Meditations on 10+ Years in Consulting & Management
A catalog of learnings as a consultant, project manager, and coach
I write about my career as a consultant and project manager. If you’re out there just starting your career, or you’re looking for a fresh perspective, consider my work one more perspective. I’ve been doing this for a while and in that time I’ve learned a lot. What follows is a catalog of my writing so far. There’s much more to come.
Starting as a consultant, your value is best reflected by your output as an individual contributor. You’re able to deliver on defined tasks, inefficiently at first, but more effectively over time and with experience. As you progress to management, via project management and then to program management and people management you become responsible for the individual contributions of others towards some end that you own. That end could be a specific project or a bigger book of work. Your experience and domain expertise become more valuable applied through others than through yourself. You become a master of what you’ve seen before and are better equipped to navigate situations laden with unknowns. When you’re not proactively managing your risks, you are diving into projects as risk is realized (often unfamiliar with the details of the project) to help the team find their way back to a successful plan of action. You’re orienting yourself in unfamiliar situations quickly, acting decisively with limited information, building rapport very quickly and pointing the team in the right direction. For these and other reasons you are a multiplier for the team.
It’s the art of enabling people, not the art of doing the work for people. In a project-oriented work environment, the primary goal is always to make the project successful — deliver the work in a way that leads to a happy customer. The secondary goal that’s sometimes unspoken is to leave the project with the team members each more capable for their next assignment. If you enter and exit a project with the same relative skill sets, you’re doing it wrong. A team cannot grow unless it’s individual members grow in their capabilities. As a people manager it’s your job to recognize this and to help the team take advantage of these opportunities. You want to work with your subordinates (or partners as I prefer to think of my people) to help them accomplish their goals for their betterment and the organization’s benefit. While everyone’s goal is to get promoted, what’s really important is to help setup these people for their own long term success. Coach them into strong communicators, effective consultants and fledgling managers, and you’re not only setting them up to get promoted, you’re setting them up for life. Nothing’s more compelling to a leader reviewing promotion recommendations, than an individual whose work speaks for itself.
9 Bite-Sized Observations About Team Leadership After Running a Team of 25 People for 6 Months
Half-baked observations because fully-baked commentary is boring and unhelpful (see: the curse of knowledge)
The Bare Minimum Guide for How to Run Effective 1:1s
To make a positive difference on your teams it’s so important to have strong relationships with your direct reports…
An oft overlooked avenue for people management is the idea of managing your manager. Even as a day one consultant or associate you are a people manager. You may not have much authority or direct reports, but you have the ability to influence your direct manager. While this relationship can be tough to take ownership of (especially when you’re more junior), gaining some agency in the partnership you have with your boss goes a long way. Learn the different work styles people have and then apply that to yourself and your boss. Do you two have natural proclivities for working better together or do you need to be ready to flex to their style when you’re working together? Let them into the know for your objectives you have for your career. Understand what they do. (If you do your job well, you may be doing it soon). Is there anything you can take off their plate?
How to be Your Manager’s Favorite
Because people have favorites even if they say they don’t
Do This Before You Agree to Work on Anything !
Boost your productivity and reduce stress with this simple trick
Moving from individual contributor to project manager is a leap. This is the leap from doing individual, often well-defined tasks to problem solving that’s more open-ended. You’re responsible for understanding the constraints and parameters for your project and then developing a plan, getting buy-in on the plan from the stake holders and then holding the team accountable to tracking to the plan (and adapting the plan where necessary).
In Projects The Early Game Matters Most
I jump out of the plane, plummeting towards the ground much like the whale in that one movie. The wind against my skin…
The Guide to Project Management for Beginners
Project Management is Storytelling
Management is more than creating Gantt charts in Excel. That was my naive perception when I started as a consultant. How could I possibly be more busy than I was when I was as an individual contributor? The answer is in so many ways. Every manager’s day to day is different, but they tend to be similar in the regard that they involve more context switching than individual contributors. Being pulled away from the details of the work, being a manager is more like steering a battle ship, small moves in the short term that have big impacts on the trajectory or the project, team or work later.
How to be a New Manager
2 MAJOR Adjustments to Make When You are Promoted to Manager
The Origins of Hard Conversations and What to do About Them
Definitely Don’t do What I Used to do
How to Improve Your Working Situation
3 Reasons Committees Suck and What to do About it
As an adult, you are responsible for your life. Learning doesn’t stop after school. In our careers whether we are a software programmer, consultant or in any other domain, to remain marketable in our skills and relevant in our careers, it’s important that we continue to develop ourselves. Sometimes it can be unclear how without the structure of school. I think this is why many people feel like they need to get an MBA. They feel like they need the structured learning or a credential to prove to themselves that they know a thing. I feel differently. I believe that if you have a curious mind and a desire to learn, all you need to do is exposure yourself to material — taking it as it comes, incorporating it into your understanding of the world and applying it where you can. One way I apply my learning is through writing about my learnings. For years after I graduated, I considered learning to be like a building — start with a strong foundation and then use the blue print to build your education in the right way. I found this stifling. Now I think of learning as a puzzle — there’s not clear starting point or path, but if I continue to consume material and seek to understand, eventually the pieces will come together and it will click. There’s a learning curve for everything and I find the more learning curves I tackle, the more quickly and comfortably and confidently I can tackle future ones.
Do This to Get Better at Your Job!
Asking questions is the most misunderstood cheat code in business 🎮
How to Work Faster
What to do About That Feeling That You’re Not Going Fast Enough
How to Get Promoted
What I’ve learned from a decade of experience about getting to the next level
The quintessential “soft skill.” Understanding how to relate to people and what channels to use for communication can make your life a lot easier.
Should I Call, Email, or Ping? A Guide
I’ve spent 10 years in consulting and here’s my dead simple guide for whether you should email, call, ping or tweet…
Thanks for reading.