What kind of a coach-consultant are you?
Reliable Retainer: The main role of this type of coach is to help management avoid trouble, preferably without making any more waves than necessary. Knows the company history, why things are done as they are, helps ensure stability. Examples are the traditional accountant, legal advisor, or statistician.
Cheerleader (often titled “confidential advisor”): A possible variation of the Reliable Retainer who may perform similar duties but with the primary mission of assuring management that everything is okay. In danger of becoming a “yes-man” or sycophant, saying only what the client wants to hear.
Problem Solver: Called in to analyze and cure a specific problem, to upgrade a system, or develop a new approach when existing methods no longer suffice. Maybe an analyst-researcher, litigation specialist, engineer, financial management innovator, or marketing sleuth. May handle one-of-a-kind problems or repetitive situations. Often brought in to assist internal staff but could meet resistance from inside, since their employment suggests that the regulars could not do the job.
Forecaster: There are various types. The methodical viewer of the future understands data sources and forecasting methodology, constructs alternative scenarios, clarifies assumptions, and explains the implications of each scenario for the client – in a scrupulously objective manner, without recommending what should be done about it. The occult seer or visionary ma deal more with signs and hunches, the flash of prophecy or innovative but unsupported recommendation that can make or break a company. A sub-species, the Devil’s Advocate, maybe the harbinger of threats and opportunities who pushes management out of its rut and into new ventures.
Idea Generator: From the general to the specific, this may be the creator of broad strategies, the researcher-inventor, or the product developer. Also maybe the innovator in marketing, advertising, internal human relations, manufacturing management, or distribution. The ideas ma come fully developed by the individual coach. More likely, they will require inputs from other consultants and company people before they are ready for implementation
Take-Charge Guy: There are several variations on this. The hero to the rescue may be engaged to save management from its own mistakes or may become the interim replacement until a new chief executive is found. The professional mean s-o-b from out of town is brought in to do the hatchet-job management disdains to perform. Or the turnaround specialist is expected to show management how to lead the firm back to glory. Other than in turnarounds, these are not truly coaching assignments, since they diminish rather than enhance the roles of the regular players. In any of these roles, the Take-Charge Guy usually starts with a problem, since the mission implies that the incumbent management is somewhat lacking incompetency.
Rasputin: The insidious variation of the Take-Charge Guy, who insinuates himself with a key executive to exercise power from behind the scenes, more in the ultimate interests of the mentor than of the client.
Kelly Person. This is an augmentation to existing staff. May be the replacement for people on vacation or sick leave; maybe part-time support in an overload situation; or maybe a tryout for a full-time position. (Full credit to the Kelly organization that popularized the term.)
Second-Opinion Diagnostician: The CEO needs affirmation of a pending decision. Or the CEO may distrust an internal recommendation and wishes an independent evaluation. The consultant’s role may be a truly objective one. Or it may be merely to take the heat off the insiders and spread the responsibility.
Leech: The consultant who tries to become indispensable to the client, preferably by being very good as a coach, perhaps by unduly prolonging the assignment, perhaps by creating such as mess that only the consultant could unscramble it, or always finding a new problem that no one else can solve.
Finally, there is a type of coach I have long admired:
McGoozler: The first master of this art was lobbyist-consultant Howard McGowan, who represented several Pacific Northwest industries in Washington, D.C., in the late 1940s. As he described it, the “McGoozle” is the fine art of putting the other person in the position where he has to do what you want him to do – but making him think it was his own idea. The McGoozler not only must create the scenario but coach other participants in their roles.
For example, a political situation could be so manoeuvred that a Senator would be “inspired” to initiate some legislation that would help his constituency, even though its main benefit would be to some other area. Within a corporation, a counterpart might be to manoeuvre a marketing executive into supporting a risky research effort (obviously wanted mostly by the R&D people) be cause it would enhance the corporate image in the marketplace.
The opportunity to pull off a classic McGoozle is rare – but immensely satisfying. One example enabled the assembly of the site for Seattle’s “Century 21” World Fair of 1962. Of several sites under consideration, the most desirable covered several run-down blocks near the waterfront just northwest of downtown. But it also included a National Guard armoury, a Catholic Church, a Synagogue, a Masonic Temple, and a stadium owned by the Hi h School District – none of which wanted to relinquish control over its property and each politically powerful enough to prevent any thought of condemnation. As coach-consultant to the Washington State World Fair Commission, I suggested we co-opt each of these key groups into the plan for the fair, by incorporating their facilities into the fair as focal points for religious, cultural, athletic, or other events; making investments in upgrading their buildings; and guaranteeing their return to the original owners in better condition than before. The proposal converted potential opponents into enthusiastic supporters of what became the first financially successful World Fair.
Obviously, each case raises ethical as well as practical questions for the consultant-coach. Some of these include:
– Do I understand the role my client really wants me to play?
– Can I play that role, successfully and in good conscience?
– How far can I go in disagreeing with my client and still be useful?
– What is my relationship with others in the company?
– What if my work makes others look bad, jeopardizes someone’s job?
– What is my own real objective; am I just doing an assignment or am I trying to get hired by the company?
– How can I maximize my contribution and still help others contribute?
– Which, if any, of the insider information I pick up may I use in other ways, for my benefit or for other clients?558-How-to-be-a-business-coach