You can buy a degree for many skills. But there is no shop for trust, credibility, and ethics. Every leader is constantly on the lookout for people they can trust, who are credible and have high levels of integrity.
Can you keep secrets?
Can you cover my back and I focus on what is in front of me without worrying about what you are doing behind my back? Can you stand in for me without worrying that you may become greedy? As an adviser to some of the top executives, once in a while, our firm wins a consulting project for which we need external help because we know it is difficult to scale without outsourcing some projects that may not be of much interest to us. In projects where our members may not be passionate or have the skills to deliver to the expectations of the clients, we usually look out to the firm to have the best folks implement. Many times, we get our fingers burned.
The outsourced consultant will try to market their firm to the client oblivious of the injury to our reputation by indicating that they could have done the project cheaper if the client had contacted them directly! Such people forget that management advisory and consulting business is 60% a relationship business and just 40% skills. No business leader will give you a project once they smell a lack of ethics and integrity on your part. By trying to sell your firm while implementing a project under another firm, you reveal how cheap you are and any competent leader will blacklist you immediately. Many times, my clients will warn me about my staff or outsourced consultants, explaining how they tried to sell them their other firms! It is always a shameful experience. Thanks to the relationships we establish with prospects who later become clients, we always navigate such incidents and learn our lessons.
For the record, it is common and fine for consulting firms to work with other experts in the field. However, many people like to look outside of the country for specialist skills because locals usually play underhand tactics like trying to win over the client of another firm while representing them. That is a lack of trust. If you want to win, be ethical.
Are you credible?
Once, I sent a proposal to a Chief Executive Officer for strategy retreat facilitation. I had indicated that I had done the same work for a peer company. The prospect CEO just replied to me thus: “Dear Mustapha, thanks a lot for your proposal. It is timely. However, I cannot gamble with our strategic planning retreat which will be attended by the board. Just ask the CEO of the bank you said you facilitated, to call me and confirm the fact. I will give you a deal once I am confident you did a great job.”
And just like that, I had the deal. You must build credibility. Usually, it is not about the degrees and certifications you may have after your name, but the track record and the people who can reference and confirm your capabilities that make a difference.
Are you ethical? This is a no brainer. Everyone wants folks with values and principles that guide their behavior. Having the value of telling the trust and always doing the right thing, even when one knows no one is watching or will know, is a special quality that is rare to find.
To win, be trustworthy, credible, and ethical.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.