Partners and Padawans

Musings on corporate mentorship and the humility needed to grow a winning team.

Power, prominence, title, and any number of carrots dangling at the top of a corporate ladder can consume us and our peers.

Unfortunately, in a hidebound sprint to the “top,” folks run the risk of missing an opportunity to contribute to a team’s growth. Mentorship, teaching hard skills, and taking the extra five minutes to get a teammate’s life update at the water cooler are a few behaviors that fuel a stronger team…and a stronger you. This post isn’t about being an effective mentor; rather, it’s about two extreme ends of an organization’s spectrum, both experientially and in title, and thoughts on how we can bridge the actual (or perceived) gap between the camps.

But first, a quick segue to a Star Wars reference so that I can lose my more socially-inclined audience.

The Jedi track isn’t too dissimilar from our corporate structures, one enters as a bright-eyed Padawan (student of the Jedi way); and a select few grind it out to the prestigious Jedi Council (governors of the Jedi Order, they probably manage the Jedi’s bottom-line too; but George Lucas spared us that detail). In the journey to the top, there’s a lot of learned experience and growth along the way.

Concurrently, there’s a lot of attrition in the ranks. The Jedi’s worst two-weeks’ notice is Annakin Skywalker (turned Darth Vader)–the remarkably gifted Jedi who was supposed to bring balance to the force (a corporate equivalent of tripling EBITDA)–joining the Sith (an evil rival enterprise) because of a simple: “no, not yet” from the Council.

We’re surrounded by Annakin Skywalkers in the workforce…you may even be one yourself: Talented individuals who’ve grown tremendously under the tutelage of their Obi Wan (company mentor) who; ultimately, walk away from their company because of the same, “no, not yet” or the more painful, “no, never.”

I can’t fix your company’s promotion approval process, and I’m not proposing that every Padawan needs to become a Partner. Rather, I’d like to offer a few items for our friends on both sides of the spectrum (and everyone in between) to consider as we all strive to build better teams. After all, there’s nothing worse than losing your brightest Padawan because of poor communication, unmet expectations, and many other potential pitfalls we face daily.

For the Padawans (my analyst friends in the trenches, following the light of Excel and PowerPoint):

  • Be Patient – You still have a lot to learn, and that takes time. Up until your first gig out of undergrad, life is a sprint of short-term seasons (like the season when you were in the middle school band playing the trumpet with braces, hypothetically speaking); that’s not the reality anymore, you’ve got 40+ more years to master your craft.
  • Work Hard – This isn’t rocket science, but it is…difficult. I’m not authoring an ode to workaholism; but, you need to earn your stripes and sometimes that yields long and grueling days. Remember, that Partner you look up to (and is now ruining your life with all the hard work you need to do) has been there before, and they worked hard.
  • Extend Grace – My first year as an analyst, I remember having the same conversation with a Partner at least ten times. Always initiated by them, always on script, and always leaving me wondering if they have ever listened to my answers in the previous rounds. I understand it now; busyness can be a major inhibitor to meaningful conversations and building authentic relationships; and Partners are really busy. Don’t villainize a teammate for having a full plate, extend grace and try to help them lighten the load.
  • Prove It – If you want to be a Partner one day, start being one today. Francis of Assisi famously shared, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” It’s easy to talk about being a partner in your firm, it’s much harder to live out the standards that are probably written down (and hopefully lived out) by the incumbent folks that have already “made it.” Prove you’re a partner in action, with humility – healthy organizations will reward that in the end.

For the Partners (looking at the Managing Directors, Executive Leadership Teams, VPs, and managers as well, those titles just didn’t serve alliterative purposes in the title):

  • Gift Time – I’m asking you to give generously of what’s likely your most precious commodity nowadays, time. The analyst whose eye is twitching because of the financial model you asked them to build would love to grab a cup of coffee with you. Mentorship, culture, and fostering a team that will follow in your footsteps are all predicated on your ability to deliver here. Carve out time intentionally.
  • Be Humble – You made it to the top (even though you still; unfortunately, have a boss), emanate the humility you’d like to see across your whole team. Listen, do real work, and don’t be afraid to sit in the pit with the overcaffeinated friend you made at the last bullet point.
  • Share Wisdom – Your experiences have morphed you into the person, and professional, that you are today – impart wisdom to the folks who ask for it on your team (maybe even with the ones who don’t ask for it, too). Being the smartest one locked away in the corner office doesn’t benefit the growth potential of your hungry Padawans, feed them consistently.
  • Prove It (had to double-down on this one for both audiences) – you wrote the book on being a Partner, now you get to do the hard part of living it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be perfect (the Padawan is going to extend ample grace), but you need to be good. Live up to the values you espouse, it’ll motivate your team and inspire the next batch of leaders you need.

Frankly, there are days where we’ll all fall short of the mark here – Padawans and Partners alike. There’s a life to lead outside your office, and sometimes it’s heavy and burdensome. The moral of the story is this, we need teams that have healthy Padawans and Partners. Teams that can work together in a trust-filled, safe environment. Teams that have comparable tenacity to reach a common goal. I hope some of these guiding principles help us get there together.

What do you think?  How do we ensure healthy leadership and followership behaviors? 

Love is the running towards

How do you find trusted helpers in an age of transactional extraction?

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to write this one with some trepidation because, in the words of Marcus Aurelius (the character in the movie Gladiator, not the actual historical figure):

“There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile.”

My family and I recently took a vacation that included a few days in London (It’s this city in England, but I digress). As a complete matter of happenstance, we walked past what I believe to be the only fire station in London that sports a massive banner that reads “love is the running towards.”

A picture of it is featured at the top of this post.

In our practice we talk openly and ernestly about “running to fire.”  We ask ourselves whether we are actually working on the stuff that matters.  Stuff that is urgent.  At times, stuff that looks little but is actually the big.  All of this is stuff that we, perhaps, weren’t engaged to work on first.  It’s fire.  And, we run towards it.

Love is the running towards.

And, so what is it that I’m writing on?  It’s a particular professional services model that is built not on transactions, hours, days, weeks or “bodies deployed,” but on help.  True, genuine, trusted help.

Wilson Growth Partners LLC has executed well over 100 engagements over the years.  Those engagements have ranged from preparing and executing single-day workshops to multi-year transformational execution engagements.

Like snowflakes, no single engagement is like the others.

But one thing is for certain:  Engagements where we work in concert with our client leaders dynamically to improve performance, execution, and ultimately results are the ones where we run toward fire.

Sure, it’s sexy and neat to work on strategy-setting topics.  Yes, it’s easy to recruit, retain, excite, and promote our own people with stories of top management strategy and “working for the CEO.”

But, you know what?

We are at our best when we do that and we identify and execute on the things that truly allow progress to happen.

This might mean running that tactical meeting several times a week to ensure there is no ambiguity of purpose. It might mean helping interview and hire that person who can and should take over a mission area our team is covering currently. It could mean pausing the high falutin market strategy to priortize a sales funnel with the sales team.

And, it can mean grinding away on change management even as we shelve our impeccable strategic planning capabilities.

Above all it means having the humility to step away from the scope of an engagement (or…dare I say not even having an engagement at all) and helping.  

That’s the running towards.

That’s the model we have worked to cultivate with clients, and the one we deploy where I would say our work is the most trusted.

Sure, sure, we at WGP are a for-profit enterprise and have to ensure that we are sustaining ourselves.  That cannot be forgotten and on some level will always create tension between the value we provide and the value we receive.

But the business can never be bigger than the mission.  Love is the running towards.

That tension can and is constantly secondary to the tension between the actions we take alongside our partners and clients and the real-world litmus test of “are we helping?”

Love is the running towards.  I would like to thank the professionals in and around the London Fire Brigade for crystalizing that thought for me as I reflect on our own practice after all these years.

We live in an age where data, analysis, and culture allow every bit of value to be sliced, diced, allocated and captured.  Do a little bit of study on how Disney has taken the capture of consumer surplus to a maddening level in its theme parks and you’ll see a great example of this. Observe your average consulting or law firm constructing proposals or jealously allocating time only to things that are “paid” and you’ll see it.

But maybe there’s still room for a model built on help…a model built on finding the things that matter and addressing them with aplomb. A model built on…Love.

I wish I could end this post with a massive call to action for readers to “reach out if you need help.” But I can’t, because we have so much love and so many fires that capacity doesn’t allow it. This blog and its hundreds of posts over the years haven’t really been about marketing WGP.  They have been about a better way.  So, what I can say is this: If you aren’t experiencing such a model in your professional services experience, a better way exists. Go look for it.

I hope that in writing on this topic I haven’t cheapened the very real and daily focus on it in all that we do at WGP.  A model built on loving help is fragile…Just like the dream of Rome was.

What do you think?  Is it possible to express love through a model of service?  We think so.

Framing our AI approach: Establishing professional policies

What does a comprehensive yet digestible AI policy look like for a professional services firm?

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to continue this article with the same starting statement I will use with all AI articles:  I’m still learning. We all are.

The question I and our team at WGP have been wrestling with is this:  Now that Generative AI (GAI) is in the popular lexicon and is beginning to permeate academia and some workplaces, what is an effective and flexible policy statement that informs our own practices around it?

My current answer is basically four points.  And, I would appreciate any reactions or feedback on how these policies might satisfy you as an executive or your customers if you are in similar professional services.  I’m also genuinely curious to understand what this leaves out.

Our emerging AI policy for WGP is encompassed in the following four policy points:

  • Be Human-Centered – Because no generative artificial intelligence will replace understanding and judgment required when navigating organizations, cultures, and individual relationships; we will always have a human-in-the-loop when it comes to content, recommendations, and basic communications (yes, even automated emails, which we will never use). This means our people must be expert at understanding what AI can and cannot do.


  • Be Secure – Generative AI will have the potential to “see” very complex data associations through even basic user provided data.  No proprietary data will be shared with generative AI platforms unless those platforms are trusted and certified as proprietary, walled, or otherwise data-safe. Otherwise, if we are feeding a GAI platform data or querying a GAI platform, we should treat those actions as if they were posted to social media.


  • Be Transparent – Use of AI as a force multiplier is quite possibly a general good. However, because it is not yet clear that generative AI platforms are reliable as to background facts, we will disclose when we use such tools to generate any content in a given document.  This communicates the risks associated with acceptance of such output, and it prevents our professionals from misrepresenting their own capabilities and work behind an AI shield.


  • Be Ethical – Every deployment of complex technology has ethical use questions.  We must remain independent in our recommendations on our and our clients’ use of AI in general as to its benefits, its risks, and its overall impact on society.  We will not recommend uses that, in our judgment, create net-negative impact when private and public benefits and costs are considered.

I will expand on these topics and why they are important in a later post.

I will reiterate that I am a learner in this space…it’s just too critical not to comment on.  I would be curious your reaction here.  What does this policy set leave out?

Framing our AI approach: The ethical conundrum

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s important to know when you are the dog.

Geoff Wilson

I’m going to write this one with the starting statement that I think all articles on Artificial Intelligence should begin with:  I’m still learning.

Much is written about the disruption that is happening right at this moment due to AI and the quickening pace of AI development in everyday life.  A recent Forbes poll shows that 97% of CEOs and key decision-makers see AI playing a large role in their future operations.  And, if I’m really blunt: I don’t think 97% of CEOs and key decision-makers even know the scope of what AI is today or could do in the near future.

The implications are large and broad and the ignorance is real.  So, with that said, I have a distinct thought that we are going to be starved for ethical frameworks to manage through the emergence of AI.

This will be true a the macro level, where nation-states and overall political ideologies are going to wrestle with how to assimilate and regulate what’s coming (which for all intents and purposes looks to be an AGI–Artificial General Intelligence–that is far and beyond anything currently contemplated); and it will be true at the micro level where companies, households, and even individuals will have to re-orient to a world that can be engineered in the blink of and eye toward some exceedingly negative outcomes.

I liken the world we are entering to the late 1800’s and the emergence of industrial monopolists and trusts. Some of the builders of our modern world were in many ways economic predators who captured power and wealth by pillaging livelihoods and social structures–even if unknowingly.  Regulatory frameworks had to catch up.  Ethical frameworks had to catch up.  And the benefit the world had “back then” was that the world generally moved at the pace of the telegraph and the locomotive.

We are emerging into a world that not only has a similar lack of readiness in our regulatory and ethical frameworks, but that also moves at light speed. 

In the annals of competition, one of the more glaringly instructive contests was the race to the South Pole undertaken between dueling expeditions led by Robert Falcon Scott (the “Terra Nova” Expedition) and Roald Amundsen (the “South Pole” expedition) in the early 1910’s.  Rather than recount the full story here, I’ll merely offer an anecdote.

Among the competing choices made by Scott and Amundsen were different choices of transportation. Scott famously attempted to deploy “motor sledges” (essentially early snow tractors) and horses.  Amundsen went with dogs.  The choice seems mundane at first, but the implications are astounding.

First of all, after the motor sledges failed Scott as internal combustion engines were prone to do in the early 1900’s, he became dependent on horses, which were not well adapted to the cold (horses sweat when working…sweat freezes).  Not only that, but the Scott expedition had to carry food for the horses, which was heavy.  Add to that the human attraction for noble horses, and its accompanying emotional burden felt by the men not willing to let their horses suffer, and you end up with a real logistical and emotional (dare I say ethical) conundrum.  Scott’s expedition ended up “man-hauling” their sleds and supplies hundreds of miles to the pole, and even farther back–and yes, this is as terrible as it sounds.  In the end, all of the members of the team who reached the South Pole starved and died.

Charming story, right?

Amundsen’s expedition did something entirely different.  They chose skis for the men, and dogs to tow their sleds. And, they used the fact that dogs are one type of animal not revulsed by cannibalism. In other words, when the going got tough, Amundsen fed his dogs to his dogs.  He sacrificed the weaker animals for the survival of the stronger ones and their masters. For most of us, this strategy sounds gruesome.  It was also an ingenious solution to a massive logistical challenge. Amundsen’s expedition skied and sledded to the Pole–arriving weeks ahead of Scott– then returned without loss of life or even relative difficulty.

Amundsen won because this and many other of his choices–no matter what you think of the stomach they took–ultimately were better that Scott’s.

Now, why do I bring up this anecdote in framing up the ethical conundrum we face in our march toward AGI?

It’s because of this:  At this moment, we view choices that require strong stomachs with some admiration, and even when we do not, we admire those who make such choices as “impressive” humans.  John D. Rockefeller made many, many predatory decisions in building Standard Oil into possibly the largest store of wealth in the world during the 1800’s.  He was vilified by some, and admired by others.

Without doubt, though, he was the “Amundsen” of the story.  He was the winning master who pitted dog against dog. We lionize JDR for his wealth and philanthropy, even today.

In the future, though, we have real reason to fear that the “master”–the Amundsens of future competitive arenas–will be non-human.  And that, my friends, means we stand a good chance of being merely the dogs.

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s important to know when you are the dog and not the master.

I was recommended Lex Fridman’s podcast from April (#371) with Max Tegmark.  Tegmark is a physicist and AI researcher at MIT who is decidedly negative on the likely outcomes of the AI revolution. And, he has many compelling views. One that stuck with me is that, in his view the first mass deployment of AI into the human world has been within the social media space…and we humans have lost that battle in spades.

In other words, when it came to deploying AI into social media, AI models keyed in on our human habits of tribalism, sectionalism, and hatred; and they had us eat each other alive.  All of this was ostensibly because the AI was “only” looking for a way to increase “engagement” on silly social media sites.

So what happens when an AI is not only making marketing and entertainment decisions (some of which have already led to massive social dislocation, strife, suicide and death), but also decisions on transportation, health, governance, corporate strategy, and social policy?  What happens when humans are no longer the Amundsen?

I’ll continue this line of thinking.  I firmly believe we will need not only fantastically facile management of how and when to deploy AI–which will change our world further than it has already–but also exceptional judgment and guidance on why we deploy it and how we can test and refine it to avoid unintended consequences.

This will be true for executives, and it will be true in spades for political and social leaders whose power is, by definition, even less regulated than business executive power.

Watch this space for more, and please…share your comments.

I will reiterate that I am a learner in this space…it’s just too critical not to comment on.  Now it’s your turn…what do you think about the ethical implications of AI deployment?

Is anything too precious to automate?

What do you do that you wouldn’t want the machine to do?

Geoff Wilson

I get up in the morning and press a button to brew a cup of coffee.  I talk to a device to have it play the right news, then the right music.  I look at curated news feeds to understand what is going on in the world.

The question is:  Is there anything too precious to automate?

Maybe more to the point, are there aspects of your profession that should NEVER be automated?

This post is inspired by a podcast I listened to recently that was expounding on the value of email automation software that could send individualized email to your “target clients” from your own email account.

Sounds brilliant, right? Just like a toaster, you can put in the raw material and press the lever…and out pops a finished product.

Only, the podcast was targeted toward consulting professionals with individual or boutique footprints…and it got me thinking.  In a “trusted” profession, is it ever worth the risk of committing the mail merge faux pas?

You know what I’m talking about.  In my inbox today, I have spam addressed to “Wilson” as though it’s my first name.  I have received emails that start with Dear [Client Name].  I have, just today, dealt with a person who insisted upon copying their CRM software dropbox address as a CC to my email.

These are all just now…today!

In a world where we can automate almost anything, from writing personal emails to cooking gourmet meals, is anything still sacred enough to do manually?

I think so…that’s why I write this blog.  That’s why I write my own emails (typos and all).  And that’s why I think that a professional mindset requires a personal touch.

Now, excuse me while I tweet this out.

What do you think?  What’s too sacred to automate in your professional life? 


You are what you eat, whether you like it or not.

Your sources of revenue (and income) say plenty…mind them closely.

Geoff Wilson

 The New York Times released an article this week on McKinsey’s work with authoritarian and otherwise dangerous regimes across the world.  The article raises some questions on McKinsey’s choices on whom to serve and how such choices align with McKinsey’s Firm values.  There have been further revelations even today that McKinsey has a partner under arrest in the Saudi kingdom (a partner who was “acquired” by the firm through a company transaction, and so not one who was “vetted” up through the ranks, but a partner nonetheless).

While the Times article is less than flattering to McKinsey–a firm that has faced an unusual number of embarrassing press items recently– it deals in very gray areas around client service.  How does a global firm make choices on which governments to serve (or serve under) and not serve?  How does a firm decide on engagement or disengagement as a statement of its values?

In short, the article raises the most basic of questions: How do our values relate to our income?

This question goes far beyond McKinsey (a firm that I admittedly still have a very strong positive feeling for)…it goes right to the very soul of all of our work.  In the business world, your professional profile is highly correlated with how you earn your income.

You are what you eat.

Do you earn your income by creating new ways for authoritarian governments to impose their will on their populations?  That makes you an accessory to oppression.

Do you earn your income by depending on a steady stream of working poor people to borrow/buy/rent from you?  That makes you dependent on the existence of the working poor.

Do you earn your income by creating technological addiction in order to sell more ad space?  That makes you dependent on addicts.

Do you earn your income by serving tyrannical or amoral leaders who use people as objects?  That makes you his or her enabler in their career.

These aren’t hard concepts to chew on as we get ready to dive into the new year:  Do the things you get paid to do–in the main–produce more good in the world, or not? Do your sources of revenue contribute to a better society or not?

McKinsey’s case is not cut and dried–few are in the business world–and the New York Times was sensational bordering on unprofessional in its insinuations.  Still, it isn’t a large leap to assume that serving authoritarians is enabling them. It is also not okay to blame such client service choices on “growth” or “influence.” This is especially true when you consider that McKinsey is a firm whose iconic leader examined this very vein of thinking many years ago.  As I have written before, Marvin Bower wrote to the McKinsey partnership on how income and growth could lead to poor client choices.  He said:

“If an individual consultant has
to make a professional decision
on the spot and he has too many
obligations, I worry that he is
likely to make a decision to attract
a client who shouldn’t be

So…What is a client who shouldn’t be attracted to you?  What is a source of income that isn’t worth the hit to your integrity?

To me, and in my firm, it’s basic: Does the client or source of income depend on or produce states of the world that I would not sleep well at night knowing that I have proliferated? Admittedly, it’s a personal test…but I have given hints as to my own limits above.

As we ponder the new year, let’s ponder the fruits of our labors, and know that we are what we eat.

Now it’s your turn, share a bit about how you match purpose, values, and income.  What do you think?  



Why every company needs a code

Successful strategy requires establishing a code—and living by it.  

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”

Aaron Tippin

Geoff Wilson

You’re reading this because you like strategy, business, and leadership—or because somehow my not-so-vast marketing efforts fooled you into clicking something that you ultimately will or won’t like. Either way, I owe you a dose of content that is on topic. This one revolves around a simple question that very few companies think through in depth: What is our code?

By code, I mean a system of governance and a definition of what honorable behavior really is. Operating by a code cuts through the crap. It simplifies and distills to essence that which is too easy to complicate.

In building strategic plans, distilling the code is key. It generates the answers to who we are and who we hope to be. It’s necessary. “Market leadership through ethical cost leadership” is a code one can operate by. It establishes the ends, means, and methods.

Do you have a code?

For companies, codes are important for alignment and action. Companies that are unable to articulate codes, or that formulate codes that are at wild odds with personal codes, will struggle to succeed. How do I know? I’ve been in plenty of companies with codes that go something like this: “Grow revenue and grow earnings.” That’s it.

You might call this the “coin-operated code” because, just like a vending machine, you aren’t getting anything unless you put coins in. In reality, a code focused only on outcomes or money is no code at all. Executives who operate with no codes, or corrupt ones, get found out soon enough. A company that operates via a coin-operated code forgets its customers and invites attacks.

So, what’s a more holistic code? How do you know when you have one? I defined it a few paragraphs earlier: A complete code establishes the ends, means, and methods. And it does so in very simple terms.

A code I’ve worked to share in our organization, and that I believe strongly underpins the promise of WGP’s consulting practice, revolves around three things: We listen. We bring something new. We do real work. 

That’s it. That’s the “code of honor” I bandy about to our team, and one that I believe sets the stage for ultimate value.

We listen because we can’t be effective partners to our clients without understanding before being understood. We bring something new because without fresh insights, we are just a temp agency on steroids. We do real work because that’s how fact-based strategy is established (and because the world doesn’t need any more pontificating armchair consultants).

So, what’s your code?

As an aside: All of this is all secondary to and perhaps separate from personal values. Yet your corporate code has to align with personal values of the highest and best among you, or you’ll get the personal values of the lowest and least. And that’s the recipe for a code red.

I’ll just leave that for you to ponder.

What do you think? 

Don’t let butt brushes bite you from behind

The small things that turn people off from doing business with you can cause big damage.

Geoff Wilson

Millions of people shop every day. Thousands of retail executives spend millions of dollars each year trying to pinpoint what makes people lock in and buy their merchandise. They discuss store formats, look and feel, customer flow, sales interactions, and numerous other concepts. And then, some guy comes along with a perspective that attacks high-concept with a decidedly low-concept insight.

That’s what Paco Underhill did in his book Why We Buy. One of my favorite insights from that book concerns the “butt-brush effect.” Simply put, the butt-brush effect is an observation that customers tend to stop shopping when they’re touched from behind. So, when racks in stores are packed too closely together, people negotiating the cramped quarters are more likely to brush their rear ends against one another. And when that happens, they tend to get uncomfortable and stop shopping.

Butt brushes are easy to describe in a retail environment. They are, literally, butt brushes. But butt brushes exist in all business contexts. They are small portions of customer or vendor experience (yes, I’ll include vendors) that make executing your strategy just that much harder. They make people uncomfortable.

In your business, butt brushes are unintended impacts. They come from people who aren’t setting the strategy. They sometimes even occur from people just “doing their jobs.” Those are the ones that are the most insidious.

What are some examples?

  • “Aggressive attorney” butt brush: You know him. He’s the guy who makes closing the transaction a complete slog. He’s the one who focuses on the minute details to the exclusion of the relationship. He makes it hard for others to like your company.
  • “Credit Nazi” butt brush: Similar to the aggressive attorney, the contentious credit guy is a sales-prevention army of one.
  • “Purchasing” butt brush: You’ve gotten to know the senior managers of your prospective vendor. They like you. You like them. The deal is as good as done. Then, you have to pass them off to the purchasing department. Things get… brushy.

There are also the many tiny butt brushes you offer up to your prospective customers and strategic partners every day. A fantastic example is the “My smart phone is more important than you” butt brush. Yeah, you get it.

You’ve invested untold time and money into customer insights and strategy. You’ve established a path and process to get there. So why let butt brushes ruin it all? Seemingly small discomforts (sometimes driven by small mindsets) turn people off in a big way.

Keep an eye out for butt brushes before they bite you from behind.

What do you think?

Mongolian Beef and the Moment of Truth

We all face moments of truth.  What do yours reveal about you?


This past Friday evening–at the end of what was a fantastic week–I decided to drop in on a local Chinese food restaurant for takeout before heading home to my family.

It was a regular drop in on a business I hadn’t been to in probably four months.  I placed a “robust” order to feed our family of 6, and then walked outside the restaurant to talk on the phone while my order was prepared.

When I walked back in, one earphone in my ear and the other dangling so that I could pick up my two sackfuls of Chinese goodness, the cook and proprietor of the restaurant pointed to the sacks and said “I made you a Mongolian Beef to make up for the one I missed last time.”

I was astounded.

“Last time,” as I noted above, had to have been four months ago.  I vaguely remembered, only after the cook pointed it out, that I had indeed arrived home one Mongolian Beef short of my full order on that trip.  I remember calling briefly and letting the shop know (without much fanfare…literally just “hey, wanted you to know we were short on this one…no big deal.”).

And the cook remembered better than me.

He, no doubt, had a moment of truth where his customer walked in, didn’t say a word about a past service miss, placed a big order, and then waited.  The moment of truth was that moment when he faced the choice of either to address a prior miss that hadn’t been remembered by the customer, or to just go with the flow and ignore it–banking on the customer’s ignorance.

On moments of truth

There’s a reality in customer service–all parts of business and life, really.  It’s that we all face moments of truth.  Moments of truth are moments that force us to reveal–at the very least to ourselves–who we really are.

It may be that moment when you ought to deliver hard feedback to a client but decide not to because it’s too, well, hard.

It may be that moment when you return that overpayment to your customer like it’s a hot potato because you are not about keeping your customers’ money.

And, yes, it may be that moment when you remember a customer issue from four months ago and go the extra mile to mitigate it when the chance, finally, arises again.

We all have moments of truth in our lives. Moments of truth are moments of truth because we quite often have discretion about which way we go.

We can choose.

We can hide from the truth and reveal that we are, in fact, cowardly (like in my feedback example above).  Or, we can face the music and see where it takes us.

The question we all should consider is this:  When faced with my moment of truth, what will it reveal about me?

We should all hope for the revelation of strength of character in such moments.

What do you think?

The Best Praise For a Pro

What it means to be “fire and forget.”


“Fire and forget…”

It’s a term used to describe smart weapons that can lead themselves to a designated target.

It’s also quite possibly the best praise a professional can receive. As in: “He’s fire and forget, put him on the problem and tell him to call you when it’s solved.”

The phrase is worthy of a blog post here because, put simply, it’s something that we focus on developing in our work with our clients.  While the vast majority of our work is focused on working closely with our clients, there are times when data just needs to be found, or interviews conducted, or analysis completed in order to solve a problem.

And that’s where being or having access to “fire and forget” resources can make the difference between professional life and professional death.  Being a resource of this kind means a few things.

It means you are competent.

It means you are reliable.

It means you are trusted.

It means you are credible.

It means you are resourceful.

It means you are responsible with resources.

And, so if fire and forget is the ultimate in professional attainment, why are so many professionals lacking this level of trust?

My answer?  A mis-designation.  We think some people are professionals when in reality they are simply role players.  They have a job, not a profession.  There is a difference.  There are plenty of ways to define what a professional is, but I know of only one good way:

The professional gets the job done the right way. 

But, becoming a professional is a process. Sure, there are some intrinsic aspects of a worker that are hard to coach–how curious they are, how resilient they are, whether they act with purpose or watch the clock–you probably know them.  But so much of being a pro has to be learned.  Show up.  Get results.  Do real work.  All these are marks of a great pro.  But, so is sensitivity.  So is practical judgment.  So is empathy.

You want to gain the highest professional compliment?  You want to be “fire and forget?” Better yet, do you want to retain or hire true professionals?  Start looking at their track record on these attributes.  Start looking for people who act with purpose and judgment, even early in their careers.

Oh, and when your professionals aren’t professionals?  Make the move.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this one…