This week one of the Halliburton Delivery Managers said to me " You're the commando, I expect you to get close to my customer and understand their concerns...". And my inner reaction was ... Yes! Finally I've gotten his vote of confidence. It only took 9 weeks to get there!
The pace of the last 9 weeks has felt more like a year. I've had to learn fast, and I have a greater appreciation for why Halliburton hired very seasoned individuals in the Project Manager role. I can probably wax poetic on how great things are at Hal (yeah, I'm on very familiar terms now so I am into abbreviations). Actually, as an aside, the women are running with the 'prize' projects on the teams and carrying a heavy load. Our contributions are appreciated.
But ... I say to self, what people really want to know is ... what have I learned so far, any landmines? Painting a bed of roses isn't worth a read!
Here are 5 Lessons I learned. Lets call them myths.
- As a consultant you don't get involved in company politics
- Indeed the number one myth. I figured as an independent if you have no interest in climbing their corporate ladder then you don't need to play their game. Maybe its not politics, but a heavy dose of common sense. I've seen someone get asked to leave because the person didn't quite get that you need to understand the style of the leaders you are working for and do the utmost to make them successful. And part of that is understanding the culture of the organization, how to escalate issues, how to present issues and how to solve issues. Did you engage all the right people and get the appropriate buy-in? This is not an organization that rewards lone rangers ... consultant or not. Some organizations have a very formal structure, some don't. Spotting it and conforming should be a high priority. It behooves us all to learn where the power is in the organization and how to best harness it in our favor.
- You're invisible, nobody really notices you
- As consultant leaders in the organization, people do pay attention to our countenance, especially subordinates. I've learned that if I'm having a bad day it shows; therefore, I have to exude confidence at all times. And, probably most important, as I work in an area that can be very stressful, I have to be able to throttle back at times and not be #3.
- A good consultant has to be bullish
- Feedback that I got within my second week was that things happen at a particular pace, and I need to not push things. Yikes, that was Landmine #1. Unless its an emergency, don't call the bosses' mobile, use email. Landmine #2. And don't push subordinates too hard, know when to back off. Landmine #3. You are no longer at BP. I sure wasn't reading the tea leaves well. I felt I was paid to come in and make things happen. Yes, but within the constraints of the company's culture.
- Watch-out for those other consultants, its really dog eat dog
- No it isn't. Hal has done well in hiring a cadre of independent consultants. It didn't take long for us to realize that in order to be successful we had to trust and rely on each other. We were not there to compete with each other, but to make the projects a success and the only way to do that was to share learnings and to collaborate. A natural outcome of that is to get to know each other's strength, find the weakest link, and make it strong. It's interesting to see how this team of disparate individuals came together to form a cohesive team. So far, no one is trying to rise up and crush the others. We recognize that our success relies upon the success of each other and making the business projects a success. Truly, "A rising tide raises all boats" - Anon.
- Asking for help is a sign of weakness
- Asking questions is a good indicator that one is tuned into the issues. It may also be an indicator that one has a good grasp of the issues and thus can recognize problems before others. In an organization where there is so much to learn and know, you're considered smart knowing what to ask AND who to ask. At the risk of the obvious, not asking the same question over and over is always a good thing. There is a point of course where you don't want people to start thinking, you just don't get it!
My Top Ten thoughts on what it takes to be successful (I've not mastered, just saying this is what I try to live by):
- Deliver on commitments. Do what I say I'm going to do
- Own my mistakes and correct them
- Its not about effort, its only about results
- Learn to multi-task and fast. In this climate I am of more value finding the 90% solution, than going for the 150% solution
- Believe that tomorrow will be better (when having a bad day)
- Keep a 'feel good' folder for when I'm having a #5 day, and open the folder as often as I need to, to remember what good feels like
- Get others' perspectives. Seek out the experts. People like sharing what they know
- Practice active listening, more than offering opinions
- Leave the Bose headset at home. If I block out the 'cubicle' conversations around me, I might actually be missing out on an opportunity to learn something quite relevant
- Everybody is important. From the maintenance guy who talks to me when I'm in the office after hours, to the Senior Director, I'm presenting a proposal to. Never know who might offer a helping hand.
One last thought ... Of course a lot of what I'm experiencing isn't specific to being a consultant. But I'm really experiencing corporate life through the lens of a consultant. I do think about the fact that any day my contract can be terminated for "no cause". Maybe down the road I'll decide to look for more permanent employment. Right now this assignment feels right. I continue to build my network. I am holding my own with some really smart colleagues.
I need to come up with a scorecard, to assess when its time to move on. I am at risk of getting so caught up in what I'm doing that I miss the signals that say its time to move on.
If you've taken the time to read all three of these posts, including A journey from layoff to the world of consulting(Part 1) and A journey from layoff to the world of consulting (Part 2) then I am sure you have some words of wisdom for me. How can I continue to not just stay in the game, but up-my-game? How can I help other women?
Maybe I'll see you during my 2nd trimester self-check (if I have something worthwhile to share)! In the meanwhile, I'll shop around for some pink shoes for the next get together!