Lessons Learned by PrōKo Consultants

A blog about business for smart people, by smart people

PrōKo consultants are experts in their fields.  This blog is a place for them to share their thoughts on various topics and on their experience as independent consultants.

For corporate clients, you will find:

  • Topic-specific info (e.g., effective change management, developing leadership, M&A integration, financial turnarounds, marketing strategy, etc.)
  • Information about working with independent consultants (e.g., finding the right one, the smarter way to hire them, mitigating risk.)

For consultants, you will find:

  • Thoughts on how to be a more successful independent consultant
  •  Perspectives on life as an independent consultant (it’s not for everyone!)

Both clients and consultants will find stories and lessons learned from PrōKo’s world-class independent consultants.

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Is Your Training Program a Jackson Pollock or a Piet Mondrian? — Karen Feeley 05/15

KAF-Photo for CLS Website-Headshot-IMG_1925

 

 

By Karen Feeley, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

Two 20th century artists create a stark contrast to one another and provide a good analogy for how organizations address their training challenges.Number 14 (Gray)

Jackson Pollack was the inventor of abstract expressionism. The idea was that he let the moment, his emotions, and external forces like gravity dictate where the paint fell on the canvas. The results were images like this:

Piet Mondrian, on the other hand, developed the De Stijl style oComposition Cf painting. He boiled all objects down to their purest essence, the result of which was an organized depiction of the balance of natural forces.   Like Pollock, his works, like this one, are instantly recognizable:

Many organizations take the Pollock approach to training. They have a need, so they create a course. Then, another need arises, and they react to that.  After a while, they have a hodge-podge of courses, templates, and tools that maybe work together and maybe don’t. Continue Reading →

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Four Reasons Why Paying a Consultant as a Temp Worker is a Costly Mistake!

Liz Steblay

 

 

Liz Steblay, Managing Officer of PrōKo Consulting

 

 

Most large corporations have a compliance process in place to screen their extended workforce to determine if the workers are contractors or legitimate micro-businesses. This makes sense — most “on-demand” or “gig” workers are not self-employed professionals running their own business and directing their own work. The big problem is that treating independent consultants as part of this extended workforce and paying them as temporary employees on a W-2 basis through a third party is a costly mistake. Here’s why.

1. Paying a consultant like a temp employee does not fully mitigate the risk of joint employment! Paying someone through a third party mitigates the client company’s tax risk, but not the risk of being sued as a joint employer. (“Joint employer liability” exists when a worker is paid by one company like a staffing firm but their work is directed by another company. The largest joint employment lawsuit was when Microsoft settled its lawsuit in December 2000 for $97 million.)

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4 New Rules for Leading Change

 

 

By Jennifer Gomes, Principal PrōKo Consultant

 

If only 30% of corporate change efforts succeed, then it’s time to upend outdated change management techniques that are still oft practiced today. Many of these models gained mass popularity in the 1990s. Think back to life in the 1990s for a moment. The World Wide Web just debuted and everyone dreaded Y2K. When driving in unfamiliar territory, we popped in our favorite CD and wrestled poster-size maps against the steering wheel.

Today change is so fast and interconnected, that most corporations are not dealing with one big change at a time, but perhaps 10, 20, 30, or more simultaneously. The complexity and non-linearity of change today require us to deal with ambiguity, expect the unpredictable, and consider complex interconnections that may not be immediately obvious. Likewise, we have to approach managing change in a non-linear, multi-dimensional way.

4 New Rules for Leading Change

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Are You Talking to Me?

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By Karen Feeley, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

When I travel for business, I often encounter people that want to chat with me. Normally I don’t mind, but sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to make small talk with taxi drivers or other travelers. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like sharing my life with them. At moments like that, when they ask me what I do, I often say I’m a “consultant.” It’s a good answer for moments like that because it shows you are willing to talk, yet it really says nothing. These days, it seems like everyone who isn’t an employee or “entrepreneur” is a “consultant.” What does it actually mean? Not much. It requires clarification because everyone interprets it differently.

Sadly, the same can be said for “training.” So many times, when an organization wants to fix a problem or get the word out, the powers-that-be cry out, “We need training.” Unfortunately, they use the broadest possible definition of that word. In reality, there’s a critical difference between “training” and “communications.” Without understanding that difference, organizations could be overspending and under-receiving results. Continue Reading →

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Character Strengths of Exceptional Management Consultants

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By Liz Steblay, Managing Officer of PrōKo Consulting

 

 

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about how understanding your own character strengths can help you become a better leader. She and a partner have developed a highly popular leadership workshop called “Harnessing Your Native Genius”:

Research suggests that finding ways to use our character strengths each day allows us to be up to 6 times more engaged in our work and triple our level of satisfaction with life. And yet, studies find that 50% of us cannot name our strengths and 75% do not have the opportunity to use them daily. When a team can identify, activate, and amplify each other’s strengths, you see each person’s native genius naturally emerge. *

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Results hit a wall? Break through and deliver lasting change

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By Mary Walter, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

Resultso-Wall“Get me your plan to fix it by tomorrow!”

Rarely has this phrase evoked anything but dread and apprehension. Rarely has it elicited solutions that will move business forward. Rarely has it led to engagement and collaboration.

So why do people continue to use this approach?

When leaders demand action, they are looking for answers, for success, for protection. The problem with this phrasing is that it indicates that the leader doesn’t know what should be done, yet is moving accountability for solving the problem to those on their team instead of helping their team think through the problem and find solutions together.

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Does Your Organization Need Richard Simmons or Jillian Michaels?

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By Karen Feeley, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

We’ve all heard it. We might have even said it. It usually sounds something like “This training was no good. People are still doing things the wrong way.” Sometimes it sounds more like “The training was interesting but I’m not sure it will really work in my situation.”

Is the problem really that the training was no good, or was it not an appropriate solution to a problem. Whether you are a manager looking to improve the performance of others in your organization or someone looking to improve your own skills and knowledge, it’s important to consider what you want to achieve before you hire a trainer or coach.

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Preparing for the Change of Being a Leader

Nancy Harris from LinkedIn

 

 

By Nancy Harris, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

Leader - Harris

Remember the first time you were promoted to a new leadership role? You worked so hard to achieve your goal and it finally happened. It was exciting but also a bit daunting. Your responsibilities increased, you had direct reports, and suddenly you had increased visibility.

Many new leaders step into their role, with little or no preparation. If you’re lucky, you attended a 1-2 day course on “what it takes to be a good leader.” After that, you were off to the races…trying to discover your leadership style, motivate your team, and navigate company politics.

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Challenge Your Limitations…The 4 P’s To Accomplishing Crazy Dreams

Bryan Gillette (cropped)

 

 

By Bryan Gillette, PrōKo Consultant

 

 

Mountain RunAfter years of competing in ultra-distance endurance events, I’ve come to realize that the mind and body can be pushed to limits far beyond our expectations. This was confirmed recently as I completed a 205 mile, mountainous run around Lake Tahoe climbing up over 40,000 vertical feet and sleeping just 90 minutes in 76 ½ hours. (See full race report here.)

While I have challenged myself in different endurance events, I have also pushed myself in my career. Early on when faced with an insurmountable obstacle, I would ask, “Can I complete the task?” A mentor suggested I add “How” to the front of that sentence so it reads, “How can I complete the task?” It changes the dialogue completely.

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Self-Employed? This Tax Tip Can Save You Thousands!

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By Liz Steblay, Managing Officer of PrōKo Consulting

Tax Cut

If you are self-employed, making retirement contributions to your SEP-IRA will save you thousands of dollars now and repay you tens-of-thousands when you retire. Here’s why.

Under a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) an employer can contribute directly to traditional individual retirement accounts (SEP-IRAs) for all employees, including themselves. (Even if you don’t have employees you can – and should – set up a SEP-IRA!)  A SEP does not have the start-up and operating costs of a conventional retirement plan and allows for a contribution of up to 25 percent of each employee’s pay (including yours) – this is a far higher limit than other retirement options. (The information below is accurate but simplified; talk with your tax professional about your specific situation.)

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