Category Archives: Thursday Night Flight

TNF #124: Divide and conquer

Welcome Professionals…

…There was a time in my business life when a work day started around 8 am and never finished before midnight. At the beginning of each day it was clear that there was no way to get out of office early. Very often, schedules would be modified and tasks re-arranged. Quite regularly, a superior would show up at 8 pm, alterate the plan and announce what had to be finished until the next day.

While the overall output of the team was still acceptable, the efficiency was very poor. Only by investing many hours, the results could be achieved on time and quality. The output per hour was rather low.

In contrast, I experienced other projects which felt much different and were much more productive. The key difference was that the principle of “divide and conquer” was applied. In the beginning, a rigorous master plan was developed, the project was divided into modules, the modules into work streams, the work streams into key deliverables, and so on. A continuous planning process made sure to adjust the project’s roadmap along the way.

With this plan, the overall work was divided into digestable chunks. Every few hours, there was a result which fitted into the overall picture like a puzzle piece. The effect was that both motivation and efficiency increased significantly.

The “divide and conquer” method offers another great advantage: It offers the chance of having meaningful breaks inbetween the small steps and celebrate intermediate results.

Taking a break,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #123: Call an expert

Welcome Professionals…

…These days it has become a habit to look up everything that we want to know on the internet. It is quite easy to type a keyword, a phrase or full question into the search engine, which is available always and everywhere. It is indeed a great invention and it is well-deserved that “google” has become a verb.

While using Google is very convenient, I believe it is rather insufficient or even misleading when we are looking up a topic that we do not know much about and where we do not know which are reliable sources. As top management consultants often have to tap into completely new subjects, I suggest a different method.

Call the expert. Think of someone you know or someone that you can access through a friend, a colleague or a network that is an expert or at least some kind of insider in the field. Get a 101 intro to the subject, the respected sources, key players, concepts, etc. This will lead to a much quicker ramp-up than an uninformed desk research.

The nice thing side effect is getting to know new people and/or refreshing existing contacts. People will be very happy to share their knowledge because every expert loves to talk about his/her area of expertise.

Make some friends and call the expert!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #122: I love my job

Welcome Professionals…

…Last week I wrote about the elementary frame conditions one should choose wisely to enjoy flow and happiness within the profession. Today, I am taking a different perspective.

Regardless of how well we have made our choices, often we loose sight of the benefits. They get normal over time and we tend to focus on the next big problem to solve. It is important that we regularly review what runs well in our professional life and not to be overwhelmed by the issue management of day-to-day work.

There is a great exercise to create this level of awareness. Tonight, I will hold a speech to alumni of my former employer. They want to know how I got into my new profession and why I enjoy it. While I prepared my speech and rehearsed it, I became more and more aware of what I love about my job. Strong motivation kicked in.

So next time you meet your spouse or a friend, don’t get into complaining about workload, stubborn clients or helpless team members. Instead, tell them what you love about your current job. If you don’t have anything to say, well, that is probably a case for change. If you can list a few things and make yourself aware of them, they will certainly be a strong motivator and energy source.

Need to run to the alumni event –

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #121: Free choice

Welcome Professionals…

…Let’s face it. The profession as a top management consultant requires an exceptional dedication of time and energy. Bringing solutions to top management’s most pressing problems cannot be an easy ride by definition.

Of course, investing so much of your time and energy can get exhausting over time. It is the number one reason why top management consultants quit. This reason is most of the time referred to as work/life balance – or rather imbalance to be precise.

The happiest consultants in the long-term that I know seem to have an inexhaustable spring of energy. Where does it come from? It has to come from the inside, no extrinsic factor like money or status can motivate for ages.

It is very obvious to me: Their work is fully aligned with their interests and their values. They are feeling real flow in their work. Their job has become a calling.

This is absolutely crucial. Choose your subject areas wisely. They need to match market needs, your abilities and your interest. Choose your clients. You must share the same values if you want to work with them for a lifetime. Choose your colleagues. You will become a bit like them.

It is your free choice, that will determine your success in the long-term!

Choose wisely,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #120: Beehive productivity

Welcome Professionals…

…Have you ever noticed that people around you are influencing your work ethics? It seems to be much easier to work long hours within a room of hard working people than staying late at the office where everybody else leaves at 5 pm.

The average behaviour of people surrounding us is setting the current norm. If we like it or not, we constantly compare ourselves to what we perceive as normal. Even when we are sitting in an empty office that has no distraction at all, our mind may wander to all the colleagues who are already at home. On the contrary, it seems odd to leave when everybody else is still highly engaged and productive.

To pursue our goals, we want to choose our surrounding wisely. Our colleagues, our office mates do matter. Is it really the best idea to choose your home office for some deep work? Or will the mere thought that your children are playing downstairs derail your focus? Some co-working spaces are busy like a beehive, some others feel like a lazy coffee shop.

Wishing you a productive week,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #119: Giving feedback

Welcome Professionals…

…As top management consultants we all strive for continuous improvement. Feedback is essential to review our performance and take appropriate action steps for learning and development. However, there is a fine line between constructive feedback and destructive criticism.

Giving feedback is a delicate task and one can easily be misunderstood. I had this experience recently when I came across as judicial when giving feedback to someone. I should have spent more time on explaining where my observations came from, how they were perceived by other team members, and my intent to discuss a solution. Instead, by jumping into criticism, my statements sounded offending.

To make the conversation easier, it is quite common to wrap negative feedback into positive feedback. This is dangerous because it may either discount the positive side or the negative does not get heard. So I suggest to refrain from this widespread practice.

There is only one universal, good process for giving feedback. Give a neutral description of the person’s observed behavior. If relevant, explain how this is or could be perceived by important stakeholders. Outline the potential consequences.

Talking about feedback, you are always welcome to give me some. Just let me know about your observations,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #118: Curiosity and effectiveness

Welcome Professionals…

…I am currently spending my New Year’s holidays in a ski ressort in Austria. Today, we had heavy snow fall, about half a meter of fresh snow. I was sitting in a ski hut, waiting for the sky to clear up when I got into a conversation with a man sitting next to me.

It turned out he was a top management consultant! He had been a partner at Deloitte and was now working in a boutique consultancy focussing on digital advisory. Before we knew that we were both consultants, we quickly figured out that we had a common base of understanding.

The encounter showed once again the common mindset of top management consulting professionals. Above all it is curiosity and a strong urge to use time effectively. This is what I like a lot about our profession.

I wish everybody a good start into 2018 with a lot of curious encounters

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #116: Leaving the comfort zone

Welcome Professionals…

…Top management consultants must explore new frontiers!

No matter how professional as an expert you are, you may want to continuously reach out to new areas, new projects, new clients that are out of your inner circle in order to extend your knowledge, expertise, and influence. This requires leaving the comfort zone and it is always hard to push oneself beyond these boundaries.

I encourage everyone to practice leaving the comfort zone in private and recreational setups. To try something new, learn a new skill or to embarrass yourself in front of friends and family is much more comfortable than doing it in a business environment. By regularly moving the private comfort zone it also becomes easier in extending frontiers in business life.

Therefore, I make it a habit to learn new skills in sports and music and to ridicule myself in front of others like for instance singing in public. The awkwardness of the moment is actually a good tell that I am leaving the comfort zone. Over time, this process builds up resilience to also take risks in a professional context.

Let’s cross the frontiers!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #115: Be generous

Welcome Professionals…

…We want to add extraordinary value to our client organizations. That is what we all are striving for as top management consultants. Of course, a premium value has to come at a premium price point. As a matter of fact, the high price premium a client is willing to pay and the commitment that it shows will be one driving factor for a succcesful implementation.

So, we do not want to give away our service for free and yet there are situations when it pays off to be generous. If this act of generosity is well-placed it will have a major effect on building trust.

generous

My most recent example occurred today. I was getting together with a CEO to kick off a new project. The contract had been negotiated with his staff and they had advised him to sign it. It was in front of him, he was already holding his pen in his hands.

“You know, the contract is agreed by the responsible department head and procurement. It is well written and also fine with me. There is just one thing I don’t quite understand.” He paused. Then he pointed to one paragraph. “Why is there an extra-charge for this specific service?” I explained it to him. He said: “Alright, I see your point, but some competitors of yours do that for free.”

He took his pen to sign the contract. “Wait”, I said, “let’s cross out this paragraph. Let’s get this out of the way.” He was really surprised by this generous act. He would have signed the contract anyway. So why give in?

What then followed was an intense briefing on the project in which the CEO communicated in a very open-hearted way. He commented on his personal values and even shared some of his own weaknesses. This is not possible without some fundamental trust. I am sure that the generous concession I made was a deposit on the trust account.

We cannot expect an immediate effect like this. True generosity means giving something without expecting anything in return. Only then, the generous act is eligible to build trustful, long-term relationships.

It’s Christmas time so let’s be generous,

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!

TNF #114: Clutter on my mind

Welcome Professionals…

…I had almost forgotten how good it feels. For months I had known that it is time for this. My wife does it regularly, but I tend to shy away from it.

I am talking about throwing stuff away. Getting rid of things that are not in use. Many of us – myself included – hold on to these things because they could be of use in a future situation.

What if I put on wheight? Then I might need the old pants which don’t fit me today. What if it is very bad weather day? Maybe then I want to wear the old shabby suit. What if we will all return to Blackberry technology one day…..- this is what is holding me back from removing clutter.

clean cupboard

When I finally did remove non-used items in my home office and my wardrobe rigorously, it really made me happy. This is actually a finding that the famous author Gretchen Rubin talks a lot about in her bestseller “Happiness Project”.

Since the objective of this blog is to make top management consultants more successful and not just happier, let me point towards another overservation. What I also felt was more clarity of thought. It felt like removing some clutter in my environment also cleared up some structures in my head.

clean closet

It is a no brainer that removing clutter helps to stay organized and by that means will enhance effectiveness. On top of that, there is a psychological effect. Letting go of physical clutter will enhance to let go of cluttered thoughts. Creating structure in our environment will enhance structured thinking.

Try it, next time you are stuck, clean up a cupboard or a drawer!

Malte

Thursday Night Flight is brought to you by Malte Müller Professionals. Sharing best practices for top management consultants on topics like communication, client handling, problem solving, appearance, and fitness. Check out www.mm-professionals.com for more material and free resources!