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#29: Recruit Your Partners Like an Athletic Coach

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 16, 2009
I've gotten to know a lot of fellow consultants, but most not very well. I've teamed with some of them, and the results were OK in most cases and sometimes not as well as I'd have liked. How do I know who is a good teaming partner?

This raises an interesting topic that consultants think about but rarely talk about. If a partnership provides teaming parties more than they could get without teaming, how can I make sure that I am getting far more than just the sum of the parts? This affects small consulting firms as well as large ones. A decade ago, when the world didn't change so fast, we could take time to build relationships with prospective partners and get to know them fairly well through low risk collaboration. As engagements have become more focused, faster and require more specialized knowledge, this is getting harder to do.

Think about all the ways sports teams are created. The goal is the same as a consulting teaming partnership - assemble the right mix of talent for the job (game, conditions and opponent) at hand. You can mimic pick-up basketball where you go with the tall or muscular kid, or the kid you know. Anyone you don't know , even if they are the best player, you pick later. Compare this to a college or pro sports team. A huge amount of effort is spent getting to know every potentially available player. Coaches spend precious time learning about a player from their coaches, opponents and teammates. When the opportunity arises, they know exactly who to pick. Coaches who don't recruit well are out of a job pretty soon as the quality of their team declines.

Tip: Think about the kinds of engagements you currently pursue, or the industries or markets in which you work. What skills or experience are you missing that would give you a leg up? Who are the key players who would know the best consultants in that space? Could you talk to them to find out who they recommend as a consultant and why? Talk to those consultants now, before you need anything from them or can provide anything to them. Develop a list of the 10-20 consultants you'd like to team with when a specific opportunity arose. Keep the list updated (and establish whatever level of relationship you think appropriate). When you need that great point guard/facilitator, you'll know exactly who to choose.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  planning  teaming 

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