Early in my career (late 20's), I started as an "Internal Consultant" within Royal Trust, as a resource to the VP's and their Divisions/Departments for Organizational Design and development, Strategic Planning facilitation, and Executive Coach.
Initially I didn't realize I was doing 'management consulting', but grew into the role and understanding over time. I made a few mistakes, took some risks, and had several terrific mentors within Royal Trust and also an external management consultant who had a regular column in the Globe and Mail and wrote a couple of top-selling books. As an executive at Royal Trust I eventually started a consulting subsidiary (to external clients) and built a mid-sized national consulting arm of RT.
As my career progressed, and I became an executive at a few other organizations, various people and organizations sought out my expertise that I was developing in areas of leadership development, governance and strategic planning facilitation. I found I had a passion for these areas, for learning all I could from existing experts/resources, for finding my own voice based upon personal experiences and observations. I also conducted original research – I interviewed top leaders from business, government, NFPs, religions, the medical profession, athletes, etc. about what made them successful leaders. I also interviewed executives around leadership & management competency and board governance competency (now over 8,000 executives interviewed).
As I moved on from eight successful years as leader of the Banff Centre for Management, I realized my next step was to be full-time Management Consulting, creating my own "boutique" firm and getting my CMC certification. This was when I really "owned" the label as a Management Consultant.
For me, the most loved aspect of consulting is how the work is always changing, adapting, innovating. Hardly any two projects are the same. Over time I have refined my clarity and understanding of key principles behind good strategy, governance and leadership; but then the application is working with clients to apply these principles to their unique culture, organizational realities and challenges.
I have been fortunate that my work has taken me to 18 countries, some very recognizable Fortune 500 companies, major government departments both in Canada and internationally. This has allowed me to travel and see the world, but more importantly make fantastic friendships and understand different cultures, religions and business ethos of the various continents of the globe.
Well, I'd have to say, writing proposals!
On one side, proposal development is a very creative exercise; actually, it is the problem identification and solution building that is creative and satisfying. But more and more, clients expect this solution creation as part of the proposal process; with the risk that you don't get reimbursed for the time and intellectual consideration given to the proposal writing. And also that if unsuccessful in winning the job, the client still walks away with some solution ideas for free.
Building proposals today is very time consuming to do a good job – as the client expectations and demands for what is contained in proposals has been significantly elevated. For a client to take your good ideas, but then hire someone else is one of the most unsavory aspects of today's consulting environment.
Well, there have been many actually, from working with several global Silicon Valley-based companies; to working with executives of the TV-Media industry all around the world, to some pioneering work with Canada's three northern territories, to some very rewarding work with Indigenous organizations and communities.
Maybe the most satisfying has been the 12-15 years of work in Indonesia, helping the senior levels of Federal Departments as well as some regional and local governments in moving from dictatorship to democracy and leadership of devolution processes and facilitative leadership practices.
Over a period of about 12-15 years I worked with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) & Canada and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to serve: The Office of the President – HR Branch, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Department of Home Affairs, and Department of Development Planning. We led several programs on Enhancing Strategic, Change and Team Leadership for the most senior executives. Then we initiated a few Train-the-Trainer programs and monitored initial program delivery in various regions of the country by the executive-trainers, and translated program materials into Bahasa language. In essence, we were creating a set of programs and developing executive-level trainers to help Indonesia lead for a new democracy environment.
We also worked with members of the Department of Developmental Planning to learn and apply our very successful strategic planning approach to implement new approaches to planning and budgeting across the Indonesian government. These efforts led to sustained and clearly discernible improvements in leadership of their civil service.
Integrity. I really try to be honest, trustworthy, and work in the best interests of my client (and my people). When I say I will do something, I deliver - generally on time, on budget and beyond the quality level expected. I aspire to always be underpaid for the value I deliver!
Also, systems-thinking/consideration of ramifications of decisions to integrity of the whole – enterprise, industry, and environment.