There's a story about a company that hired a high-priced consultant to help them sell more baby powder. This occurred many years before the presence of personal computers or the Internet.
They provided him his own office and he seemingly appeared to do little more than place personal phone calls and complete crossword puzzles. After several days, exasperated, the manager overseeing the project barged into the room demanding to know what the consultant was up to.
"You want to sell more baby powder", the consultant roared back. "I'll tell you how to sell more. Make the holes in the container larger!"
Whether urban lore or truth, this story underscores an all too often phenomenon. The decision-making process becomes clouded by the allure of a star brand or rapid success.
I've experienced this first hand. I was so drawn to the charisma of a highpowered business coach Il forewent my typical methodical vetting before making a hire.
It wasn't that he misled me-he didn't. It wasn't that he wasn't generous-he was. He was transparent, successful, brilliant, and big-hearted.
All attributes I admired wanted to replicate. A perfect formula for success?
Yet, what started with so much promise eventually fizzled.
What I discovered over time, at the root of why his approach never worked for me, was we held fundamentally different values in several key areas. I wanted to build a collaboratively based practice, jointly working with others.
His focus was on building a brand focused solely on my work. And while I believe that many people fall short of reaching their potential for lack of access to resources and opportunity, he embraced a pull yourself up by your boot strap approach.
As successful as his method was for him and others, it is little wonder it didn't work for me.
The next time you interview a coach or a consultant, ask them about their values.
Because it doesn't matter how skilled or experienced they are, if your values do not align, you will never reach an optimal outcome. Undoubtedly making larger holes in baby powder containers would have produced more sales, but the company would have compromised its integrity and ultimately have created ill-will.
Emphasizing values is gaining traction throughout organizations. Not just lip service and nice phrases to hang on the wall, but as tangible manifestations of how companies treat employees and customers alike.
Accompanying this trend has been a growing emphasis on incorporating values into the hiring process. It makes perfect sense. For no matter the talent level of a potential worker, if their values are far astray from the organization's, all that wonderful capability will be misdirected.
Why would it be any different when working with a consultant or coach. When values are aligned, the results are more fulfilling and successful.
Though tempting as it is to hire somebody with a track record of assisting others in growing sales, maximizing productivity, or honing leadership skills, if their approach doesn't work for you, you're simply not going to follow what they recommend. And often the reason their approach doesn't work, is because their values do not mesh with yours.
Think about this for a moment. A consultant demonstrates how you can maximize profit by cutting benefits, reducing the services you offer, or cutting corners on environmental standards.
Yet, your driving passion is to provide the highest quality product while supporting the communities in which you do business. It would seem silly to do business with this firm.
Yet, too often decisions are made based on apparent instant gains, adopting trends others embrace, or quick return on investment.
This plays out every day in the business arena. Two hundred top executives were asked to identify the most significant wastes of time and resources.
Number one? Consultants who came up with elaborate plans that were eventually shelved. Though there is no single explanation for lack of followthrough, undoubtedly, for some, recommendations were not consistent with either the company's culture or values, and hence, no matter how wellcrafted the plans, there was no room in the organization to carry them out.
It's not just consultants, but coaches as well.
I've had the good fortune of working with a number of mentors in my professional career. People whose wisdom and experience continues to influence my approach many years later.
What allowed this to unfold was the trust engendered in the interactions. They respected my aspirations and when a recommendation conflicted with my values, we could discuss in a way that was beneficial.
While skill level, personality styles, and cultural factors, all play a significant role, values need to mesh as well.
Who wants to spend an hour being coached on how to avoid conflict, if one values honest conversations above all else. Or how to stand out as a leader, if one's cultural perspective shuns such an emphasis.
Not only is it a waste of time, but it is not being helpful-another one of my core values.
Which is why an effective coach continually monitors the effectiveness of their approach, solicits feedback and suggestions, and makes adjustments accordingly to assure outcomes that magnify what is possible.
So the next time you interview a consultant or a coach, ask them to describe, articulate, and provide examples of their values.