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Relationships and management consulting

While I was working as an analyst at McKinsey & Company, the Global Head at the time, Ian Davis, gave a moving speech to all the newly recruited analysts and associates. He wanted to make the point that being analytical and smart wouldn’t be enough in the future. He told the story of a team that had been complaining about the client project leader. They said he was inept and slowed down the whole project. They didn’t know why he was so uncooperative and unmotivated. He went there to talk to some clients and find out what was going wrong. The response he got from the client employees was that everybody in the company knew that the project leader’s child had had an accident and was in intensive care – except the consultants. The point he wanted to make was that we wouldn’t get anywhere in this job if we couldn’t connect with our clients and show interest and empathy to everybody we worked with. I think it is terrific that he wanted to change company culture and make us focus more on personal relationships. On the other hand, I don’t see how it is going to work.

If you want to be a management consultant, you need to accept sleeping away from home at least 3 nights per week, usually from Monday to at least Thursday. You are likely to work 14-16h per day and have no private life during the week. The type of people who are least likely to mind this lifestyle are those who suffer the least from lack of contact with friends and family. As a consultant, you will besupposed to work when you have the flu, when it’s your mother’s birthday, you will only see your cute nephews or nieces a couple of hours on the weekend and you will have to miss your boyfriend or husband …. and then you’re supposed to care if your client’s wife has depression or his child is ill? I just think there is an inherent contradiction here. Those people who really care about relationships and friendship cannot be happy in such a job and are likely to leave after a couple of years. I still think people who don’t mind being away from family and friends 5 days a week for years are complete freaks. That’s why I think consultants who’ve been in the job for a long time are unlikely to be compassionate about other people’s personal problems, as they are insensitive even to their own. There are great people in consultancies, don’t get me wrong, but be suspicious about those who get to the top.

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