Passages - Richard Reardon

NOTE: This blog was initially published in 2014 as part of a series I wrote about the most unforgettable people I have known in my life. I learned this morning that Richard passed away in September of this year after a battle with cancer. I knew Richard, and he served as a life-altering thinking partner to not only me but to many others that he worked with as well. I have never met anyone else that is as skilled as a critical thinker as he was. He will be much missed by all those who knew him. As always, you can find all of my blogs from 2013 to the present on my website at https://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/

I met Richard Reardon 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 utterly 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 learned from Richard could fill a few volumes, but here are some jewels that I can share with you now:

  1. Know the difference between "why, what," and "how" - too many people in the world of work often skip right over the "why"and the "what" and start figuring out "how" to get something done before they even decide why and 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 execute that are actually just operational plans. I would summarize this lesson into five words - achieving clarity about what's important.
  2.  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 two words - getting focus.
  3.  Most of all, I 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 was so good at what he did that I never even met him - he lived in L.A. and I was in Colorado - we spent a few hundred hours on the phone between 2011 and 2103 and the only way I know what he looks like is through his LinkedIn photo. That's how good he was at what he did.

We'll all miss you, Richard.