NOTE: This is #8 in my series of most unforgettable people. I know Richard and he has served as a life altering thinking partner to not only me, but many others that he has worked with in their professional lives. I have never met anyone else that is as skilled as a critical thinker as he is.
I met Richard in 2011, when my colleague, Chris Hutchinson, suggested that I should chat with him to see where my professional gaps were, even with all of my unusual and extensive work, as well as, my life experiences.
Our first call was almost bewildering as he started to ask me questions about various subjects related to how I conducted my consulting practice and how I interacted with clients. I got a little defensive and suggested that after 25 years of consulting work, I thought I knew what I was doing. Well, guess what; I really didn't know all that I thought I did or needed to know.
So began an over 2 year weekly journey with Richard to explore how I could always be better at serving clients in a way that would allow for transference of skills vs. me always being the expert that had all of the answers. What's more, how to provide real and measurable value.
The first three months were the hardest learning experience I have ever had, with me hanging up the phone at the end of each call feeling more and more stupid and frustrated than the previous call. I even considered calling it off, but I was also intrigued that this old dog (yours truly) might be able to learn some new tricks!
What I have learned so far from Richard could fill a few volumes, but here are some jewels that I can share with you now:
- Know the difference between "what" and "how" - too many people in the world of work often skip right over the "what" and start figuring out "how" to get something done before they even decide what it is that they are doing. In the world of American business, this is almost an epidemic. I see many so-called strategic plans that people have paid a lot of money to a consultant to have executed that are really just operational plans. I would summarize this lesson into five words - achieving clarity about what's important.
- Don't take on other people's limitations as you decide how you are going to negotiate with, interact with, and work with them. Too often, potential clients, as well as current clients will "project" their fears and limitations onto you, when they really don't know what it is that they are thinking about. Helping them to decide what is really critical and what they would like to achieve will serve both parties well, as you continue to build a relationship between you and them. I would summarize this lesson into three words - getting to focus.
- Most of all, I have learned from Richard that the present world of work is too complex to go it alone and we can all benefit from having someone to be an objective thinking partner, sounding board, and even just a person to vent frustrations with that can respond in a non-judgmental way and defuse possible inappropriate actions. I would summarize this lesson into six words - no one can be an island!
How does some of this translate into my daily work life? Well, for one, before I go into any meeting, whether it be with a current client or someone I am meeting for the first time, I ask myself, out loud, "What do I want to accomplish here?" Then, I do the same at the beginning of the meeting; setting, by agreement with the other party, a time limit and what we would like to accomplish, the ways that the meeting could end and then any possible future connections we could make.
Here is the best part about Richard; he is so good at what he does that I have never even met him - we have spent a few hundred hours on the phone over the past 2.5 years and I don't even know what he looks like. That's how good he is at what he does.
Cheers to you, Richard!