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How Ed Sheeran Will Make You a Wealthier Consultant

Music superstar Ed Sheeran is going to make you money. Well, indirectly. Okay, he’s not actually going to make you money, but there’s a connection between Red Ed and your consulting firm’s fortunes.

Channel your inner Ed Sheeran: hum catchy tunes, look soulful, and grow something scruffy. Or, failing those, focus on an Ed Sheeran song title:

Thinking Out Loud.

Regular doses of Thinking Out Loud will deliver myriad benefits to your consulting firm. You see, ideally your consulting firm wins clients and creates value while you, as a firm leader, do close to nothing. Oh, you chat with people, cash checks and jaunt off to exotic locations, of course. Your goal is to have fun while your consulting practice chugs along.

That sunny situation depends on your consulting firm utilizing other folks who can do what you do now, just as well as you do it.

And the way you enable others to replicate your smartness is by capturing what you do and, more importantly how and why you do what you do. In other words, by…

Thinking Out Loud.

When you work your personal magic at your consulting firm or on a consulting project, the number of assumptions, strategies, and checklists that you mentally whip through is astounding. You don’t even know you’re doing it.

Transfer that magic. Once each week, pick a single task and, for a couple of hours, sing Ed Sheeran songs Think Out Loud with an assistant or colleague.

Each time you take an action, make a recommendation, dismiss information as irrelevant, or decide to turn left vs. right, articulate explicitly what you’re doing and why.

How did you know one slide in your presentation was okay, whereas another needed to be tweaked? Why did you recommend that your consulting client hire two people instead of three? What questions did you consider, then skip during your Context Discussion?

Will Thinking Out Loud slow you down and add time to your task? Yes. Your drumbeat will ease to a slow ballad. Particularly if your consulting colleague bombards you with “Why?” questions, which is exactly what he should do.

On the other hand, you’ll learn about your own consulting process, revealing opportunities to improve it.

More importantly, you’ll position yourself to hand off the task your consulting colleague heard you Think Out Loud about. Once you (or your assistant) codify your thoughts, you’re on your way to delegating 90% of the occasions that task would otherwise eat up your time. Time better spent learning to write song lyrics.

Bonus approach for high-performers: elevate your consulting skills, by listening to a colleague Think Out Loud.

I regularly create opportunities to hear others Think Out Loud. This morning, a brilliant colleague walked through one of his analytical processes out loud and, as a result, my entire team will enjoy a huge uptick in our ability to create value for clients.

What’s one task you could Think Out Loud about?

  1. Jay Arthur
    October 24, 2018 at 9:59 am Reply

    A few years back, I wrote Lean Six Sigma Blues:

    • David A. Fields
      October 24, 2018 at 10:07 am Reply

      Now that’s funny! Good for you, Jay, for not only Thinking Out Loud, but for putting your thoughts to music and posting. Kudos.

  2. Paula
    October 24, 2018 at 10:35 am Reply

    I do this all the time. I think it’s helpful so folks are not so intimidated. Not just by me, but also by the situation. Let’s face it, no one hires a consultant for something they can easily fix themselves. Most clients and their teams are overwhelmed. Also, it gives others a chance to find their own voices and be more creative. A lot of good ideas suffer a premature death when folks feel they have to present everything all buttoned up and perfect. You can learn a lot from what does not work, that can set you in the right direction.

    • David A. Fields
      October 24, 2018 at 10:41 am Reply

      You’re right that there are additional benefits to Thinking Out Loud. Giving your team (and your clients) an opportunity to share what they’re thinking while they’re thinking it lowers the bar on expectations and bonds you together in the creation process.

      I’m glad you posted that insightful addition to the Thinking Out Loud idea, Paula.

  3. Franziska
    October 24, 2018 at 12:34 pm Reply

    What if you often work solo, not with “an assistant or colleague”? (Will Ed Sheeran tell me to aim for larger projects so I can start delegating? :-))
    If your coworkers are client team members, I guess you can Think Out Loud and check off “knowledge transfer”, but unless that’s part of the scope, it might not have a great payoff for future work, right?

    • David A. Fields
      October 31, 2018 at 9:15 am Reply

      Excellent question, Franziska. Ed should definitely hook you up with larger projects. Or, perhaps this could be a prod to get an assistant! Seriously, a path to increasing your enjoyment and reward from your solo consulting practice is offloading tasks. Thinking Out Loud is tailor-made to help you jump start that process.
      By and large, Thinking Out Loud with a client might actually decrease your likelihood of winning follow-on work. It’s too overwhelming to a client when they hear everything going on in your head. The reverse–having your client Think Out Loud with you–is what Paula brought up, and can be useful.
      So, keep it to your team. And if your team consists of only you, then Think Out Loud to yourself. You’ll still learn a ton. (And if you want to sing your thoughts, you can do it in the shower!)

  4. Luiz Zorzella
    October 30, 2018 at 4:31 pm Reply

    Would you have an example of how this “document” could look like?

    • David A. Fields
      October 31, 2018 at 9:55 am Reply

      Good question, Luiz. I Think Out Loud literally. Meaning, I will usually (though not always) have a recorder going. Often it’s a screen capture running. That raw document can then be reviewed by me or it can be turned into a process by someone on my team.

      The other day (and tomorrow, in fact), I invited another smart consultant to Think Out Loud while I listened and, again, recorded him.

      Does that help?

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