What Do You Do?
posted: Sep 23, 2014.
One of my most significant experiences from my grad school days was being grilled by Bill Dyer, the "Grandfather of team building." It was 1991, and I was in attending Pepperdine University's executive residential master's program in OD. The course was on consulting skills and somehow I had been "volunteered/chosen" to role play with him; he was the executive and I was the internal consultant.
There I stood in the fishbowl, surrounded by a group of my faculty and peers with Bill looking down his nose at me with his steely blue eyes and wise grey hair. When he curtly asked me, "so, what do you do?" I fought showing my deep sense of incompetence; it was a simple question, right? So I stood up straight, took a deep breath, and elegantly/smartly replied,"Well, I help executives like you and your team work better together." To my dismay, he grimaced and growled, "That's all well and fine, but what do you actually do?! I have a business to run, how will you help me?" After a few more failed attempts to give him a satisfactory answer, he moved on to the next victim leaving me feeling deflated, yet determined to learn from this experience.
What I took away from that that encounter with Bill Dyer nearly 25 years ago, and what I have learned in my decades in consulting at Leadership Strategies International, is the critical importance of communicating results in a way that is practical and significant to those I serve. The work product I deliver must be steeped in science and grounded in real life experience so that leaders like Bill can put it to use right away.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, I still carry the wisdom of Bill's words with me as I work with clients as a coach consultant and work with my students as a coach educator and mentor.