I wanted to follow in the footsteps of a mentor who had been in consulting for over forty years. I shadowed him for two years to see what he did helping nonprofits. Watching him change the direction of people and their cause, saving them heartache and pain, amazed me.
I was hooked. Of course with all things, I did not see the amount of work it takes to be consistent and a great consultant. There is the running of the business, the learning of new skills and finding new ways to share your knowledge in a way that is affordable and meaningful.
When I was an executive director, I found my biggest challenge was communicating what I felt was great direction and vision for our organization. I spent years experimenting with ways to communicate with a group of 11 people who were the board of directors. I also spent years learning to train, teach and mold a team of senior team leaders that would manage the organization.
I tried so many methods to communicate. I became a powerpoint whiz. I created dashboards and charts and slides. I tried inundating the people with too much information and too little information. I tried just enough and just in time. There was nothing I did not experiment with.
What I learned was the medium was irrelevant. What mattered most was connecting individually with people. I had to ask the question of myself, "How can I make them successful?" I also had to ask the same question to the person so I could clear up any assumptions or misconceptions.
How can I make the person in front of me successful?
That is easier asked than answered. Today, as a consultant. I am having to ask that question again and again. How can I hone my craft, be curious, learn and then share the lessons I have discovered to make things easier for my clients? How can I make them successful?
It is a truth that matters repeating. My success is directly linked to the success of the people around me. If I do not find a way for them to win at the things that matter to them, then I can't win either.
Growing up my greatest fear was rising to the top and finding the only person to have a conversation with was myself. This would be the worst outcome.
The medium of communication is irrelevant if you don't see the person you are engaging. What you are trying to share does not matter if it is not based on the question, "How can I make them successful?"
My most grievous mistakes as an executive director or a consultant have been when I assume I know what the client needs or worse don't care. Those errors have been created because I let my focus drift from their success to my own success.