Well, okay. So I did not actually get fired (yet) but if it is any consolation, I am well on my way. Never mind that it’s a great job, I have sharp associates, generous benefits and work in a well-appointed office – I am doing 95 on the “You are so fired” expressway. Join me and the Sons of Unemployment MC by following my ten step program for getting yourself and your position eliminated. I originally envisioned a “12-step program” but you will probably get “right-sized” by step five. It works like a champ and there is no need to memorize it. Most of the time this system “just happens” as the ERP consultant is on a flight path right into the side of a mountain.
1. Always be culturally and politically tone deaf. Bonus points for becoming tone deaf in your parent company as well. It is tough to walk into a room as the outsider and the fixer. The apprehension is suffocating. Tension is dripping down the walls with everyone waiting to hear how you are going to improve the bottom line and get that ERP system implemented. They are bracing for layoffs and expecting the worst. By all means, do not take the time to do a little intelligence on the culture of the company and the society if you are overseas. Do not, under any circumstances, put them at ease by dialing the tension and apprehension down a notch. Those two steps are the keys to losing the client and your job. Do not try to cultivate an understanding of how they have arrived at this point and where they think they want to go – that is the best way to step on tender client toes. Be sure to go out of your way NOT to paint a vision of future success that could mean more jobs and more opportunities. Being completely oblivious to the politics and sources of power in the office is also an excellent vehicle to make enemies and unintentionally trample client egos.
Similarly, become disengaged from your own home office and their methodologies. Be unreliable and hard to reach. Fight their corporate culture as loudly as possible and make enemies out of most, if not all, of your associates. That is a coach class ticket (middle seat all the way in the back) to “Unemploymentville.”
2. Too much cyber time and not enough face time. It is all too easy to consult via email and hold endless Skype or GoToMeeting sessions. The backbone of ERP success is change and business process reengineering and people are not inspired to change their well-worn habits by listening to a talking head on a monitor. They need the ideas, reassurance and confidence that you bring when you are there in the room. Being a successful consultant means being committed and being present, physically, mentally and emotionally – much like a marriage. It is hard to have a successful marriage over the Internet, unless you are into mail order brides (with all too predictable outcomes). My best advice to you if you want to get fired, is to never be around in person. Exist to the client only over the Internet and a cellphone. Always have a reason why you can’t be on-site.
3. Results sell themselves. You do not need to advise the client or interpret what they really are trying to say. Change is tough, truth is often harsh and the first step down the correct path is difficult. It takes great sales ability to “sell” the results that no one wants to see and show the client why it matters. Emailing a beautiful report that is overflowing with important results has the emotional impact of a small soap dish. You need to reinforce the facts by presenting them in a manner digestible and acceptable by the client. You must be the catalyst for success, help them take the first step and acknowledge that change is needed while supporting it with facts.
But this is a blog about falling through the trap door of HR. The key to getting fired with rule three is to slide the results under the door at midnight and offer no added value, interpretation or path ahead for the client. Let them walk the path by themselves, second-guessing their every step. Oh, and attach a hefty invoice to the unpopular results as added insult to injury. I will bet a Diet Coke that you are F-I-R-E-D within the week.
4. Be the smartest guy in the room (and make sure everyone knows it). My mentor always said, “Do you want to be right? Or make it right?” Just because you believe you are the smartest guy in the room (prettiest, best dressed, best smelling, etc.), so what? If you really care about the gig, you will be the most open-minded, helpful and enthusiastic guy in the room. Actively listening to wisdom and hard won knowledge coming from the room. The “Smartest Guy in the Room” generally likes to transmit more than receive and talks down to the shop foreman with 30 years of experience in the industry. In fact, patronizing seasoned staff members and silently broadcasting your individual superiority is an excellent way to get deep selected for non-retention on the account. The bonus is the tough and grizzled foreman waiting for you by the door, prepared to give you a well-deserved dressing down.
5. Waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can ignore what they said. This is the kissing cousin of number four. Active listening and understanding is an integral part of successful management consulting – especially when it comes to ERP implementations. However, the topic today is unsuccessful management counseling. Talking over your customer, not listening and even better, interrupting, is a tried and true method to get yourself shown to the door.
For more tips on how to get fired, check back for Part Two on Monday.
Written by Rich Farrell, Senior Manager of Client Services at Panorama Consulting Solutions.