…and is. For me though, the smell of spring rain in the pines brings me back to that meeting–and I always pause with that smell and recollect how miserable, unimportant, and secondary I felt. And to let those emotions be ok with me and to act in a manner that generates them, well that is the smell of courage I believe. So, now that you are feeling dismal, read on. Read more of this post

Leading While Naked: Part 4—That’s a Dumb Question

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

“Check your ego at the door!”—he told me—if I wanted to have a real conversation with a potential client. My ego: a bulldozer in the push/pull conversation running inside my head about how I want to be credited with great feats, while at the same time not wanting to appear, or act, superior to others. When I have the answer, or so I think, I can barely hold myself back from revealing it, in all my “subject matter expert/Mr. Cool” glory. At the same time, that little voice on the other side of my brain is beseeching me to hold my desire for applause long enough to let a colleague or “client-to-be” discover and bring forth the nugget of wisdom.

Oh yeah, and in not so few cases, I realize that my answer—though magnificent and shiny—was not the only and perhaps not the best answer.

I have had the pleasure of several learning experiences with Mahan Khalsa dating way back in my consulting career. Many of you know of him and have either read his stellar work Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship or perhaps attended one of his sales training sessions at FranklinCovey. Read more of this post

Understanding Your Environment

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The environment is everything that isn’t me.”
Albert Einstein

At Slalom, we are all seasoned experienced consultants.  And although none of us is quite an “Einstein,” it is important to understand what the good doctor was talking about regarding the environment in the context of project management.

As consultants, we constantly find ourselves in roles with new clients and unfamiliar environments. Often, when we start a new engagement, we hear statements like “our business is complex” or “our company is very different from all the other companies.” The way a project manager responds to these challenges can greatly impact their ability to lead a project to successful delivery.

To be successful, knowing project management terminology and theories isn’t enough; soft skills make the difference between a taskmaster and an effective leader.  A project manager needs to understand the environment within which they operate in order to be effective.  And, as Einstein implies, the term “environment” encompasses many things.  To narrow the definition, there are three major areas to focus on: Read more of this post

Leading While Naked: Part 3—Enter the Danger

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

If you are like me, any time someone in a business setting uses the two words “step” and “fearlessly” in the same sentence, the hair on your neck stands up and your heart rate goes up. But Leading While Naked requires you to step right into the middle of uncomfortable situations and fearlessly deal with the issues everyone else is afraid to address. You know you’re going to feel that hair-raising feeling and you know how all the people in the room are going to react – they’re all going to be looking at you and thinking “I can’t believe he said that” and “he’s right, that is the real issue.”

In Getting Naked, Patrick Lencioni describes this exact moment as entering the dragon and wow, is he right. It’s like the old adage of pointing out the elephant in the room, only this elephant is exceptionally large and very smelly. So large and so smelly that even though many can see it and smell it, no one has either pointed it out or acknowledged the smell. This is a distinctly crisp moment for the Naked consultant to step in with both feet and fearlessly pronounce “hey, does anyone smell that?” Uncomfortable situation? Are you kidding? High return on your emotional risk? You bet!

An old consulting friend (let’s call him Bob) tells the story of trying to help an organization navigate the rocky waters between Read more of this post

Leading While Naked: Part 2—Happy Thanksgiving…Or How Lincoln Led from the Heart

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

Vance Havner said, “We grow up taking things for granted and saving our flowers for the dead.  All along the way, countless hands minister to our good, but rarely do we acknowledge them.” I wonder why that is?  Why do we not stop, acknowledge the beauties of the day, and thank those who have helped us?  Or at least do all that more often?  And why don’t we send flowers every day to say “thank you”?

Ironically enough the Civil War, which started in 1861, gave rise to one of President Lincoln’s most interesting but least known acts: establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For context, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered the now famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It was a mere four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.

His address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as Read more of this post

Leading While Naked: Part 1—“I Like the People and I Believe in the Mission”

In his blog series Leading While Naked, Paul Shultz, Slalom Consulting’s Dallas General Manager, reflects on leadership and the lessons found in Patrick Lencioni’s business fable Getting Naked and Charlene Li’s work Open Leadership. As Paul says: “Leading and managing a professional service firm in today’s connected times, with heartfelt attention to the absolute fact that people matter, proves to be a remarkable journey.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Slalom Consulting Dallas General Manager Paul Shultz

Paul Shultz, General Manager of Slalom Consulting’s Dallas office, has more than 30 years experience leading business and technology transformations.

At a meeting of the Baylor Business Network of Dallas this week I heard Tom Horton, CEO at American Airlines (and a BU grad, of course), talk about why he returned to American from AT&T where he was the CFO. Paraphrasing a bit, but not much, he said the reasons he returned were these: he likes the people, and he believes in the mission.

Could it really be that simple? I mean, really—I like the people I work with. In fact, I think they are the “A team” in town, fun to hang out with, and rich with integrity and caring for their fellow associates. And I truly believe in the mission of Slalom Consulting: to be the leading consulting organization that helps their clients win on their most strategic initiatives. Easy to believe in that mission and easy to like the people I work with. Is that it? Is that the sum of the real reasons I work here?

Tom also talked about the airline industry in general, the way American has approached managing its financial affairs (I DO like the emphasis they put on capitalism and operating in a free market economy), and what issues face the industry over the next few years. And some other really informative business discussion. But what really grabbed me…what really resounded…what was the great uniqueness Read more of this post

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