Icon Key
Bookmark and Share


Day-to-Day Operations

Use Trusted Advisors to Shore Up Your Consulting

Print View |  Bookmark & Share  |  Comment |   |  Back to List |  << Previous 
I think of myself as "an A student" and don't like to fail. That's why, when an assignment gets overly-difficult or complex, I reach out to others for their thoughts and ideas. Even though independent, I realize that asking for help is a sign of strength. 

A company hired me to give one of their underperforming Vice Presidents a 360 Review, because many of his colleagues and team members had expressed deep concerns about him.

In a "360," the candidate completes a questionnaire about him- or herself, and their boss, peers, and direct reports complete the same questionnaire.

A typical 360 measures things like building strong teams, delegating, developing others, and making decisions. The results are tabulated anonymously and allow the candidate to see how their view of themselves differs from the way they're seen by others. The gaps present development opportunities.

For example, if I rate my decision making ability a 4.5 (on a 5-point scale) and my observers rate me a 2.5, there's a large gap of 2 points. That tells me I'm worse at making decisions than I had thought, and that decision making is something I must improve. Since a 360 is often a 50-page report, there are a lot of issues to consider.

In this case, the candidate was a Senior Vice President in the state's largest bank. His 360 scores were so poor I wondered if I could succeessfully turn him around and save his job. I thought perhaps the company should just terminate him.

To help me navigate these difficult waters I wrote an email to 12 trusted advisors asking their input. Without mentioning personal or company names, I explained the situation.

They unanimously thought the executive should be coached, not fired. This is the thank you letter I sent to those who helped me.


Thank you for coming to my aid when I reached out to you on Wednesday,  March 26. Sure, I could have tackled the assignment alone, but I felt more confident drawing on your good will and life experience.

This was a biggie. I've turned around many executives faced with termination, but never any with scores at 40%.

We agreed not to terminate Martin (not his real name). As one friend advised, "going straight into termination is not the way to institutionalize 360 surveys."

We also decided not to change his job description or remove direct reports. (Turns out he has eight direct reports, not 80 as I had told you.)

The CEO met with Martin and told him he was facing dismissal. Then I met with him for three hours, which seemed like five minutes.

I did not share the terrible 46-page 360-review with him because I thought that much negative feedback would break him.

Instead, I told him that his direct reports had given him 2's across all measures. That's 40% which is an "F" in anyone's classroom. Martin was stunned but received the feedback well.

His job is extremely complex and may be too big. (This bank is a 55-gallon can of worms.)

I taught him that a leader's first and primary job is to develop his/her people, regardless of the tasks at hand. That was a revelation.

I gave him a copy of the bulleted leadership style of a Senior District Team Leader (District Manager) from Target corporation. His resume is stacked with awards as District Team Leader of the Year, Best Talent Developer, Best Boss, and Best Team Player.

He's a great role model. Martin was encouraged to see what good looks like. (He could use a powerful mentor who is a great developer of talent.)

He was to have an all-day team meeting on Friday, so we scripted his kick-off, which thanked the group for participating in the study, acknowledged his failings, and promised to make fixing them Job #1.

He texted that the meeting had gone extremely well, and several direct reports thanked him privately.

So far, so good.

I told Martin that I'm not handling this alone, that I've assembled a team to help him. I mean that sincerely. I didn't give him names, but I told him about your role as a business and community leader. He was comforted not to be going it alone.

As I was driving to meet Martin Thursday morning, I was a bit unsettled. I'd had a sleepless night. Lives and careers are at stake, and I don't want to mess this up. As I was driving, I was talking to my oldest son in Seattle, and he said, "Dad, if anyone can help him, you can."

Thanks for responding to me so quickly with such great ideas.

Footnote: I spent several months helping Martin improve his performance. His scores on a second 360 were better. Things went so well the CEO gave him glowing reviews. Sadly, a month later I received a call from the VP of Human Resources telling me that Martin was being fired.

The bank being tight-lipped, I never learned the reasons why. They gave Martin a generous severance and outplacement package, and as his outplacement (career transition) consultant, I helped him land a bigger, better job where he has been more successful and happy.

Print View |  Bookmark & Share  |  Comment |   |  Back to List |  << Previous 


Add a Comment
Your rating:
Your URL:
Your e-mail:
Enter security code:
 Security code
(please enter the
numbers on the image)

William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.