Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Perception. Its the fuel that consulting firms run on. I have written about this before, in the context of building a rep at the firm. Its wider than this though, as your performance is not just based on the quality of of your work (how crisp your decks are, how bulletproof your models are), but rather how well you are doing through the lens of your job manager.

I recently came to odds with this idea coming off the back of the hardcore due diligence project I mentioned. This project was somewhat oddly structured. Due to cost considerations, it was staffed by a principal full time, a green grad consultant, a 1 year out consultant and yours truly, a senior consultant. This left a rather large vacuum in terms of people between me and and the principal. Normally, this would have meant I would run the project. In this case, the principal was very hands on – which is fine as everyone has their own way of doing things. Upshot of all this, I was working with two more junior people, but not in any way managing them.

In this sort of situation, one option I had was to keep my head down for the project, do my work well and move on. The reality is, I have a certain responsibility to the more junior consultants, and as such feel like I have to pass on my knowledge. When you are dealing with typical newbie management consultants, full of the belief they are the best of the best, its a challenge. I am a pretty good student of behaviour, and given the team I had, I determined the most effective way to pass on knowledge would be to do it quietly. This meant not making a big deal about when I was helping them, not embarrassing them in front of the principal / client and so on. I think I did this pretty effectively, and given the high pressure of the job the fact no major issues occurred was a cause for celebration.

Of course, then we get to my post project review, where apparently one of the areas I really need to work on is dealing with with junior consultants. Forget the fact that I busted my hump trying to help them in a subtle and peacekeeping kind of way, the important thing was that principal’s perception was that I was “bossed around” by the junior team. Essentially, by avoiding being an asshole to the rest of team, I looked like a wimp to the principal.

Perception matters. Being decent, not so much.

1 comment:

  1. THe worst part of this is that you cant even reason with the Principal. Perception is final.