Look For Prophets in Your Own Department

ProphetThere is a well known saying, that you can’t be a prophet in your own country. What this means is that quite often, people you know well won’t listen to your advice or value you opinion as much as they would, someone else telling them the exact same thing.

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 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 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 scenario’s.

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 been seen 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 exists 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.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles