Leverage your technical experts

Are you getting the most out of your technical expert consulting teams? Your data scientists, data analysts, market researchers, the trusted advisors who give your business its edge? How can you leverage your technical experts and stop making these mistakes?

See here’s the thing: people are tricky. Way trickier than data. And the smarter they are the more tricky they get. Here are seven mistakes you’re making right now that stop you getting what you want from them.

But before we go any further into what those mistakes are, pull out your salary budget. Look at it.

A small team of experts costs you millions.

In any one week you’re losing at least 30% (possibly more) of any one consultant’s time. Remember that budget?  Divide it by 3. That’s the potential you’re leaving on the table.

Would you like to make those millions even 10% more effective? Would you like them to solve problems they do not have time to solve right now? Do you want to stop having to put out fires when they their stakeholders get upset? Do you want to lower how much effort it takes you to manage these brilliant wild cats? That’s what this article is about.

So those mistakes?

Mistake 1: You manage what you can see

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First, you manage what you can see: if someone is at work you assume they are working productively. But they are not. Under that calm, business-like exterior (or that panicky geeky one, take your pick), there are millions of wasted dollars.

You may even know that they’re ineffective. You’ve lost it when you see them on Facebook or when someone’s desk is empty at 3:30. Because you can see that. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some of the things you can’t see under the surface. Things you can’t see without a system.

Your technical expert consultants spend too much time in meetings that last too long with the wrong people who are asking them to work on all the wrong problems.

You’re managing the obvious last time, but you are haemorrhaging hidden lost time. Here are some of the other things that you already know are happening in your team that you need to get a handle on quickly if you want some of that money back.

  • Managers and team leaders re-work what the experts give them because the experts bury the lead in endless detail
  • Customers and stakeholders are annoyed and disenchanted
  • Nervous stakeholders cover their asses with unnecessary projects, but your guys can’t say no to them
  • Smart teams work on vanity projects for influential members of the senior leadership team
  • Your teams deliver champagne projects on beer budgets, or worse, delivering champagne projects delivered at great emotional and time cost, only to find a back of envelope calculation would have been enough

It’s the hidden lost time that you’re ignoring which will bring you the most return on investment.

You can’t find this hidden lost time with the naked eye. You need a system to find it.

That’s the first and biggest mistake you are making but wait, there’s more!

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Mistake 2: You think you’re typical

Second mistake: you think that you are typical. That other people think like you.

Big mistake: you’re the boss because you are you. No one has your exact expertise and experience. Similarly no one else thinks exactly like you do.

What you think is important, what you think is obvious, what you think is good common sense isn’t. To them.

Because you think you’re typical you assume that people will respond to a call to action because it speaks to you. Along the long same lines you think you can ask for something once and they’ll hear it and do it. Doesn’t work like that.

So things get lost. You don’t have what you want or need for your meeting with the brass. You are under-informed, or even sometimes undermined.

Ouch!

Because how you think is not how they think.

Mistake 3: You think people self-manage

Thirdly, you think that people are sensible and will manage themselves. You maybe even fear the pointy-haired boss’ “micro-manager” label.

You don’t ask too closely or too often about what is going on. Then you’re caught when the board or your boss suddenly asks you what they are doing.

You load up clever teams’ managers with meetings and plans and stakeholder consultations. You spend little time actively understanding and managing the work in progress. You probably don’t’ even have a single document that summarises all that is happening in project and BAU-land this week, this month, this quarter.

The first you hear of a problem is when the system is broken down or when stakeholders go haywire. Teams need to be managed and carefully guided. It doesn’t happen automatically. You need a system.

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Mistake 4: You think the school of experience is the best school

And speaking of systems, your fourth mistake is to have faith in that great system, the school of experience.

Hey you loved it when HR said that classroom components should only be 10% of anyone’s training. You cut your training budget, because it’s 70% experience, 20% exposure, 10% classroom right?

Wrong.

Well, a little right.

Experience is very important.

But wrong.

You can’t just let it happen.

The school of experience is a fickle one. You and your managers are its board, principals and guest lecturers.

To leverage both exposure and experience you and your managers need to debrief a meeting with a young hopeful. You need to feed back if you or your leadership team have to rework something they send you. Smart people will learn inside or outside of the classroom, but you can accelerate that, and make sure that you get what you want (no re-working a presentation for the board at midnight!) when you take it into your own hands. And you’ll have happier stakeholders, customers and staff when you do.

Again this is fixable. With the right system.

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Mistake 5: You believe you’re smarter than your brain

Fifth. You’re smart. That’s why you’re in charge of a smart consulting team. Because you’re so smart you flatter yourself that you can multi-task. You answer that email, text that fussy stakeholder and sign off that important brief while half-listening to every meeting you attend. You multi-task.

So what happens?

Your staff do the same. They flatter themselves they can multitask too.

And you make it easy for them. They are always connected. The first thing you (and they) do when you walk into a meeting room is turn on the computer and check email, slack or jira. And you don’t stop even when the meeting starts.

You ignore the humans in the room. And so do they.

So the meeting takes longer because they’re only half-listening. They miss the subtle clues that a stakeholder is unhappy with the solutions. Can’t head off the problem at the pass because they didn’t notice it.

Because you’re not smarter than your brain. Your brain which hates to multi-task. At the end of the day your brain is wiped out and amnesia sets in about what went on in the meeting. As it does for your technical specialists as well.

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Mistake 6: You think a team is people who report to the same person

Your sixth mistake: you think a team is an organisational structure. If 6 people report to the same boss then they are a team.

Then you compound that mistake by telling them to collaborate. Hell, you make it part of their corporate values.

Then they build silos. They don’t speak across silos because if they did they might have to collaborate. And history shows them that collaborating with people they don’t know or trust gets them more work to do (and often no return on that investment). They suffer from generosity burnout. You get a team that is only a collection of people on an org chart.

Woops.

You’re neglecting the hidden issues, communicating to an audience of one (yourself), leaving your team to manage and train themselves, paying half-attention and missing out on the productivity benefits of being a team. But here’s the kicker.

Mistake 7: You think politics can’t be taught

Finally, you know that corporate politics exists. You may play or try not to. But you and your people are in the game.

And the mistake you make is that you think politics can’t be taught, so you don’t try to teach it.

So your consulting team embarrass you in front of your boss and your colleagues. They say stupid things to the wrong people. Let go of the wrong data at the wrong time. They make you look bad. Expensive error.

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Here’s the good news though.

You don’t have to make all of these mistakes – call me!

You don’t have to make all of these mistakes.

I can help you. Talk to me about my system for rooting out the hidden lost time in your consulting teams. Put some of that budget back in your control.

It won’t cost you millions.

But it could leverage the millions you’re already spending.