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The 10 Most Important Job Skills for 2020

Posted on October 3, 2018 at 3:55 PM


What skills are the most important for employees and job seekers to develop?

In 2016, the World Economic Forum -- the group behind the annual conference of leaders in business, politics, and more in Davos, Switzerland -- posed this question to Chief Human Resource Officers and other senior talent and strategy executives from 371 leading global employers. The" target="_blank">report argued that wide adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics over the next years will change what employers expect of workers. Here are the 10 most important skills they said employees and job seekers should have by the year 2020, in order of importance. 

1 - Complex Problem Solving - "Developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings." - Artificial intelligence technologies likely will increasingly take over simple problem solving activities at work - e.g., looking up account information or setting up appointments on a calendar. The most complex problems will be left for the people at work to solve.

How to Prepare -> Get" target="_blank">training in complex problem solving for yourself and your team.

2 - Critical Thinking - "Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems." - Fast moving changes in technology are making business processes and strategies more complex. People will need critical thinking skills to find opportunities for improvement in the face of this complexity.

How to Prepare -> Get" target="_blank">training in critical thinking skills for yourself and your team.  

3 - Creativity - "The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem." - Not everyone is born as a Picasso, but everyone can work to grow their own creative skills. One way to offer more creative ideas at work is to find creative ideas in other areas that may apply.


How to Prepare -> Stoke your curiosity by seeking lessons from things outside of your work that may give you inspiration at work. Read great books. Seek new experiences. Meet new people. Find other" target="_blank">ways to spark your creativity.


4 - People Management - "Motivating, developing and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job." - As long as there are people in the workplace, there will need to be other people there to recruit and manage them. You can't outsource people management to computers.


How to Prepare -> Seek opportunities to gain people management experience in your current role. Get" target="_blank">training in people management.


5 - Coordinating with Others - "Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions." - Rigid hierarchies and organizational "silos" are out in the workplace. Cross-functional, ad hoc teams are in. To succeed, people need to be able to work in a more ad hoc manner and coordinate with people across functions and departments. Communication and planning skills will be key.


How to Prepare -> Get training in project management skills. 

6 - Emotional Intelligence - "Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do." - As artificial intelligence takes over more responsibilities for simple processes at work, relationship-centered work will be reserved for humans in the office. As products and services get more complex, the ability to explain and sell them to other people will be essential as well. Being able to read and react to customers' and colleagues' reactions will be an increasingly important skill in relationship-centered jobs.


How to Prepare -> Read up on Emotional Intelligence. Take an assessment of your Emotional Intelligence to identify areas for improvement. 

7 - Judgment and Decision-Making - "Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one." - Artificial intelligence will continue to take over responsibility for more decision-making in the workplace. Eventually, only the hardest, "gray-area" issues will be left to people to decide. Being able to weigh trade offs and risks of different options will be a key skill to develop.


How to Prepare -> Seek roles that allow you to gain experience in decision-making. Get training in decision-making.  

8 - Service Orientation - "Actively looking for ways to help people." - Have you ever called a service line and just wanted to escalate enough to talk to a person instead of a robot? You are not alone. Being able to give a human touch while working real-time with customers to help them solve their problems is a timeless skill.


How to Prepare -> Get out and talk to real customers to understand their needs. Seek roles that give you live interaction with customers.  

9 - Negotiation - "Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences." - There will always be differences of opinions, trade-offs, and a competing priorities in the workplace. People who can find compromises that are acceptable to all parties will always be in demand.


How to Prepare -> Get training in negotiation skills.


10 - Cognitive Flexibility - "The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways." - One constant we can expect in the future of the workplace is change. Another constant is the need to manage many different things at once. People who can find and apply new frameworks to quickly understand and shift between changes will be a step ahead.


How to Prepare -> Do" target="_blank">exercises to improve your cognitive flexibility.

3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

Posted on September 20, 2018 at 10:40 PM

Last month, I hiked 200 miles (320 kilometers) over two weeks on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. It was my third Camino in five years. I go back because I have found the Camino to be more than just a fantastic trail. The Camino provides a unique social learning opportunity as I meet and share an intense experience with fellow hikers from around the world. It also provides me alone-time to reflect on my own life and career. After my first Camino, that combination inspired me to post a blog here on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned. That blog snowballed into a book deal with HarperCollins. This third Camino taught me three different, but equally powerful lessons.

1 - Find a Train to Jump On - During a stop on my book tour in June, I met a couple of readers who were interested in walking the Camino but had not yet made it happen. When they asked me if I was going again, I told them about my August trip, which was timed to celebrate the release of the Spanish-language version of my book. They were nice folks, and in the spirit of the Camino, I told them they would be welcome to join me. I didn't think anything would come of it, but three weeks later I got an email. They had decided to do it and had gotten the time off work. About six weeks later, we all met for the second time on a morning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and climbed over the Pyrenees Mountains together into Spain (see picture). Many miles later, we parted at the end of the trail in Santiago de Compostela as fellow Camino pilgrims - and new friends.

Leadership Lesson - If you have a big, difficult goal and you find someone else with that same goal who has a plan to achieve it, jump on that train with them!

2 - Test Your Boundaries - Before Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, many Europeans believed that Cape Finesterre in Spain (pictured) was the western-most point in Europe, and thus represented the end of the world. After reaching the end of the Camino trail, many of these medieval pilgrims continued on for a few more days of walking to see for themselves. These pilgrims must have felt a surge of confidence after walking across Spain - something that may have seemed impossible to them before they did it. They wanted to see for themselves if other supposed limits were really true as well.

Leadership Lesson - When you have some belief that is limiting your potential, test it. Sometimes you will realize a big wall in front of you is just a bubble waiting to be burst if you just poke it.

3 - Seize Safe Moments to Try Crazy Things - After I walked to Finesterre, I was tired and not looking forward to retracing my steps on the 40 minute walk back to my hostel. I didn't see many other options. Then I decided to try something I had never done before - hitch-hiking. While I never recommend getting into a car with complete strangers on the roadside, I knew this would be the safest place I would ever try it. Because the road went to the "end of the world," everyone driving back were tourists like me headed back to town. It was a busy road in broad daylight and I had my phone on me, so I stuck out my thumb. Just before the five minutes I had given myself to try it ended, a nice couple of French women pulled over. We chatted a bit in English before I took up their offer to jump in their back seat. Five minutes later I was back in town with a couple of new friends - and a new story.

Leadership Lesson - Take advantage of very low risk situations to try out constructive new things. For example, on one solo business trip early in my career, I popped into a karaoke bar I walked by to sing a song. I hadn't had many chances to do public speaking before, and that helped me fight stage fright in a low risk environment since I knew nobody in that town.

Sometimes a vacation can be a great way to do something that helps you in life after the vacation is over. If you are looking for an adventure that can help you long after the vacation is over, it is hard to beat the Camino - a trail people have been walking for over 1,000 years.

3 Ways to Get Repeat Sales in Consulting

Posted on July 5, 2018 at 3:55 PM

To reach the partnership level as a management consultant, you need to be more than just great at solving client's problems - you have to be able to sell new work. The hard way to do that is to prospect for new clients. The easier way to do that is to sell more work to clients they are already working with. The key is to find needs your client has that you can solve in a cost-effective way through consulting. Here are three ways you can do that:


Ask - The easiest way is to ask your client. The best time is to ask after you have proven your value by delivering great results from your existing work. If your client feels like the investment they made in your consulting engagement has provided great returns, ask where else they think there might be opportunities for similar results. Ask them if they would introduce you to other executives in the company that have been looking for help. At an office supplies client I worked with, for example, we ended up working all the way back the value chain to work with their paper and wood subsidiaries because they liked our consulting work and were willing to make internal referrals for us.

Offer Diagnostics - If you have built enough trust with your client, consider offering to do diagnostic work for them to find other untapped cost savings or revenue increases. This requires the client to invest some time and share some data with you. You have to invest some of your own team's time (not billed to the client) to do the assessment. Often, these diagnostics can be comparing their metrics in new areas to benchmarks you already have. Other times, you have to be more creative. At an automotive client I worked with, for example, we offered to analyze a random sample of their auto parts pricing data to see if there was an opportunity to boost profits by updating prices to meet demand. If we could prove the work would have a profit payoff, our client could justify keeping our team working with his. It turned out there was a big profitable payoff waiting, and I learned the power of pitching a "profit hunt" with clients where I have earned the trust to do so.

Identify Emerging Industry Trends - Consultants often don't specialize in an industry, at least before they get to the partnership level. While you are working on a project in an industry, make the extra effort to keep up with the industry trade websites and journals. Learning about customers, competitors, suppliers, and other industry stakeholders may spark ideas for potential needs your own client has. Even if your new industry knowledge doesn't help you get a repeat sale immediately, it could help you build an industry niche that you might need at the partner level.

You got a job in management consulting because you are good at gathering and analyzing information. Selling is a different skill, but these three steps help you get your first sale by starting from your strength in analysis.

7 Superpowers Consultants Learn that Recruiters Love

Posted on June 15, 2018 at 1:15 PM

There were over 637,000 people in the United States employed in the management consulting industry in 2016, according to With annual staff turnover rates of an estimated 15-20 percent, that suggests tens of thousands of former consultants leave consulting every year to take 'real' jobs at corporations. Corporate recruiters often see former consultants as hot prospects for jobs outside of consulting. Part of the reason is recruiters value the brands of top consulting companies because they know their hiring processes are highly selective. Another reason is recruiters realize consulting teaches people these seven skills that are highly-valued outside of consulting.

1 - Conceptual Thinking - Clients hire consultants to solve complex problems that don't have clear solutions. Consultants learn conceptual thinking skills that help them build structure and process around ambiguous problems to find solutions. This comfort with ambiguity can help former consultants be seen as creative thought-leaders in their new organizations.

2 - Critical Thinking - Consultants learn critical thinking skills to apply logic and analysis to find the answers to problems. They develop a bias to seek out facts and data instead of settling for anecdotes or opinions in making decisions. These critical thinking skills can help former consultants be seen as smart, disciplined decision-makers in executive roles. 

3 - Effective Communication - Consultants are trained to be concise and clear in their communications. They get many opportunities to present their work to others. They learn techniques like "answer-first communications," the "pyramid principle," and "elevator pitches" that help them effectively explain complex topics. These communications skills can help former consultants standout in new organizations where other people have not had the benefit of the same training in effective communication.

4 - Quantitative Analytics - Consultants learn to use advanced quantitative tools and methods to analyze data needed to find answers to client's questions. This reputation as "number crunchers" can give former consultants credibility when dealing with quantitatively-driven colleagues in a new organization in areas such as finance and engineering.

5 - Prioritization - Because they charge expensive rates, consultants are trained to prioritize their work to maximize the value they return to clients. They do that by using the Pareto Principle, often called simply the "80/20 rule." This rule states a common phenomena where the most important 20 percent of things you could work on will produce 80 percent of the value. By focusing on the important stuff, and avoiding "sweating the small stuff," former consultants can be seen as more efficient and results-driven in new organizations.

6 - Teamwork - Consultants learn to work well in teams because their consulting work is typically team-based. Since a new team forms for each new project, consultants get a chance to work in many different teams over time. This comfort working within teams can be a big asset for former consultants in new organizations that work in teams.

7 - Time-Management - Consultants work under tight deadlines in their projects. They also have to add in travel time to get to the client. Consultants learn to be efficient in managing their time to meet those deadlines. As they leave for organizations that have a slower pace, consultants can use their time management skills to be more efficient at work and, potentially strike a better work-life balance.

I started my business career as a management consultant and I have found these skills to be quite valuable in a wide variety of leadership jobs after consulting, ranging from startups to a big bank to city and federal government. Even if you haven't worked in consulting, you can still learn these skills by finding training programs that teach them.

How Executive Coaching Can Help Executive Recruiting

Posted on May 26, 2018 at 12:45 AM

Filling executive jobs is a crucial, and costly, recurring need for organizations. When an executive placement does not work out, it can be a painful experience for everyone involved - the hiring organization, the executive hired, and the executive recruiter. (See a recent, high-profile example" target="_blank">here.) To increase the chances of success, organizations can hire a coach to help in the critical transition period in a new executive's first year. Here are some ways a coach can help an executive avoid common pitfalls in the first year.

Pitfall #1 - Souring Relationship with Manager - A couple of hours of good chemistry between a hiring manager and a candidate in job interviews can lead to a job offer. Sometimes that chemistry can prove illusory after the candidate is hired and is operating in the role. An executive coach can help get a relationship back on track in a few ways. First, a coach can gather feedback from the boss and colleagues in an anonymized "360-degree" format. By using a technique called "active inquiry" in regular coaching sessions, an executive coach can help a client see the perspectives of their manager and colleagues. If required, a coach can facilitate a session with the everyone on the executive team to talk through problems and come up with potential solutions.


Pitfall #2 - Failure to Fit in the Organizational Culture - Executives often get hired because they have a record of success in other organizations. If executives run into trouble, it may be less about their skills and more about their ability to apply those skills in a new culture. What a new executive may complain about as "politics" might actually be a sign of a more collaborative, relationship-centered culture than they are used to. What a new executive may complain of as "bureaucracy" might actually be a sign of a more risk-averse culture than they are used to. An executive coach can be a sounding board to help a new executive understand how her actions will be seen in the broader organizational culture.

Pitfall #3 - Failure to Adjust Communication Style - Executives have different communication styles. So do their bosses and organizations. For example, organizations can differ in how open and honest feedback is viewed. Sometimes executives need to adjust their communication style to fit with their new environment. An executive coach can help in a few ways. A coach can help prepare for crucial one-on-one conversations through role-playing practice. A coach can help prepare for presentations by being a practice audience and giving feedback. Finally, a coach can act as a training curator to identify specific training in communication that best fits the executive's needs.

Pitfall #4 - Poor Task Management - As executives get hired into bigger roles, they are faced with broader scopes of responsibility. Sometimes that additional scope, combined with the need to learn how to operate in a new organization, can make a new executive feel overwhelmed. A coach can use a process called behavioral coaching to help an executive improve simple habits like time-management, timely-follow-up, and attention-to-detail. Once an executive identifies a simple habit they want to start or break, the coach will systematically hold them accountable for changing that behavior and help them track their progress.

Pitfall #5 - Failure to Communicate a Strategic Vision - The window for a new executive to explain their vision begins closing as soon as they start. Executives sometimes have a vision in their head but just don't know how to communicate it. A coach can help by finding tools, templates, training, and other examples a new executive can use as a starting point for their own plan. A coach can also be a useful sounding board and brainstorming partner in coming up with a strategic vision.

Organizations expend lots of time, effort and money to find people to fill their executive roles. When a new executive hire doesn't work out, it is a costly and painful problem, not just for the executive and their boss, but for the whole team led by the executive. Hiring a coach for a new executive hire can be a smart way to increase the chances for success.

5 Skills Executives Most Seek to Improve - And How Coaching Can Help

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 4:55 PM

According to a 2013 survey by Stanford Graduate School of Business professors, 51 percent of senior executives reported they "receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches." Over two-thirds (68 percent) of those senior executives reported that getting outside help was their own idea. These executives realized they needed continuous improvement to compete for the shrinking number of jobs up an organizational pyramid. They likely viewed outside consulting and coaching as a competitive advantage.



Senior executives: are you in the 51% of your peer group that is getting leadership advice from outside coaching and consulting, or are you in the 49% that is not?

According to the survey, these are the five skills that executives named as their biggest opportunities for improvement. While informal mentoring and consulting can help improve those skills, many executives invest in an executive coach to get more focused and structured help.


1 - Conflict Management - 34% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their conflict management skills. An executive coach can help by uncovering the underlying reasons for conflicts by conducting 360-degree interviews with an executive's team and colleagues. A coach can facilitate meetings to surface and address conflicts in a safe, controlled way. A coach can also practice role playing to help an executive prepare for crucial conversations with colleagues and others where conflicts could erupt.


2 - Decision-Making - 26% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their decision-making skills. The independent perspective of an executive coach can help here. A coach can be a sounding board without a bias or stake in the decision. A coach can also push an executive to test their assumptions in a way that subordinates may not. A coach can also bring in outside perspectives as a brainstorming partner to help find out of the box solutions to problems.

3 - Planning - 21% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their planning skills. Talking with a coach can be a great way for an executive to translate ideas and goals in their head into options on paper. Because they bring an independent, outsider perspective, coaches can ask the questions that people on an executive's team may not ask. An executive coach can also introduce tools, templates, training, and external best practices that can help with planning. A coach can also help executives hold themselves accountable to start and finish planning in the timeline required.

4 - Listening - 18% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their listening skills. Thankfully, listening is a easy skill to understand. It just takes discipline and change management to make it a good habit. Coaches can use behavioral coaching to help executives focus on improving their listening skills. Once identified as a goal, the coach can help their executive client measure and track progress on a regular basis in stopping bad behaviors (e.g., interrupting, not paying attention) and demonstrating desired behaviors (e.g., active listening). The coach can also get feedback from the client's colleagues on their improvement in listening.

5 - Empathy - 18% of senior executives believed they needed to improve their empathy skills. Senior executives can struggle to empathize with colleagues who do not share their executive focus and mindset. A coach can identify an assessment tool that can help an executive understand how and where they perceive things differently than others. A coach can also be a sounding board and use a technique called active inquiry to pose questions to help an executive consider the impact, and perceived intent, of their actions on colleagues.

Hiring an executive coach can be a worthwhile investment for executives of all types. For those seeking to continue climbing up the ladder to CEO, it can provide a valuable competitive edge over executives who insist on a "go it alone" approach. For executives content with where they are, coaching can be a great way to make work more enjoyable ... for themselves and everyone who works with them.

7 Challenges Ex-Consultants Face in Corporate Jobs - and How to Overcome Them

Posted on April 20, 2018 at 4:15 AM

There were over 637,000 people in the United States employed in the management consulting industry in 2016, according to With annual staff turnover rates of an estimated 15-20 percent, that suggests tens of thousands of former consultants leave consulting every year to take 'real' jobs at corporations. Since the consulting and corporate worlds are different in many ways, that transition can be a big adjustment for these 'recovering consultants.' I made that transition after I left Bain & Company and learned plenty of lessons. I recently interviewed 42 other former consultants -- 19 from Bain, 4 from McKinsey, 1 from BCG, and the rest from others -- to ask them for their insights and advice. According to that survey, here are the 7 biggest challenges consultants face in corporate jobs, and advice to overcome them.

Challenge #1 - "Too Much Corporate Bureaucracy"

(67% agreed, 19% disagreed) 


Consulting work can be cut and dry. Consultants often work on projects with clearly defined goals and timelines. Bureaucratic barriers at clients are often cleared by senior executives at the client looking to get important - and expensive - consulting projects completed as quickly as possible. Once a consultant moves into a job with a corporation, they have to face the bureaucracy on their own.


Ben described it this way: “Once you are inside, the Powerpoint deck is just the first step to 'sell' a project or initiative internally. Then comes the hard part - marshaling resources, motivating a team that may not report directly to you, and moving the project forward to achieve real results.”


Arshad described the challenge this way: “Understanding who does what and how to move an organization towards a goal - that is a challenge. Consultants tend to be a bit isolated from the complexities of how to move an organization behind a novel concept or a new business direction. The key is to get the attention at the right levels to move the right pieces of the puzzle in order to get your goals accomplished!”


Glen summarized it this way: “Consultants can fall into the trap of believing that the 'right' answer and the logic and associated PowerPoint deck will always win the day. The value of gathering support for your point of view in other ways is accentuated in corporate environments.”


Recommendation - Corporate executives have to invest as much energy and thought in planning a successful implementation as consultants spend defining the strategy and business case.

Challenge #2 - "Organizational Politics are a Bigger Pain"

(67% agreed, 21% disagreed)


Politics can mean many things in an organization, but I have found corporate politics often center around Relationships, Prioritization, and Culture. Like any organization, consulting firms have internal politics, but they are capped by several factors including: the outward focus on client Relationships, the clear line of sight to revenue as a Prioritization tool, and the ability to select people for fit with the Culture. Internal politics in larger, more complex corporations can be a bigger challenge.


Regarding Relationships, Glen advised: “Anticipate that a greater percentage of your time and effort will be spent on managing / negotiating / building relationships both inside and outside your organization.”


Rick said: “Build relationships - success is no longer about just being smart and being able to communicate well, you have to pay attention to your coworkers and understand how to get things done in the new environment. I remember coming out and getting very passionate about outsourcing our data center. I put together a data driven deck and started to socialize. I quickly found out that despite what I thought was a really sound strategy, the idea went nowhere because I could not get the attention of the right people.”


Patricia said: “Know your audience--your peers, your boss, your boss's boss--and manage communications accordingly. Open, honest and direct doesn't work as effectively within a non-consulting environment.”


James summed it up this way: “Great soft skills go far in this new world.”


Darryl echoed that: “Most jobs require more soft skills and political savvy than analysis. Sometimes former consultants may appear a bit arrogant or aloof.”


Regarding Prioritization, Mike summed it up this way: “Consulting gives you a view of where you can find the impact. The challenge is you now need to make that impact happen which requires you to understand politics and processes. Get to know the organizational politics quickly and figure out the processes for getting work done (project prioritization process, strategic planning process, etc.).”


Regarding Culture, Jen said: “Understand that there will be a culture change, and that depending on the type of organization you end up working with, the resources and amenities at your fingertips may vary.”


Patrick advised: “Make sure you understand the culture of the company you are joining.”


Darryl said: “Understand the organization's values and make sure they align with yours.”


Noelle recommended “Get involved within the organization to reduce the outsider label and to create in-roads and recognition in other parts of the organization (corporate initiatives, fundraisers, social activities, sports teams, etc.) Seek out team-based opportunities and initiatives that occur within the company. It's a great fit and provides a consulting-like feel and gives you an opportunity to shine.”


Recommendation - All the above. Also consider getting training and coaching. Training can help build the “soft / EQ skills” required more of corporate executives than consultants. Coaching can help you understand the political landscape in your organization and how to best navigate it.

Challenge #3 - "Colleagues Don't Communicate Efficiently and Effectively"

(62% agreed, 17% disagreed)


Efficient and effective communications are core skills for consultants and they get lots of training and on-the-job experience to hone those skills. People outside of consulting don’t get that same training and experience.


Mike summed it up this way: “People are terrible at writing decks. They're monolithic data dumps that don't have a clear story or recommendation. Not only will you find going through their work frustrating, you'll also be frustrated when they ask you to add tons of irrelevant data and information to your nice, clear, simple recommendations.”


Jason said: “You have to dumb down messages. It takes longer to communicate. Standards are not the same across a company. Vocabulary is not the same.”


Thomas shared this: “Communication is the biggest thing ... whether it’s email or PowerPoint or meeting notes, management consulting is an utterly spoiling experience with respect to effective and concise exchange of ideas. Having said that, getting stuff done and talking about it aren’t the same thing so underestimating someone’s skills simply because of their bullet point marksmanship or charting acumen is a grave mistake.”


Recommendation: Invest in training your team in the communication skills that consultants learn. It will boost their performance throughout their careers. It will improve your team results and reduce your frustration.

Challenge #4 - "Not Enough Intellectual/Academic Stimulation"

(60% agreed, 26% disagreed)


Consulting firms' outputs center on ideas and analysis. Corporations typically produce more tangible goods and services. Former consultants can miss the intellectual, analytical part of the work.


David mentioned the following things he missed: “No one to really brainstorm with, fewer people that challenge your assumptions (often leading to poor outcomes as they will assume you are right even when you are not). It can be challenging to push people to make evidence-based decisions (or even gather the information to do so).”


Rick echoed the lack of evidenced-based decisions: “The lack of analytic rigor has become very clear and frustrating. We convinced the organization that they needed to do some test and learn experiments on some new product solutions. We put the test into market, but after only a week, senior leaders decided they were so excited by the concept that they wanted to roll it out to the entire portfolio (10 million +). This was before any results were back to prove the business case. It was all anecdotal and by feel.”


Recommendation - Search for others in your company or network to be a sounding board and brainstorming partner. An executive coach can also be a helpful external resource.

Challenge #5 - "Work Feels Lonely / Miss the Camaraderie of Consulting"

(57% agreed, 21% disagreed)


Consultants can feel a lot of camaraderie with their consulting colleagues. The travel and long hours of the work, combined with the fact that many consultants are about at the same age and place in life, can create strong bonds between colleagues. The corporate world looks more like the real world. People come from a wide variety of ages and interests. They may not look to their colleagues for friendship and camaraderie as much.


Recommendation - Find other former consultants within your larger organization and create a network. Take advantage of the decrease in travel to find activities outside of work to find camaraderie.

Challenge #6 - "Not a Clear Promotion Path"

(52% agreed, 31% disagreed)


Consulting firms typically have a very clear promotion path - you strive to make partner. To get to partner, you have to prove you can bring in revenue, which means you are creating your own headroom for promotion. Career paths in the corporate world can be less clear or fast. You may need to have your boss leave to get their job. Or you may have to switch departments to find the headroom for a new, bigger role.


Glen suggested this: “I would think about the level at which you leave consulting as each successive consulting promotion (e.g. - Manager, VP) roughly slots you into a corporate structure at a higher level. Also think about whether you think you want to be a career 'strategist' or are more interested in an 'operating/GM' role or 'functional' role (e.g. - Finance, Marketing, Biz Dev/M&A). Sometimes strategy is an entry door into an operating or functional role, but this may or may not be the best avenue depending on the company and situation.”


David echoed that this way: “Parachute into the highest level possible as the climb up the ladder may be long.”


Amy suggested: “Look for an area in the company which is dynamic and growing, and where you can be a part of a strong team. Find a well-positioned, appreciative boss who will bring you up the ladder with him/her.”


Bill said: “Ensure the opportunity provides ability to impact bottom line. More impact = more support and greater financial & career upside.”


Noelle advised: “Recognize that your first move/position within a company may be temporary. As executives/business units get a better understanding of your breadth of capabilities and your relationships expand, movement within the organization can happen. You may find a position that is of more interest to which your skills are better suited. As a woman leaving consulting for a more stable and consistent lifestyle to perhaps start a family, think a few steps ahead when selecting the correct role. That high-paced strategy and acquisitions job might be a great fit right out of consulting but the demanding, round-the-clock schedule might not be conducive to being a working mother. It could however be a great role to gain exposure to an organization and find the best long term fit. Even a successful former consultant who always puts in 150% can still get overwhelmed when trying to manage a new family and a constantly demanding job.”


David gave this take on when to make the jump: “Consulting prepares a young person very well for an attractive but narrow slice of the real business world. I would caution a person from staying too long in consulting because after a while that may be the only thing they are qualified to do.”


Zeeshan pointed out one nice thing about career paths in corporations: “You can progress in senior levels without having to be solely sales focused. You can start to specialize in a vertical which matters more as one get to more senior levels.”


Recommendation: Realize you will probably only make the jump from consulting to corporate once. Make it count and do it right by doing your homework and getting lots of good advice.

Challenge #7 - "Pace is Too Slow"

(50% agreed, 26% disagreed)


Consulting is typically a project-based business with clear deadlines. The corporate world often isn’t. The pace can seem much slower to consultants making the jump.


Jeff advised: “Be prepared for a slower rate of decision-making and a slower moving environment. Rejoice in the fact that you get to own (or at least work on) projects from start to finish and really drive the ultimate result and beyond.”


Zeeshan summarized it this way: “Expect a different organizational clock speed.”


Jason added: “Provide extra time in your plans. Don't expect your team to work at your standards. Often you will be surprised that your standards are much higher than you need to get the job done. Don't forget that people don't have the same training that you have had.”


Surge summed it this way: “Projects and initiatives will get momentum in fits and starts, and slow down in halts and stops. So, best to keep a funnel of good initiatives to jump to the next initiative when one slows down.”


Joe added: “You need to adjust expectations from a variety of perspectives (career plan/ growth, pace of work, speed of change/ decision-making) to match those of your new employer. And after you understand the traditional pace at your new employer, then you can become an agent of change to drive your new company to perform at a higher level.”


Noelle added: “Adjust your time frame: The speed at which change and buy-in happens is monumentally slower than in a consulting environment. As a newcomer, you can be viewed as pushy or impatient if you challenge the natural rhythm. It is helpful to find well-established champions/mentors who share your perspective, who can help move your initiatives through the organization.”


Tarm added: “I came in with a mindset that I now have all the resources and knowledge to change the operations of the company. However, after pushing for change numerous times, my boss told me 'This is not a consulting firm and your stakeholders are not clients. They are your colleagues. Whilst there may be a case for change, if you push it too hard, you risk them not collaborating with you when you need them the most.'"


Kevin added: “Things move slower, but you are stuck dealing with whatever change you initiate - so it is key to realize that change, and effective change, are very different things.”


Dennis added this take: “Work moves a lot slower. You get a lot more time to pursue personal projects. Get a hobby that will provide you with intellectual challenge outside of work. Consider becoming an entrepreneur.”


Recommendation - Embrace the pace! At work, use the extra time to get depth of expertise and to build relationships. Outside work, harvest the extra time to invest in the other things in your life you have underinvested in while you were consulting.

If you have made the move from consulting to corporate, I'd love to hear from you. You can add your thoughts to my survey. You can see the training and coaching I specialize in offering to former consultants. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook

5 Mistakes Consultants Make When Moving to Corporate Jobs

Posted on April 13, 2018 at 6:00 AM

There were over 637,000 people in the United States employed in the management consulting industry in 2016, according to With annual staff turnover rates of an estimated 15-20 percent, that suggests tens of thousands of former consultants leave consulting every year to take 'real' jobs at corporations. Since the consulting and corporate worlds are different in many ways, that transition can be a big adjustment for these 'recovering consultants.' I made that transition after I left Bain & Company and learned plenty of lessons. Over the last month, I interviewed 38 other former consultants -- 19 from Bain, 4 from McKinsey, 1 from BCG, and the rest from others -- to ask them for their insights and advice. Here are the biggest mistakes they suggested other consultants avoid when making that transition.

Mistake #1 - Offer Unsolicited Consulting Outside Your Area - Consultants develop an instinct to identify value and opportunities for improvement wherever they look. That is an asset in consulting - it helps find new projects to work on. It can be a downfall in a new corporate role, however, if used in the wrong way. Chuck, a former consultant, shared this: "You have to be careful about solving the Corporation's issues (ie, other departments issues) instead of focusing on YOUR issues in your scope of work. Other employees/leaders don't often appreciate a peer highlighting their issues. The President of a $100MM technology company gave me this advice - he was a former Accenture consultant - and it was extremely helpful - 'Don't offer ANY (!) advice for the first 6 months...just ask high value questions, listen closely and get smart.'"

Mistake #2 - Show Arrogance - Consultants often have pedigrees they worked hard to build, including top-ranked schools along with their consulting firm experience. While in consulting firms, they are used to being surrounded by other people with similar pedigrees. In the corporate world, people come from more diverse backgrounds academically and professionally. Corporate colleagues will quickly sense if a new colleague coming from consulting feels superior to them. Joe shared this: "We think we know so much. No need to prove that you are the smartest in the room, especially when often we are not." Glen shared this: "Consultants who appear to their colleagues, by virtue of their academic and professional background, to exhibit hubris/arrogance and a lack of respect for operating experience, will find it hard to build strong, valuable relationships with their corporate colleagues." Jason shared this about former consultants who focus too much on pedigrees: "Mortals don't know which firms are supposedly better than others. You may be keeping mental score in your head about the pecking order -- but no one else is -- so move on -- you don't work for a top consulting firm anymore. Stop the competition, because the senior leaders don't care as much about where you came from as you do." John summed it up well: "Check your consulting ego at the door."

Mistake #3 - Over-Rely on Analytical Skills - People can sometimes succeed in the consulting world by relying solely on their analytical smarts. Corporate roles often require more influencing skills to get the information and resources needed to succeed. Glen added "Consultants can fall into the trap of believing that the 'right' answer and the logic and associated PowerPoint deck will always win the day - the value of gathering support for your point of view in other ways is accentuated in corporate environments." Joe shared this: "The perfect intellectual answer executed with 80 % people commitment and intensity is likely suboptimal to the 80% intellectually correct answer executed with 100% people commitment and intensity. I think it takes time for former consultants to see and understand this." David added a warning that former consultants who over-rely on analytical smarts can be typecast as "the one 'data guy/gal' in the company, which can be pretty frustrating."

Mistake #4 - Under-Appreciate the Challenge of Implementation - Consulting often stops at the recommendation and business case stage and leaves implementation to clients. This can make consultants under-appreciate the difficulty of implementation. Arshad summed it up this way: "Consultants tend to focus too much on the storyline and business case and in the nth level of detail but this is not valued by corporate by and large. Use the 60/40 rule and get things going quickly and show tangible results that has direct impact on the P&L." Joe shared: "Every thing is not always a project. Sometimes you have to grind things out (execute incrementally better) on a daily basis. Unless you get this, your potential as a line leader will be pretty limited." Another former consultant shared this story: "I had a consultant join my team, and he made recommendations on how to restructure the operations, including team structure. I looked at him and said 'sounds like a logical answer, is that what you are going to do?' and he looked like a deer in the headlights internalizing he would have to be the one delivering the message on the job eliminations." Another former consultant summed it up this way: "The old saying that getting the right answer is only one-third of the work is pretty accurate!!”

Mistake #5 - Manage Corporate Staff Like Consulting Staff - Consultants learn to manage others by managing other consultants. When they get to the corporate world, former consultants need to adjust their expectations and management styles to their new teams of non-consultants. Surge said it this way: "Former consultants struggle to manage 'normal' people, who are not as skilled in problem solving and clear communication." Jimmy said it this way: "Consultants get razor sharp about numbers and basic logic. Step out of consulting, and people don't necessarily have the training in that skill set. It takes some adjusting to not move so fast that people can't keep up or resent you." Another former consultant said it this way: "Lots of people will tell you that consultants will make a difficult transition especially around leading a team. Provide extra time in your plans. Don't expect them to ever be at your standards (often you will be surprised that your standards are much higher than you need to get the job done). Don't forget that people don't have the same training that you have had." David captured it this way: "One of your biggest challenges will be squeezing more out of an existing team, many of whom are content to work 9-5 and stay in the same job for many years. Gone are the days of teams that will stay all night to get something done right. Leadership becomes more important. Developing your team members becomes more important. Strong analytics and project management skills, in the absence of strong leadership capabilities, will cap you in the corporate world."

In an upcoming article, I'll share more insights and advice from this survey of 38 former consultants. If you are a former consultant who has transitioned to the corporate world, I'd love to hear from you. You can learn about the executive coaching I offer specifically tailored for former consultants here. You can learn about the training in the critical thinking and communication skills we offer to corporate teams here.

7 Leadership Lessons from the Best NCAA Cinderella Coach of All Time

Posted on March 29, 2018 at 2:50 PM

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is beloved as madness because so many upsets happen. The most newsworthy are when a small school defeats a big school in what sportswriters call a "Cinderella story." Rarely does the same small school coach get to be the Cinderella more than once, though. Usually those coaches make an upset run because of a one-time phenomenal player they recruited. Or they make an upset run and get hired away by another school too big to be considered a Cinderella.

One coach pulled out multiple Cinderella stories. His name was Dick Tarrant and he coached the University of Richmond from 1981 to 1993, earning a 239-126 career record. In 1991, his Richmond team beat Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, the first time a #15 seed ever had defeated a #2 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That wasn’t a fluke. He had led his Richmond team to big NCAA tournament upsets before that. In 1984 his 12th seeded Richmond team beat a 5th seeded Auburn team that included future NBA superstar Charles Barkley (12th seed was the lowest seed until the tournament expanded the following year.) In 1988, his 13th seeded team beat #4 seed (and defending NCAA champion) Indiana and #5 seed Georgia Tech to make the Sweet Sixteen. Tarrant must be the only NCAA basketball head coach in history to win NCAA tournament games as a 12, 13, and 15 seed.

I remember Coach Tarrant because I went to college at a rival school at the time. His team beat mine with a buzzer-beating shot in the conference tournament in my senior year to deny my team our first NCAA bid. I didn’t like that, but I had learned to respect Coach Tarrant a great deal after watching him in action for four years. Coach Tarrant is so beloved by the University of Richmond that they named their basketball court after him in 2015.

Here are seven leadership lessons from Coach Tarrant’s career as the most successful “Cinderella” coach in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

1 – He Was Promoted from Within – Dick Tarrant had been an assistant coach for three years at Richmond before he got the head coaching job. His biggest basketball job before that was as a high school coach in New Jersey. If Richmond had executive recruiters searching for candidates, he probably would not have made any list. 

LESSON -> Sometimes the future greatest leader in your organization's history is sitting under your nose as an assistant.

2 – He Was a Referral Hire – Dick Tarrant was not a random assistant hire. He was specifically brought in by the coach he ended up replacing. One of Tarrant’s high school players in New Jersey thought so highly of him that, when he got the head coaching job at Richmond 15 years later, he asked his high school coach to come down to be his assistant. 

LESSON -> If someone remembers a referral from over 10 years ago, they are probably worth interviewing.

3 – He Was a Late Bloomer – Tarrant was 50 years old when he got the Richmond job, his first (and only) as a head coach in college basketball. When asked to describe their perfect candidate, I doubt the people making the hiring decision for the coach would have said he or she is a 50-plus year old rookie. 

LESSON -> Don’t discriminate against age 50-plus candidates, not just because it's probably illegal, but because it also is short-sighted.

4 – He Didn’t Want “Interim” in His Title – When Tarrant was hired, his title was “Interim Head Coach” despite his requests not to be named on an interim basis. He realized that being named an “interim” handicapped him from the start in motivating his players, recruits, and others to buy into his leadership. What recruit wants to sign with a coach who may not be there when they arrive?

LESSON -> Unless required, shun the qualifier word “interim” and just hire a new leader on a short, renewable contract.

5 - He Proved Himself Early - Richmond beat #13th ranked Wake Forest in a home game early in his first year. Wake Forest probably considered it as a warm up game while Tarrant probably considered it as part of his job interview. Tarrant later said his parking space went from 100 yards from the arena before that game to to just outside the front door after that win. 

LESSON -> Get an early win as a new hire to prove yourself and build confidence.

6 – He Groomed His Successor – Tarrant hired Bill Dooley as an assistant coach eight years before he retired. Dooley took over for him after he retired. Dooley had played for him at Richmond years before and been team captain. Dooley served as Richmond's head coach for four years and won his conference Coach of the Year award in his first year. 

LESSON -> Good leaders set up their organizations for success after they leave.

7 – He Went out on Top – Tarrant retired as Richmond's coach after 12 seasons when he reached his early 60s. He had eight 20 win seasons, four conference championships, and 9 post-seasons in those 12 years. He never coached basketball again. 

LESSON -> Smart leaders realize they will eventually spend more time as a "former" than a "current" leader and know much of their legacy will be defined by their final years.

PS - Coach Tarrant – If you read this, I would love to interview you to learn more of your leadership lessons. But only if you don’t make me relive that time Curtis Blair’s buzzer-beating drive down the court ruined my senior year spring break.

Update on 3/15/18 - A family member of Coach Tarrant emailed me today to say the coach saw this article and liked it. #BestReviewEver

Update on 3/21/18 - Coach Tarrant was kind enough to let me interview him as a follow up article here on LinkedIn. You can see it here.

Coach Tarrant saw that article and contacted me to say he liked it - “Very much appreciate your fine article. You did some research, my man.” He was kind enough to let me interview him over email with 10 questions. Here they are.

1) How did you get your teams loose before the tournament game? I heard a story about one big coach coming to breakfast on final four gameday in a bathrobe to lighten things up. Did you have a trick like that?

I had no gimmick. I just emphasized the tremendous opportunity we had, that most all other mid-majors didn’t have. Let's follow our game plan. Play very hard and very smart. Our team leaders were always loose and confident and the others keyed off that

2) How did you make your players think they had a chance to beat Indiana in the first round, the year after they were the champions?

We knew Coach Knight was a totally controlled coach and probed every possession to his satisfaction. Our game plan was to shorten the game with constant defensive looks. We did a lot of different zone faces as zones neutralize superior talent, height, and depth. We changed to man to man at times too. Indiana passed 8, 9, 10 times before a shot. Therefore, they shortened the game - not us. We took our normal shots from the right player from high percentage areas. We made almost all of our free throws and had very few turnovers. The pace of the game helped us.

3) What was your gameplan to upset Syracuse, the year after they were in the final game?

We had a good offense versus zones. We thought their zone was vulnerable. We also figured they were overlooking a 15 seed. When they went to man to man defense we chopped them up, because they very rarely played that defense.

4) What do you remember about Charles Barkley, when you beat him and Auburn in the tournament? If you got on the phone with Charles Barkley this weekend while he is covering the tournament on TV, what would you ask him or remind him about that game?

Charles came up to me the day before the game, just after their workout, to ask if he and his teammates could watch us practice. I told him all practices were open to the public, so it was OK for him and his mates to watch. My managers told me later that all the Auburn players filed out after 5-10 minutes and were chuckling because we were so small and skinny! After the game Charles once again approached me to see if he could enter our locker room to shake hands with our John Newman. Charles gave me a big bear hug -- a crusher!

I would never ask Barkley about the game. I got to know Charles years later on our annual Nike vacation trip. Charles said he never ever forgot that game because, with a win he would have played Bob Knight's Indiana team. He was not fond of Knight as Knight cut Charles the previous summer from the 1984 National Olympic team for being too fat and out of shape. Barkley was the best player my teams ever played against - and that includes Ralph Sampson, David Robinson and others.

5) You are the only coach in history to win games as a 12, 13, and 15 seed. Did it get easier or harder to repeat making upsets like that?

I never gave seedings any thought whatsoever.

6) You went out on top. How did you know it was the right time to retire?

I was getting somewhat worn out trying to repeat time and again in the post-season. I was having restless nights and nearing my mid-sixties. Dean Smith called me with the same question as we were about the same age. One early morning while taking a daily jog, I decided to resign that day.

7) You were in your late forties when you left your high school coaching job in New Jersey to come down to be an assistant at Richmond for one of your old players. That was a big, brave move. Lots of people at that age would be scared of making such a big move at that age. Looking back, what advice would you give your 47 year old self?

That was a tough call, because my loved ones were not keen on the move. Mrs. T. was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. She thought we were headed somewhere south of Birmingham, Alabama. I took a huge pay cut as I was a school system administrator. It was a big gamble. One plus was it got me back to college coaching (I was an assistant, part time at Fordham from 1965-69). We also had teenagers (ages 15, 17, and 19) and all of them would have tuition waived at a wonderful university which I could not have afforded had we remained in New Jersey. People must take sometimes risky moves in life. Mine worked out pretty well. All three kids are very successful professionals. Parents of seven. Grandparents to 3! Mrs. T had to return to a full-time job when we moved here 39 years ago so we might break even month to month. You wouldn't believe the salary of assistant coaches in late 1970’s to early 80's.

8 )  What are you most proud of from your coaching career?

I’m most proud that 47 of 48 of my recruits earned their degree. The one who missed out still might return or arrange to get his, as he is so near that degree. I’m very proud of my grads who have gone on in life professionally in so many varied ways. A dozen even selected a coaching career. We need so many high character people in coaching at all levels.

9) What would you say to the coach of UMBC after they finally broke through and became the first #16 seed to beat a #1? How do you prepare players for the next game after doing that? What advice would you give him?

It’s very difficult to come down off the high. In 1988 we were in the Sweet 16. I wish we would have stayed up in New Jersey after playing in Hartford. We came home Monday to a welcome of hundreds upon hundreds of people, a parade-like pep rally, TV interviews and more. We had two light practices to play against Temple, who had been #1 for 12 weeks and had two 7 footers, in the New Jersey Meadowlands. They were a terrific team who toyed with us. We were never in that game. My advice to a coach would be to just stay away from the media blitz as best possible. Prepare like it’s just another league game.

10) You left New Jersey to move to Richmond, Virginia. Have you found a decent pizza place yet in Richmond that compares to New Jersey?

I could not find one, nor a bakery, nor a Jewish deli, nor a Greek owned diner, nor a bagel to come close to NJ-NY! All that has changed for the better in the last 20 years. We are really cookin' here in Richmond now-- especially if you like beer!

Sources:, Wikipedia, Wikipedia,

© Copyright Victor Prince, All Rights Reserved.

7 Challenges Former Consultants Face in Corporate Jobs

Posted on February 27, 2018 at 11:35 PM

There were over 637,000 people in the United States employed in the management consulting industry in 2016, according to With annual staff turnover rates of an estimated 15-20 percent, that suggests tens of thousands of former consultants leave consulting every year to take 'real' jobs at corporations. Since the consulting and corporate worlds are different in many ways, that transition can be a big adjustment for these 'recovering consultants.' Here are seven challenges I noticed when I made the transition from the consulting world to the corporate world.

Variety of Work - When I was a consultant, I worked for a wide variety of clients in different industries and geographies. I loved the challenge of forcing myself down (or up?) learning curves each time. When I went to the corporate world, I had less variety that way. I had to refocus my energy and enthusiasm on going deep and developing expertise in my niche.

Project Teams to Standing Teams - As a consultant, I worked in many different teams, each formed around a new client project. Since client projects end, that meant my teams changed often, giving me the chance to work with many different partners, managers and others in the firm. I enjoyed the challenge and change of getting new colleagues and bosses all the time.

Communication Styles - As a management consultant, I was taught to think and speak in a concise, "answer-first" style centered around forming and testing hypotheses. I tended to speak fast. I imagined how ideas would look in a chart or slide. I looked for quick conclusions and used shorthand phrases like "the 80/20." When I got to the corporate world, my new teammates who were not accustomed to my 'consultant-speak' could find me to be impatient, over-analytical, and hard to understand. I had to learn to use different communication styles to connect with people who think differently than me.

Work-Life Balance - One of the reasons I left consulting for the corporate world was to get more balance in the work versus non-work parts of my life - particularly by reducing my travel days. At the same time, I enjoyed the fast pace of work in consulting, which was fueled in part by the long working hours everyone was expected to put in. Whenever I thought the pace of work in the corporate was too slow, I had to remind myself that some of that was a deliberate choice in defining work-life balance.

Defined Promotion Track - The traditional promotion path in consulting is well-defined and perpetual. If a consultant can prove they can do the job of a partner - particularly by bringing in new business - there will likely be headroom to get promoted. In the corporate world, I saw that getting promoted might mean waiting until my boss moved onward or upward. If I wanted to find a faster path to promotion, I might have to shift to a different role or organization.

Clear Expectations - In the project-based world of consulting, I found expectations and results to be relatively quick and clear. I had my research and analysis to do on a deadline. My analyses and recommendations were presented to the client. The client hopefully liked my work. For consultants like me below the partner level, that often meant I could close the door on that project and focus on the next. In my corporate roles, I found my definition of success to be more continuous - e.g., "are my monthly metrics where they need to be?" I also found them to be less directly-controllable because of external forces, like competitors and suppliers, that I had to work through.

Camaraderie - I found the camaraderie in the consulting world to be very tight. When I started, I was part of a cohort of new hires right out of college or graduate school. We were mostly all around the same age and stage in life. Most of my social life then was spent with friends I made from work. When I got to the corporate world, my colleagues came from all ages and stages of life. I found myself forming fewer social friendships at work because many of my colleagues were focused on family and other commitments outside of work.

I found consulting to be a fantastic way to start my business career. The lessons and skills I learned in consulting have served me well for the rest of my career in both the corporate and government sectors. In my executive coaching practice, I specialize in helping former consultants who have transitioned to the non-consulting world.