Consulting Leadership Lessons from Fonzie

The year I was born, 1979, The Fonz from the Happy Days TV show, gives Ritchie a strategy to apply to consulting. This gets harder as I get older because I’ve seen the same problems so many times the longer I work in my career. I get so excited to help quickly (after 2 weeks) and this is usually what you shouldn’t do.

If you’re in a hurry, skip to 2:09

Consultants in software have a particularly bad reputation because the consequences of their decisions (good and bad) are often dealt with by employees months to years after the consultants are gone. This can create the belief that the consultants think they were successful, while the employees feel like the consultants made things worse, and this in turn makes them dismissive of any future consultants or contractors. The employees think why should they listen to consultants when the consultants make bad decisions and then can’t learn from their mistakes?

I’ve seen fellow consultants use this strategy to quickly garner respect, and others not use this strategy, myself included, and either be ignored, get miserable on their gig that they’re not living up to their perceived potential, or both.

Yes, some clients are beyond saving. Some people are just miserable or not self-aware and you’re better off moving onto a new project. However, we’re in consulting because we _want_ to try despite being aware it may not work.

Be a team player by helping on bugs, support their causes to management, and take accountability for mistakes even if the mistakes aren’t yours. Let them know you support them, will do the hard work, and will defend them. Once you’re not a threat, but instead a boon, they’ll support your suggestions to management or them because they know it’s in _both_ of your best interests.

If you’re interested in helping other consultants like yourself, key leadership lessons in video to watch:

  • intentionally asking you fellow consultant how things are going; many people want someone to listen
  • being blunt and not sugar coating the situation
  • helping them empathize with other’s situations to change their perspective
  • indicating an opportunity if they can’t see it
  • encouragement while honest believing in their future greatness