Coaching a professional basketball team is not different from managing a team of corporate employees. You have stars, utility players and bench warmers, all of whom thrive when their coach tailors his approach to their unique talents, weaknesses and contributions to the team. Bare Knuckle People Management speaks directly to managers who have been frustrated by the notion that all employees need to be treated equally and with kids’ gloves.

—Mike D’Antoni, Head Coach of the New York Knicks

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Consultants Make Good Lovers (if not boyfriends)

Consulting Hat 1I was recently retained by a new client, and I went to the company headquarters to meet with the owner/CEO. The client’s HR director at a satellite office several hundred miles away had retained my services, and after meeting with the company’s senior leadership there, I asked to meet with the owner.

While I was told the owner wouldn’t be terribly receptive to me, I found him to be relaxed and conversational as he proudly showed me around the place. He was proud of what he had built, and he was pleased to be showing it off.

But as we were moving toward his office to meet privately, we ran into one of his operations people who’d been employed there for many years. It was immediately apparent that they had a close relationship. The owner introduced me by name, and I added, as it seemed necessary:

“I’m a consultant.”

The owner snorted at this, and said, more to the operations person than me:

“You know what my dad used to say about a consultant? Guy knows 63 sexual positions, but doesn’t have a girlfriend.”

The owner and the operations guy laughed like a couple of hyenas while I stood there smiling like an idiot.

I hesitated, but unable to resist, uttered:

“Cute…Know what my dad – a lifelong consultant – used to say about a business owner? Guy’s convinced his one and only sexual position is perfect and that he’s the best lover in the universe just because his girlfriend says so…meanwhile, his girlfriend is out sampling others because she can’t bring herself to tell her boyfriend that his view of sex is limited in scope and doesn’t do nearly enough for her.”

Look, I’ll be the first to admit consultants don’t have all the answers. Any consultant who insists otherwise is either a self-obsessed buffoon or a snake oil salesman.

But businesses, like families, develop customs and norms that are completely absurd to outsiders. Sometimes, of course, such customs are appropriate and well-suited to their specific business. But often they’ve simply evolved to become ordinary course of business, even though they’re destructive and inefficient. Sometimes, even certain insiders see the destructiveness and inefficiency but are afraid to say so because they’re uncertain how the person/people in charge will react.

A fresh set of eyes can see (and say!) things that insiders cannot. If business leaders are receptive, they might just be treated to eye-opening insights by consultants that can lead to monumental shifts in business performance. If not, they might remain mired in their inefficient ways of doing things.

Trust me when I say I’ve got no problem with the jokes about consultants – we’re an odd lot deserving of much of the shit we get. So pleae keep them coming – they help keep us in check.

We do, however, know a wide variety of “sexual positions” that might just be useful to a “lover” who erroneously thinks his singular position is the end all, be all, and no one around him is bold enough to tell him otherwise.

Oh, and we just might choose to not have a girlfriend.

About Sean O’Neil

Sean O’Neil is a workplace and team dynamics expert. He is also Principal and CEO of Bare Knuckle People Management (, a sales and management training firm with clients that include the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, News Corporation, First Data, ADP, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Oakland Raiders. Sean and John Kulisek co-authored Bare Knuckle People Management: Creating Success with the Team You Have – Winners, Losers, Misfits and All, which was published in May 2011. Sean has contributed to or been featured in, among others, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Selling Power Magazine,, HR Morning Magazine, Leadership Excellence Magazine, Training Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Sports Business Journal, and Incentive Magazine. Sean appears regularly on radio and television programs, including Fox Business Network and Imus in the Morning, mostly about workplace communications and management issues. Sean is a nationally-recognized speaker on everything concerning people and the way they interact with each other. He can also frequently be seen pacing the sidelines of a youth team he’s coaching.

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One Comment

  1. by Rich mauch on

    Great stuff!


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