If you are a management consultant or if you are currently working with one, the article from David A. Nadler in this month´s Harvard Business Review is a brilliant read. It is not very often that you see this kind of best practices being shared in the open.
But then Mr. Nadler is Chairman and CEO of Mercer Delta Consulting, and has over 25 years of high-level management consultancy experience, so he has plenty to share. And that is showing. His article is truly packed with gold nuggets.
Nadler differentiates between 6 dilemma's in 2 groups that makes CEO counseling so hard, but also so interesting to do:
A. Organizational and Political:
- The Loyalty Dilemma. Is the advisor ultimately responsible to the CEO who hired him or to the company that pays the fees?
- The Communication Dilemma. How much and what kind of information should the management consultant convey between employees and the CEO?
- The Assessment Dilemma. Should the CEO counselor share his opinions about individual employees?
B. Relationships and Emotional Maturity of the Advisor:
- The Overidentification Dilemma. The advisor must ensure he immerses himself in the view of his client, without making it his own.
- The Ego Dilemma. An advisor should avoid to be known or perceived as the man behind the curtain, although this may be tempting sometimes.
- The Friendship Dilemma. Can and should a management consultant become friends with her client?
One example of a nugget that keeps going through my mind is the remark: "My job is helping my client see the entire puzzle, not rushing upstairs every time I discover a stray piece".
I found it interesting the author refers to all of these complexities as "Dilemma's". I believe actually "Paradoxes" would be the better terminology. If you face a dilemma, you have to choose out of two opposite options. When you are dealing with a paradox, you must try to reconcile two seemingly contradicting options.
Anyway, I highly recommend to read the entire article to any management consultant, whether you are advising CEO's or haven't quite made it (yet) to this level ;-).