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Four Essential Children’s Books for Consultants

Alongside the pallet of business texts I could easily recommend is a more colorful stack of children’s books. Why kiddie lit? For starters, consider these instructional characteristics of the genre:

  • Brevity. Ideas don’t have to be wrapped in complex, long-winded verbiage to be powerful or compelling.
  • Illustration. A few words and a great graphic is the golden ticket.
  • Cadence. Just a few minutes attending to the rhythm of your writing can elevate the tedious to transcendent.
  • Metaphor. Tapping into well-known frameworks is a shortcut that makes communication faster and stickier.

Plus, why spend hours digesting the latest business best-seller, when a few minutes with a tyke’s classic will deliver a critical consulting lesson? Below are four of my favorites, along with an insight I gleaned from each:

Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
You create your own reality.
Consultants frequently struggle with lapses in confidence. Harold teaches us that even the scary and unpleasant aspects of being an independent consultant are a product of our imaginations.
If you choose to apply your purple crayon differently, you can reframe rejection and other terrors and draw a delightful, satisfying business.darwin-with-purple-crayon
The Blind Men and an Elephant, John Godfrey Saxe, Paul Galdone
Observation is critical, and insufficient.
Some popular authors exhort consultants to base all their recommendations on direct observation. However, what we see with our own two eyes may not be the whole truth nor, in the larger picture, even directionally correct.
The best consultants seek input and insights from others. As Werner Heisenberg wisely noted, “We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
darwin-with-elephant
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Become fabulous at your area of focus and stay true to it.
Independent consultants, ever nervous about their unreliable flow of new business, easily succumb to the urge to be everything to everyone. When prospects signal that no contract is forthcoming, consultants scramble to change their offering.
The monsters in Sendak’s tale never fall prey to this danger. ** They excel at being noisy beasts and snacking on people is their forte. Thus, faced with Max’s departure, they don’t alter their core promise. Instead they cry, “Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so.”wild things
Charlotte’s Web, E. B White
Consulting is about giving.
Granted, this is not a short picture book; however, White’s novel for youngsters reminds us that in the constant pursuit of clients and revenue growth, the fundamental goodness of consulting can slip away unnoticed. Charlotte finds meaning not by advertising her own cleverness, but by saving Wilbur’s bacon.
We, like Charlotte, are in a giving profession. The essence of most business pitches: I will build something good for me, and you can come along for the ride. Contrast that to consultants’ offerings: We’ll help you build something good for you, and as a result we’ll benefit.charlottes-consultant

There were, of course, many, many other books that could have made the list. What is a children’s book you would recommend for consultants, and why?


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8 Comments
  1. David Ehrmann
    April 8, 2015 at 8:08 am Reply

    The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper (Originally from a sermon by Rev. Charles S. Wing).
    What lesson could be more helpful to those of us navigating life than creating and holding onto a positive mental outlook. We learn from this story that our mental framework is a choice.

    • David A. Fields
      April 9, 2015 at 10:36 pm Reply

      Indeed, David, The Little Engine That Could is an excellent choice, especially for consultants. I often quip that the three most important words in consulting are, “Yes I can!” You are right on the mark that holding onto a positive mental outlook is critical. Thanks for the contribution.

  2. Daryl Crockett
    April 8, 2015 at 9:09 am Reply

    Great post, David. You gave me some great lessons with pictures to carry in my head!

    • David A. Fields
      April 9, 2015 at 10:38 pm Reply

      I’m glad the post resonated with you, Daryl! “Darwin the Evolved Consultant” (the star of my little drawings) is often stuck in my head too… it’s a good thing he escapes into the blog now and again. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Chris Doig
    April 8, 2015 at 1:42 pm Reply

    David, you said: Cadence. Just a few minutes attending to the rhythm of your writing can elevate the tedious to transcendent.
    Get your computer to read your writing back to you. Problems with poor wording, clumsy phrasing, and the wrong order of ideas become apparent. Your writing improves in ways that grammar checkers just can’t match.
    If you use MS Word, enable text to speech. See here: https://support.office.com/en-ca/article/Using-the-Speak-text-to-speech-feature-459e7704-a76d-4fe2-ab48-189d6b83333c
    If you use Chrome as a browser, try Speakit! It works with most browser apps, including Gmail.

    • David A. Fields
      April 9, 2015 at 10:41 pm Reply

      What a great suggestion, Chris. I’d never thought of having the computer read my writing back to me. On the other hand, I’ve often found that reading a piece out loud gives a better sense of the cadence, tone and clarity in the writing. Using the computer to read is definitely worth a try. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Jaime Campbell
    April 9, 2015 at 5:42 pm Reply

    ABC by Dr. Seuss.
    First of all, it’s so rhythmic you could put a beatboxer with it and it would rock.
    Secondly, there are a LOT of words that begin with A. Aunt Annie’s Alligator is but one successful combination of A words. Don’t get twisted up in finding The Perfect One or The Best One. Find one that works and deliver it.
    Thirdly, consulting is a wonderful avenue for invention. Ten Tired Turtles in a Tuttle Tuttle Tree is really a legitimate deliverable to help someone accomplish the objective, which is to really “get” the letter T, and who cares that someone thinks that a turtle wouldn’t be in a tree or that someone else says that a tuttle tuttle tree doesn’t exist. They do exist. Now. On the tongue of the reader, right there with that letter T. Cha-ching, goal attained.
    Finally, presentation is everything. If you e-mailed someone the text of this book, what are the chances they’d really engage and therefore really get the value? Add some visuals, bind it, make it fun and official, just like your Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz.

    • David A. Fields
      April 9, 2015 at 10:46 pm Reply

      Jaime, I’m glad you contributed Dr. Seuss. Fabulous takeaways from ABC too. Rhythmic, visually arresting (and memorable), creatively accomplishes the intended outcome. And, as you eloquently point out, Seuss/Geisel didn’t spend 40 years figuring out the perfect combination of words… he came up with a serviceable transcript and got the book to market. Plenty to learn from his example.
      Thanks for the terrific addition to our new consulting canon.

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