Years ago i sat for hours in an upstairs "apartment" (really just a room in a professor's home) with my wife helping her create a piece of art called an Encaustic.  What is an Encaustic you ask?  It is "applying pigments with hot wax" to a surface. In our case, it meant melting crayons on a hot plate to be applied to a stretched canvas. At that time, my job, in keeping with my artistic abilities was to . . . melt the crayons and not let them ignite.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I once again was called on to help with an artistic project. We had moved into a new home and we were installing wood stoves. As we installed the first one, my wife came up with a creative idea to create a Mosaic for the "heat shield" behind the stove. I helped.

What does this have to do with consultation? I'll tell you . . . then we'll get back to the story.

To be successful, you need to be "ruthlessly realistic" about your abilities and your role as a consultant. Consultants who get themselves--and the organizations they are supposed to help--into trouble usually do so because of compounding a few simple errors:

  • they take on, or expand into, a project that is outside their core competency
  • they remain unaware of operating in a unfamiliar territory
  • they don't recognize earlier warning signs
  • they try to "push through" (not really knowing what to do) or they "leave the field" when things get tough

Usually, if they only commit the first mistake then they can recover. It is compounding the mistake with several more than causes a crisis and potentially a dramatic failure.

By the way, I really did help my wife with the Mosaic. I bought the tiles and broke them with a hammer. Hey, even Michelangelo was dependent upon the workman at Carrara to query and deliver the marble. I know my place in the world of art--I am the un-lauded workman who makes the art possible. Knowing where you are gifted and when to step aside . . . there's no shame in that!

 

 One of the Mosaics in our home. My job? Break the tiles. Oh, they did let me put on one . . . and only one . . . piece . . . with lots of consulting.

One of the Mosaics in our home. My job? Break the tiles. Oh, they did let me put on one . . . and only one . . . piece . . . with lots of consulting.

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