Consultants have been around for a long time. Some would argue we’re the second-oldest profession; others may even make some snide, not-so-humorous analogies to the oldest profession.
Ok, some of those are humorous…
Regardless, advisers have been “advising” leaders for thousands of years. Not all “advisers,” however, are created equal. And here’s a key – merely belonging to an important tribe, club, or company doesn’t make the advice any better.
Almost 2,500 years ago, there was a King called Xerxes, intent on destroying those pesky Greeks and their armies. Surprisingly, the Greeks took exception to this, and were quite formidable opponents.
Just as the King was preparing for a big battle, there was a total solar eclipse. Today, we grab the kids, rush outside and say “ooh,”and “aaah;” 2,000 years ago, people ran inside screaming “oh shit, the world is ending!”
Anyway, King Xerxes needed advice about this new development. Not having a resident expert on staff, he brought in his consultant – called then, a “Magi.” Think modern-day McKinsey by lineage…
Xerxe’s Magi analyzed the eclipse (undoubtedly with PowerPoint slides and 4-square models), and advised the King that he should proceed post-haste with his battle. This Magi foreshadowed a great victory for King Xerxes.
King Xerxes, of course, had his butt handed to him by the Greeks. It wasn’t pretty.
I’m certain the Magi, probably on retainer, had good reasons for this marked lapse in effective counsel.
Why does this matter to you? Simple: be cautious from whom you accept counsel. You didn’t get where you are today by buying snake oil, so don’t by it now when you get advice that (a) doesn’t seem logically thought out, (b) comes from someone who’s biggest or only credential is his or her “tribe,” and/or (c) if it just doesn’t pass your “sniff” test.
Adviser, consultant, consigliere, Magi… these have long been trusted positions of influence in Kingdoms, companies, and mafias (I leave it to you to decide which is yours); they have a place, and are frequently a huge asset to our success.
Use care, however, when selecting.
** By the way, King Xerxes was eventually murdered – by his Counsellor, confidant, and right-hand man. That’s right, an in-house employee. So the lesson here isn’t to discard external consultants and only use “in-house” advisors – it’s to only use good ones…