Good Leadership: Unearthing In-house Prophets over Consultants

There is a saying that goes, “You can’t be a prophet in your own country,”. This means that, quite often, people you know well won’t value your advice or opinion as much as they would if it came from someone else. I have seen this many times in my career working in IT, more often than not we pay an expensive consultant to come and tell us what everyone already knows. Then we hail this consultant as a genius and hand over large amounts of money for their tremendous insights.

When I first encountered this, I was surprised. I couldn’t believe that we were paying people to tell us what we already knew. Why would we do that?

My boss at the time took me to one side and said “Look, you’re right, we do know what we should do, but what happens if it fails?”

I told him I didn’t understand why getting someone else to make the suggestions we all knew to be the right one, would improve our chances of success. We were still going to be the people doing the work in both scenarios.

He then said to me “Yes, but if we get the consultants to tell us, then if we fail, we can blame them for the idea, it’s less risk for us!”

To this day, this is still something that I do not think is a good idea, I understand why people do it, I just don’t think it solves the problem. I believe we would be far better off spending the money we spent on consultants telling what we know, on ensuring the project is a success.

I also think that every time we bring in consultants to tell us what we already know that we are not giving our people a chance to shine, to step up, and make good suggestions and be seen as thought leaders, or innovative.

Which is poor leadership, in my opinion. It’s poor in two dimensions, it shows weaknesses because we are not bold enough to stand up for what we believe and need someone to blame, and also because we are not looking to develop our people by giving them opportunities.

I believe that we should be looking for these prophets within our own companies, I know they exist because often I was one, and I was not alone. And I always felt disappointed when people accepted the exact same thoughts that we had, from highly paid consultants.

We need to give these prophets air, a platform to speak on, and we need to nurture them.

If we can do that we will be both developing people and also helping to keep our consultancy bills down, which is good leadership.

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