Finding that last bit of extra energy to get the job done

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I am sure that most of us remember University all-nighters before the major exams, pushing ourselves well beyond normally available energy limits to make sure that we did our best. We tapped into an invisible pool of reserve energy and carried on. It pushed through physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, pushed through the fatigue and you succeeded with at least the thought that “thank goodness when I graduate I won’t have to do this again…”. Not true was it?

The nature of consulting is that we are working on a problem area. Very often time sensitive problems and very often where the expectations of the time for resolution have already been set. If you surveyed 100 Professional IT Consultants randomly, I suspect that 90 of them would say that work-life balance was either an issue or a serious issue with them. To a certain extent, it is the nature of the work.

I like the bowl of marbles theory when referring to available and expended energy. The bowl contains marbles representing your daily normally available and reserve energy. As you work hour by hour you take marbles out, add job stress, take a few more marbles out, add family stress, take a few more marbles out, add financial stress, take few more marbles out, add some politics, a few more marbles gone and add some team friction and a few more are gone again.

Pretty soon you’ve lost your marbles. (so to speak)

I think the bowl and the number of marbles is the same despite our age. The difference was that in University it was mostly just time stealing marbles from the bowl, not thoughts of kids, mortgages, car payments, tax installments, securing the next consulting contract or politics.

If you adhere to the bowl theory and you have determined that your energy is finite and does not in fact increase with a Starbuck’s double espresso, then the only way to make more energy available for the “at-work” overtime bursts is to make sure other items aren’t stealing from the bowl as much.

As a consultant, overtime comes with the territory so you need to both expect it, plan for it and have enough energy left to do it well.

Some people scoff at the soft-skills concepts presented for Consulting Excellence. The benefits however are both for your client and for you. By setting and attaining the highest standards you will not only deal with issues, but more importantly you will prevent them.

In my blog post A year later and a little greyer I summarized a year’s worth of CE tips specifically in the area of making it easier for both your client and you. These include:

  • Change Management – cutting down on surprises
  • Client Relationship – getting and keeping CR on an even keel
  • Communication Skills – keeping the channels open
  • Consulting Process – not skipping important steps to reduce risk
  • Consulting Roles – ensuring that you are in the right role
  • Consulting Skills – excelling at the art
  • Contracting – clear, concise, communicated, completed
  • Criticism – giving and getting with professionalism
  • Facilitation – getting collaboration with outcomes
  • Influence – getting to necessary agreement
  • Integrity – keeping it all transparent and understood
  • Internal Skills – dealing with your own colleagues
  • Leadership – leading for results
  • Negotiation – negotiating for success
  • Presentation Skills – making it clear and impactful
  • Problem People – how to mitigate
  • Problem Projects – how to best prevent, recognize and deal with project issues
  • Problem Solving – techniques your client will like and they work
  • Project Management – basics of keeping it on track
  • Questioning Skills – find out more, be better informed and make better decisions
  • Strategic Thinking – helping your client to think outside the box

By reducing errors, preventing problems rather than fixing them you will leave more energy available to be put on project tasks that actually move the project forward instead of spending energy fixing issues that don’t.

The bottom line is that the greater investment you make in Consulting Excellence, the less chance there is that you will lose all your marbles….

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